… Minister, Senate also in support of return of toll plazas on highways
When on January 1, 2003, then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo decided to scrap toll gates on highways nation-wide his reason was that they had outlived their usefulness.
Speaking on a Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) forum tagged: The President explains, Obasanjo said the N63 million which the toll gates generated daily then was nothing to write home about even as he said that the gates constituted an inconvenience to motorists and encouraged corruption.
President Obasanjo said the toll gates had been known to record serious vehicular accidents while portions of roads near many of them were full of pot holes. He went on to introduce the petroleum tax of N1.50k per litre to replace the lost toll revenue and promised that the proceeds would be used to improve federal roads in the country.
Nigerians know better today whether the decision to scrap the toll plazas were justified. Many will tell you that nothing has changed, the roads have not been bettered maintained, road accidents resulting from poorly maintained roads are on the increase and so are highway robberies and other attendant ills on the roads the removals were meant to starve off.
Recently the country’s Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, said the Federal government is considering reintroduction of toll plazas across the country to provide optional funding for road maintenance.
Also, the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Works which investigated the state of the nation’s federal roads, as well as the threat of gully erosion in the South-East, have appealed to the government to reintroduce toll gates with a view to generating revenue for rehabilitation and constant maintenance of existing roads infrastructure.
Lending his support to the call to reintroduce toll plazas on major highways across the nation, the National President of the Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria (ALBON), Sir Dan Okemuo, has cried to the federal government to do so as a matter of urgency.
Okemuo, who is the Chairman of Dan Dollars Motors Ltd., said highway tolling was a proven, reliable road maintenance funding method that is delivering results in many parts of the world, owing to the involvement of private investors who provide efficient management. According to him, the nation’s highways would be better maintained and safer for motorists and the travelling public, if the Federal Government re-established toll plazas on inter-state routes.
He explained that if highways were tolled and properly managed, they would be better maintained and safer for road users, especially inter-city passenger transporters, and recommended that the toll-gates should be built in partnership with the private investors, who would collect tolls and use the funds to maintain and keep them motorable.
He said: “Our leaders travel abroad and see the way these things are done over there. They should ensure that we do the same here. When I travelled to the United States, I observed that if you are moving from one city to another, you will pass a toll-gate. My inquiries showed that the companies manning the gates collect the tolls, maintain the roads and pay an agreed sum to the government. Let us have that kind of arrangement on our highways.”
The ALBON President decried the problem of insecurity on inter-city roads and bemoaned the worsening condition of most highways which daily results in avoidable accidents.
“But, with toll-gates in place, the funds realised will be used to keep the roads in good shape, leading to a reduction in accidents. Moreover, insecurity, especially armed robbery and kidnapping, will also be checked.
He said, “The new toll-gates can be built in such a way that Federal Road Safety Corps, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), the Police and other security agencies, can be accommodated there. Restaurants can also be included for the convenience of the travelling public.
“The result will be that the highways will be safer, and motorists will have stop-over spots that are more secure. A driver whose vehicle develops a fault can look forward to getting help at the nearest toll-gate.”