Toll Gates to Return? Fashola, Please, Perish This Plan

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Babatunde Fashola

Ring True with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

Toll Gates to Return? Fashola, Please, Perish This Plan
The news in town is that as soon as repairs are carried out on some selected federal roads, toll gates will be reintroduced. For me, this is simply a plan to create 38 crisis points across our troubled nation. It would also amount to double taxation. I hope our Works Minister, Babatunde Fashola, has not forgotten that the Obasanjo administration increased the cost of fuel and promised that part of the new money would be channeled to Federal Road Maintenance Agency to effectively perform its duties? One of the palliatives Obasanjo promised and subsequently implemented after his fuel price increase was the demolition of the toll gates. The Buhari administration further increased the cost of petrol to N145 per litre. I hope Fashola is also aware that there is an existing petroleum tax of N1.50 per litre, set aside for the maintenance of federal roads. Where are all these funds saved for this special purpose? Assuming the previous administration stole the money, what has been happening to it in the last 30 months of the APC administration? Fashola has to respond because Nigerians are yearning for answers.

This country is clearly not in a mood for the reintroduction of toll gates. The truth that must be told is that there is too much suffering in our land at the moment. The last 30 months have been horrendous, with the cost of goods and services galloping. So many Nigerians have also been thrown out of jobs. Nigerians are bleeding and cannot afford this extra burden of having 38 toll gates. Why make life more difficult for Nigerians in order to generate funds that will most likely be shared by a few privileged individuals? This talk about using the private sector to construct and maintain the planned toll gates is unconvincing.

Aside from the extra burden of paying tolls, I am also worried about the exasperating traffic gridlock associated with such toll gates, leading to loss of productive man-hour. The persistent congestion on the Lekki-Ajah toll gate at peak period is a good example of what I am talking about. Toll gates often constitute inconvenience to motorists. Traffic gridlock apart, tragic accidents are often experienced at toll gates. One heartbreaking scene that has remained indelible in my mind was the sight of a truck laden with petrol, ramming into a long queue of vehicles at the toll gate in Ibadan during those dark days. There were numerous ghastly accidents at toll gates across the nation. We can’t afford a recurrence, which the return of toll gates would clearly provoke. So, I urge my dear Fashola to have a rethink about moves to reintroduce the demolished 38 toll gates across the country.

My beloved Fashola, you must first drag out the dedicated funds I have listed above and use them for the maintenance of federal roads. If after doing this, the money discovered is found to be inadequate, then, I am suggesting that you should sit down with the representatives of traumatised Nigerians to fashion out alternative sources of funding for road maintenance. This talk about returning toll gates is clearly preposterous. For a start, you should try and sell the idea of getting vehicle owners to pay a small amount as road maintenance levy while acquiring or renewing vehicle particulars. The petroleum tax of N1.50 per litre set aside for road maintenance could also go up to N3 per litre.

Again, I am shocked that out of N25 billion appropriated for FERMA in 2017, only N800 million had so far been released to the agency by the Ministry of Finance. Obviously, this is the main reason federal roads are in a mess. It is also depressing to learn that the hyped N100 billion sourced through the Sukuk Bond for roads is yet to be released to the Ministry for work to start on the selected 25 federal roads. Why should these shenanigans be happening in an era of change? These are some of the challenges I expect Fashola to properly tackle, in order to fix federal roads.

As for our federal legislators, if indeed, they are the true representatives of Nigerians, I expect them to halt this impending ignominy called toll gate reintroduction. This country can’t continue taking one step forward and 100 steps backward.