A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to reverse the toll charges at the Lekki-Epe expressway and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge toll gates by the Lekki Concession Company (LCC).
It added that the state Government would run the risk of undermining the public interests, democratic values and accountability and opportunities for participation if it does not reverse the toll charges.
The organisation said it was time for Ambode to ensure and maintain a balance between the needs of the citizens and residents of the state and the LCC.
It said the state government should respect and protect the right of protesters to demonstrate against the hike in toll charges and to voice their opinion.
SERAP said: International human rights treaties ratified by Nigeria and the countryÂ´s own constitution obligate the government to safeguard the rights of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.â€
The new rates for the toll charges at the Lekki-Epe expressway and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge toll gates were implemented on February 1 by the LCC, managers of the road.
But SERAP in a statement yesterday by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said: â€œThis latest increase in toll charges at the Lekki-Epe expressway and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge toll gates is unacceptable, as it conflicts with the goals and commitment of the state government to provide basic public services to citizens and residents saying: â€œIt seems the agreement between the Lagos State government and the LCC is no longer serving the needs of citizens and residents.â€
According to the organisation, â€œIn the face of rising poverty and economic inequalities across the country, the Lagos State Government should be considering eliminating toll charges rather than allowing the LCC to get away with overcharging citizens and residents and prioritising profits over the public interests.
â€œUnless the situation is satisfactorily resolved in the public interests, the government runs the risk of being viewed as beholden to special interests and out of touch with the public good.â€
The statement read in part: â€œThe hike shows how profit motive can conflict with public motive.Â Accountability principles require the government to ensure that the activities of the LCC align with the policies and activities of governance, and that the company is not allowed to exploit its monopoly position to charge excessive rates.
â€œIt is the duty of the state government as custodian of the public trust, to take the public interests into account in assessing the activities of the LCC. The government is further obligated to prevent unnecessary and unjustified harm to the public trust and interests.
â€œBoth â€˜pre-decision accountabilityâ€™ in the form of consultation with citizens, residents and other stakeholders, and â€˜post-decision accountabilityâ€™ in the form of taking corrective measures to redress the apparent injustice to those who might be affected by the hike are key democratic and governance values.
â€œCitizens cannot be mere recipients or purchasers of government services; they must also participate in the act of governance itself. The shift from a participatory role to a consumer role changes the role of individuals vis-a-vis their government from one of citizens to one of consumers. This itself erodes the ideals of a democratic society.â€
â€œStates contravene their human rights obligations when they fail to take appropriate measures or to exercise due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate or redress the harm caused by acts by private persons or entities.â€
â€œAt the Admiralty Circle Plaza (Lekki-Epe expressway), cars now pay N200 from N120; sports utility vehicles (SUV) now pay N250 from N150; while commercial buses now pay N150 from N80. Motorcycles now pay N100. 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. Motorcycles will now pay N200.â€