Kudos, knocks as toll gates returns




After months of speculations, the approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) of the Federal Roads and Bridges Tolling Policy and Regulations has brought to reality the return of the toll gates to Nigeria. TOPE SUNDAY writes.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval of Federal Roads and Bridges Tolling Policy and Regulations marked the return of the toll gate system that was jettisoned by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Obasanjo’s government removed toll gates because they had outlived their usefulness to Nigerians, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, has insisted that the new policy was developed after extensive consultations with various stakeholders within and outside the government.

The Obasanjo-led government 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.

Old wine in new keg…

The federal government through the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, announced that it had concluded designs for the return of toll plazas on federal roads in 2019, the policy to back it up was approved on August 11, this year.

Under the new policy, some vehicles are exempted, while cars, and SUVs and jeeps are expected to pay N200 and N300 respectively. Private buses are to pay N300, commercial buses N150, while luxury buses and trucks are to pay N500.

Fashola also disclosed that at the time the government dismantled toll plazas 17 years ago there was no law abolishing tolls.

On the practicability of the new policy, he said: “So, let me be clear, tolls are not going to start tomorrow. Let us be clear about that but the big step to actual tolling was taken today by presenting for approval the broad policy that will guide the tolling so that local people, states, local governments, all those who manage roads, investors who want to come in, will know what our tolling policy is. And that will form the basis of their financial modelling, their investment decision.”

Federal roads’ concession

The federal government had in March issued the notice for the Highway Development and Management Initiative (HDMI) to commence the procurement for the twelve Federal highway roads it intends to concession under its Highway Management Development Initiative (HMDI). Similarly, the government through 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.

This move, according to pundits, is a signal that once concession, tolling systems would resurface on the federal highways.

Reeling out the benefits of the toll plazas, Fashola said the federal government was targeting the sum of 1,134,690,048,000.76 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 the 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 FG’s Highway Development Management Initiative (HDMI).

The minister, who spoke in Abuja recently during the official ministerial notice of the commencement of HDMI, said the 12 roads were carefully chosen to ensure that each of the six geo- political zones were 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 per cent 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.”

Nigerians react

As expected, the federal roads and bridges tolling policy and regulations has continued to generate ripples, however, some Nigerians have lauded it because of job opportunities it holds.

An Abuja-based bricklayer, Usman Musa, who spoke to Blueprint Weekend, said though the policy may lead to hike in transportation fare, expressed satisfaction that it was designed to create jobs for Nigerians.

“At times, the government is not sincere in the implementation of its programmes and policies but this one on the return of tollgates on the federal highways should be commended. I learnt that jobs will be created and this is a good one,” he said.

Also, another resident, who simply identified himself as James, while calling on the government to follow the implementation of the policy to the latter, said with the return of the toll and concession of 12 federal road as muted by the federal government more jobs will be created.

“I am calling on the government to follow the implementation of this project to the latter and ensure that corruption does not creep into it. According to Fashola over 250,000 direct and indirect jobs will be provided. It is a lofty one if properly implemented,” he said.

Conversely, some Nigerians have kicked against its implementation and alleged that it is another avenue to raise money for the ruling class.

A social media user, Alex said: “Most of the roads in Nigeria are death traps. So why should motorists pay to use roads on which they may die before completing their journeys?

“Also these tollgates will be money printing machines for the people who will be running them. Everybody remembers that before the tollgates were removed last time, they created millionaires for the people running them.

“The roads became death traps because the revenue from the tollgates was never used for the maintenance of the roads. The same thing is going to happen again. This is just a cover to make money for powerful government’s supporters.”

Another user, Eze Thomas, who described the policy as a summersault, however, urged that proceeds should be collected by the company that will be managing and maintaining the roads not the government.

“It is such a policy somersault that makes us look confused by others all the time. The money should be collected by the company that will be managing and maintaining the roads not the government.

“These companies should be sound engineering companies with solid pedigree unlike what is happening in the electricity sector in Nigeria. They should also not be allowed to increase anytime they wish for it will be another NEPA etc.”

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