Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the recent increase in fares at the Lekki and Ikoyi toll gates has caused untold hardship for motorists resulting in loss of man hours
At the Lekki toll gate along Admiralty Way in Lagos, chaos reigns supreme. Lines of cars stretching from hundred miles and even more. It was not always like that. Although there might be bits and pieces of traffic snarls on that axis at rush hours, it was always a moving traffic.
All that changed about five days ago and the reason is not far-fetched. The Lekki Concession Company (LCC), the managers of the toll gate had increased the toll fare at the end of January. The increment came a month after an earlier bid to increase the fares failed.
As it is, residents and motorists have continued to complain about the traffic congestion the toll fee collection is causing and the lack of adequate alternative routes and the resultant effect is that the Lekki-Victoria Island Road has continually been on lock down due to the excessive traffic gridlock caused by the new Lekki-Ikoyi toll gate fare that started February 1.
As monitored by THISDAY, the traffic often stretches from the toll collection barricades all the way back to the Mobil headquarters building and even past it, compounding the already terrible traffic situation in the Lagos metropolis.
However, officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), deployed to the area are having a tough time controlling vehicles as a result of standstill traffic at the toll gate. Even additional help from the police hasn’t done much good either.
It would be recalled that the concessionaire LCC commenced toll fees collection on the Lekki Admiralty Plaza on December 19, 2011 after a protracted battle with residents of Etiosa LGA.
The reviewed rates
LCC had revealed their plan to increase the toll gate fare on Admiralty toll gate and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge toll gate effective from November 8, 2017.
With these new prices, Saloon car owners who usually pay N120 at the Admiralty toll gate will now pay N200. At the Ikoyi Link Bridge toll gate, they will pay N300 instead of N250. Also, buses from N80 to N100 and SUVs will now pay N250 against the previous N150 at Admiralty toll gate and N400 at the Link Bridge, which used to be N300.
At the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge, saloon cars now pay N300 from N250; sports utility vehicles (SUVs), mini vans, and light trucks now pay N400 from N300.â€‹ Motorcycles will now pay N200.â€‹
LASG temporary mediation
Following the furor the announcement caused, the Lagos State Government was forced to mediate and they halted the implementation of the Lekki toll gate fee. LCC was asked to stop the implementation to allow for more consultation of all stakeholders
LCC braves the odds
However, on January 27, 2018, the
Lekki Concession Company Limited braved the odds and again announced that it will increase the toll tariffs being charged at the Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza on Lekki-Epe Expressway and the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge Toll Plaza with effect from Thursday, February 1, 2018.
The LCC said in a statement that the upward review followed extensive consultations held with stakeholders in the Eti-Osa/Lekki-Epe Expressway of Lagos State. Although details of the new rate were not disclosed in the statement, the firm said N100 would be paid by any driver of a mini commuter bus using the Lekki-Epe toll plaza, which is an increase of N20 over the N80 currently being charged.
The Managing Director, LCC, Mr. Mohammed Hassan, said the feedback and recommendations received during the series of consultations held in December 2017 with stakeholders in Eti-Osa Local Government Area and its environs considerably influenced the new toll fares to be paid by motorists plying the expressway and the Ikoyi Link Bridge.
The LCCâ€™s earlier attempt to raise the fares on November 8 last year had received public outcry, which made the state government to prevail on the firm to suspend the action.
Given that the increase also affected commercial buses, there was an initial fear that it will affect the cost of transportation. Allaying such fears, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) assured commuters that there will be no increase in transport fares, despite the toll review by LCC.
NURTW chairman in Jakande, Alhaji Taofeek Oluwa said: â€œFollowing the announcement of the toll review at the Admiralty Circle Plaza and the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge Plaza by the Lekki Concession Company, LCC, there will be no fare increase.
â€œIt is encouraging that LCC carried the union along as one of the critical stakeholders consulted during the engagement process for the toll review which resulted in the minimal increase in toll charged the branded commercial buses.
â€œFrom February 1, branded commercial buses popularly called â€˜Danfoâ€™ which previously paid N80.00 would be paying N90 for e-Tag payments and N100 for cash payments. As long as LCC honours its agreement of our mutual understanding at the stakeholdersâ€™ meeting, we can confidently support LCC.
â€œWe assure commuters that they will not suffer any increase in the fares paid to board the branded commercial buses coming into or going out of Eti-Osa/Lekki-Epe Expressway. The NURTW is happy to endorse the toll fare review.”
As expected, the increment and the resultant effect did not go down well with motorists who ply that route.
Oge Chukwu, a medical doctor who lives on the mainland but works on the Island said, “This is not even funny. I just saw the banner this morning. The annoying part is that our income has not increased, but they want us to pay more to cross the toll plaza.
“Why will the Lagos State Government make live unbearable for people. Although I have my own car but I heard transporters have vowed to increase fares too. All these things have multiplier effects.”
Princess Akan said, “It’s too early in the year for this. On my way back from work on Friday, there was mad traffic. My home to office that should not take me more than 30/40mins without traffic took almost two hours.
“I don’t normally even pass the toll. I pass the alternative route but the alternative route was also at a standstill so I decided to take the toll gate.
“It was the worst mistake of my life. Initially I thought the increase shouldn’t be more than N30 but it was N200 and this didn’t still mean that side was free.
“Calculating it, N400 to come and go is ridiculous. Governor Ambode should do something as it is causing a real traffic gridlock.
“What way Lagos state? What way Nigeria? Things are already difficult for people. Government is supposed to make things easier for their citizens. Instead ours is to keep making things impossible. With time even the cost of transport will increase.”
Ugegbe Chike said, “People who don’t want to pay toll use the alternative route. To use the alternative, you either turn at second roundabout or first roundabout and access through either Pinnacle Oil or Oniru Market.
“Now, the problem is that the traffic in these two places blocked motorists who are just going straightway. It was chaos yesterday. I spent two hours in that mess.
“My dad said he spent five hours because he was going to the mainland. Don’t forget that there is another toll down Admiralty (Ikoyi Bridge) they all joined forces to attack anyone trying to access the alternative route. And alternative was busier than usual as a result of this avoidance.”
Ikoyi Suspension Bridge
In all these, the Lekki-Ikoyi Suspension Bridge was not left out as the traffic snarl that holds motorists hostage for hours, has defeated the aim of the hitherto laudable project.
At the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge, saloon cars now pay N300 from N250; sports utility vehicles (SUV), mini vans, and light trucks now pay N400 from N300.â€‹ Motorcycles will now pay N200.â€‹
The idea ab initio was to ameliorate the terrible traffic snarl that often characterise the Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi axis on Lagos Island, as well as connect these areas together.
Thus, the suspension bridge, the first of its kind in Africa, was borne, conceived and executed to a finish. The bridge which was designed to serve as a by-pass to reduce the length of time criss-crossing Lekki to Ikoyi or vice versa through Falomo Bridge, Alfred Rewane Road, Independence Bridge and Ahmadu Bello Way.
Before its inauguration, the then state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Kadri Hamzat, at an interactive session with newsmen had said bridge was expected to decongest traffic in Lekki area.
He said: â€œThe bridge is designed to serve as a strategic by-pass and to reduce the travel time along Falomo Bridge, Alfred Rewane Road, Independence Bridge and Ahmadu Bello Way. The project will raise the property value along the corridor.”
However, two years and more into the inauguration of the road and the commencement of toll collection, the aim has so far been defeated by some challenges, which still exist with no sign of change in the nearest future.
THISDAY checks revealed that asides the exorbitant fee paid as toll fare, motorists and residents alike groan under the traffic congestion, thus defeating the initial aim of decongesting traffic on the island.
Commuters and road users who spoke to THISDAY lamented that the road has created more hardship rather than ameliorate their pains. Mr. Wale Akingbode, a motorist who commutes from Lekki to the mainland through the suspension bridge, said the traffic snarl itself was draining.
He said, “One would have thought that with the exorbitant amount we shell out on a daily basis, we would have ease of driving. The reverse is the case especially for those of us that work in the morning and come back in the evening during the crazy rush hours. Just on Thursday, I spent precious time in the traffic when I should have been at work.
“I think the problem is the fact that the bridge is not wide enough to take about four or three cars at the same time, coupled with the impatience of the drivers. All these contribute in prolonging a few minutes trip into a journey.”
Comparing the toll gate leading to Ajah with that of Ikoyi in terms of the price. He said part of their angst was the fact that the toll at the Lekki-Ajah axis was just N120 before and N200 per passage now, and so they do not understand why the one in Ikoyi should be double the price.
However, another motorist who declined to disclose his identity said the traffic snarl was not always bad, adding that it was only during rush hours that the traffic stretches to the Bourdillon axis.
He said: “Look at today for instance, there are few cars on the bridge but there are days you will get there and you’ll think there is a car sales going on. That is Lagos traffic for you; so unpredictable.”