Development: PTF -- shining in the gloom.

Author:Jason, Pini

The Petroleum Trust Fund, headed by former President, Gen. Buhari, has confounded all its critics. As a development agency, it has succeeded spectacularly where all others failed Pini Jason has the details.

The one silver lining to emerge from the current heavy economic cloud must be the performance of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF). In October 1994, General Sani Abacha hiked the pump price of petrol from N3.25 to Nil per litre, promising, with Decree 25, to set up a Petroleum Trust Fund to distribute the gains from the increase on social and infrastructural projects. The board of the fund, headed by former Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, was eventually inaugurated on March 21, 1995.

The Fund began with an initial capital of about N6Obn in 1996. Its all encompassing mandate includes the rehabilitation of roads and waterways, educational and health institutions, providing textbooks and stationary, procuring essential drugs and vaccines, providing water supply systems, reviving crumbling agricultural sectors, connecting outlying areas to the national electricity grid, extending railways and telecommunications and ensuring consistent food supply.

The huge budget and all-embracing mandate earned PTF some criticisms. Some dubbed it "the alternative government," accusing it of duplicating the responsibilities of other existing government agencies. There was for instance an initial conflict about who should be tarring which road, between PTF and the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.

Yet, for once, other Nigerians began to hope that here was an agency that took its work seriously. The question was: could it carry our its entire mandate, or even a part of it? Everyone waited to see what would happen.

Initially PTF awarded contracts for the rehabilitation of 12,000km of federal highways (including drainages) nationwide, and between 25-100km of urban road in major cities such as Gusau, Benin, Funtua, Zaria, Enugu, Kaduna, Aba, Lagos, Lokoja, and Port Harcourt. A N27.3bn contract was awarded for road rehabilitation in the first quarter of 1996. The sum of N1.328bn was awarded to 53 pharmaceutical companies for the supply of drugs, while the importation of vaccines cost N229.9m. As at December 31, 1997, funds available to PTF stood at N115.lbn.

Lean bureaucracy

One thing even the most uncharitable critic of PTF will admit is that it has evolved a new way of doing things. This is true to its mission statement which is 'to...

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