The federal government in March announced plans to commence the procurement for 12 federal highway roads to concession under the Highway Development and Management Initiative (HDMI) heralding the return of toll gates on Nigerian roads, TOPE SUNDAY writes.
Seventeen years after the toll gates were dismantled on federal highways by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the All Progressives Congress (APC) led administration has perfected plans to re-introduce toll gates.
To this end, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing recently launched an e-portal commencing the procurement process for the 12 pilot federal highway roads for concession.
Obasanjo’s stance on tollgates
The administration of Chief Obasanjo hd said they removed toll gates because they had outlived their usefulness to Nigerians.
Obasanjo while giving reason for his action reportedly said its daily returns of N63 million wasn’t that significant, considering the corruption surrounding the funds and the inconvenience motorists experienced due to the toll gates.
The return bid
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), had in October 2019, unveiled plans of the federal government to return toll plazas with the argument that there was no law that prohibits tolls in Nigeria today.
Fashola, who briefed the State House correspondents after a Federal Executive Council (FEC), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said: “Let me just clarify this impression about toll gates; there is no reason why we cannot toll; there is no reason. There was a policy of the government to abolish tolls, to dismantle toll plazas, but there is no law that prohibits tolls in Nigeria today.
“We expect to return toll plazas; we have concluded their designs; of what they will look like; what material they will be built with; what new considerations must go into them.
“What we are looking at now and trying to conclude is how the back-end runs and that is important because we want to limit significantly if not totally eliminate cash at the plazas while ensuring that electronic devices that are being used do not impede rapid movement.
“We are also now faced with the need to acquire more land to establish the width of the toll plazas because I believe that we are looking at a 10-lane plaza so that there can be more outlets and then they merge; so we need to acquire more land.’’
Reeling out the benefits of the toll plazas, Fashola said the federal government was targeting the sum of N1,134,690,048,000.76 for the execution of 12 federal highway projects across the country, adding that its potential was an estimated 50,000+ direct jobs and 200,000+ indirect jobs.
He listed Benin – Asaba; Abuja – Lokoja; Kano – Katsina; Onitsha – Owerri – Aba; Shagamu – Benin; Abuja – Keffi – Akwanga; Kano – Maiduguri (lot 1 Kano-Shuari; lot 2 Potiskum-Damaturu); Lokoja – Benin; Enugu – Port Harcourt; Ilorin – Jebba; Lagos – Ota – Abeokuta and Lagos – Badagry highway as roads captured under the first phase of the HDMI.
The minister said the 12 roads were carefully chosen to ensure that each of the six geo-political zones are covered.
“These 12 roads were carefully chosen to ensure that each of the six geo-political zones are covered.
They aggregate in total to 1963.24 km which is 5.6% of the 35,000 km federal road network.
“The initial capital investment that we foresee is something in the order of NGN 1,134,690,048,000.76 and the employment potential is an estimated 50,000+ direct jobs and 200,000+ indirect jobs.’’
Though there are divergent views over the impending return of tollgate plazas on federal highways, it is estimated that upon completion, the system would provide about 250,000 jobs for Nigerians both skilled and unskilled.
Also, pundits are of the opinion that toll gates could serve as another source of revenue for the federal government.
They have argued that if the Obasanjo-led administration could gross N63 million daily in 2003, making N23 billion yearly, then the Buhari administration could record more, regardless of how insignificant Obasanjo said the revenue was.
This is against the backdrop that there are more vehicles on the road today than there was in 2003 hence the toll gates would practically be a goldmine.
Some Nigerians have continued to react over the return of toll gates on the Nigerian roads. While some view the development as lofty, others have kicked against it, stating that it was an attempt to force the masses to pay more.
Some others have also argued that the political class could hijack it to enrich themselves.
An Abuja resident, Akeem Ihrahim, who told our reporter that though the proposal about the tollgates was a laudable one, however, expressed scepticism that the political class would hijack the system to enrich themselves.
He said: “Like every other proposal and action in Nigeria, this toll gate charges while it is laudable, the problem is how to prevent political cronies from hijacking it to enrich themselves. The moment these toll gates are contracted you can kiss the money good bye.”
On his part, a driver Mr Andrew Matthew, who welcomed the idea, however, said the return of toll gates on the Nigerian roads may lead to a hike in transportation fare.
This is as he argued that commuters would have to pay more because transporters would include the tollgates fees in their charges.
“If the federal government said they will bring back toll gates, it is a welcome development because it will make our roads to be more busy, safe and motorable. However, commuters may have to pay more because we transporters will include the toll fees in their transport fares,’’ he said.
A social media user simply identified as Chinedu said: “The grammar of methodological return of the toll gates does not counter the major reason they were pulled down by the Obasanjo-led administration. Nigerians are still paying to maintain roads via fuel tax. “What happens to that tax now? The present administration is only interested in getting the poor masses to pay for their personal opulent lifestyles.
“Why will the president be junketing all over the world in private jets? Why should the ministers be driven in convoys maintained 100 per cent by public funds? Why should government political officials in either executive or legislature be paid exaggerated amounts as salaries and allowances as if they belong to a different economy?
“What spectacular contributions are these people making to the economy? Even if the toll gates are established, these same people will not pay from their pockets.”