BEFORE THE TOLLGATES ARE RE-ERECTED

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There should be remarkable improvement on many of the roads across the country

The federal government has concluded arrangements to reintroduce toll gates in 38 points on various highways across the country, according to Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola. “It will be managed by the private sector and it will be located in the old places. We are only waiting for the completion of those roads before we introduce the toll gates,” said Fashola who added that the federal government did not intend to ask road users “to pay toll on a road that is not good.”

From 2004 when President Olusegun Obasanjo dismantled the tollgates at a whopping cost of N360 million, there have been attempts to re-introduce them, even when most of the roads remain impassable. What was very clear in the past and remains clear even today is that there are no roads worthy of putting toll gates on in the country and to erect such at this period is to further expose road users to unnecessary danger. It is therefore our hope that Fashola and his men will keep to their plan, mindful of the traffic bottlenecks that will arise as a result of erecting toll gates on roads that have too many craters and potholes.

However, there are still suspicions that the federal government may be plotting to put the cart before the horse as was the case in the past. For instance, under President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, the then Works Minister, Mr. Mike Onolomemen, announced that the federal government would spend N1.3 billion to erect a set of tollgates with the argument that the decision would boost efforts at revamping road transportation in the country. It took public outcry for the decision to be dropped when it became clear that the tollgates were to precede the promised roads.

Meanwhile, against the background that a drive through many of the nation’s major roads is now a nightmare, we support every effort to reconstruct them. As we have repeated on this page, trips that ordinarily should take no more than a few minutes now take hours and at times days because of the conditions of most of the major access roads. And no part of the country is spared.

Some roads in the South South, South East and South West are death traps, apparently because of the impact and damage the rains have on them. Most affected roads in the South-east include the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Bende-Ohafia-Arochukwu road, Aba-Ikot Ekpene-Calabar road, Enugu-Awka-Onitsha road and Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road. Even in Lagos, the roads leading to Apapa, the strategic port city where hundreds of millions of naira are made daily by the government and others, are embarrassing. Over the years, billions of naira had been poured on the Oshodi-Apapa road but it is still in a shambles, crater-ridden and looking more like a war-ravaged area.

It is not just that most of these roads are so impassable that we find very disturbing, it is the fact that the dangerous spots along many of them have also become convenient operating centres for highway robbers who lay siege to unsuspecting motorists and other road users. This is aside the notorious fact that the poor state of these roads hampers economic activities as several tonnes of farm produce and other products cannot be transported to areas where they are needed. In the rainy season, many communities have practically been cut off with impassable roads.

Given the foregoing, we really have no problem with the idea of erecting tollgates and we endorse the Fashola plan in principle. What we query is the wisdom of erecting tollgates before rebuilding the dilapidated roads. We hope Fashola will not take Nigerians through such a fraudulent route.