President Muhammadu Buhari led administration is considering reviving the toll gates on the nation’s expressways which former President Olusegun Obasanjo put an end to about sixteen years ago.
The disclosure which was made by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, was kicked against by some Nigerians in the engineering sector.
The engineers suggested that tolling was not the ultimate solution to road maintenance in Nigeria, instead, President Buhari should reform the sector.
The plaza tollgates were destroyed in 2003, following the orders of Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who opined that funds for road maintenance should be generated from the increase in the fuel pump price.
The tollgates which generated not less than N63 million daily was termed ‘insignificant’ by the former president hence the scrapping. Another reason was that it contributed to gridlocks and fueled corruption.
After the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, Fashola told reporters that “There is no reason why we can’t toll. There was a policy of the government to abolish tolls or as it were, dismantle toll plazas. But there is no law that prohibits tolling in Nigeria today.
“We expect to return toll plazas. We have concluded the designs of what they will look like, what materials they will be rebuilt with, and what new considerations must go into them. What we are looking at now and trying to conclude is how the bank end runs.”
Faulting the move, the national chairman, Nigerian Institution of Highway and Transportation Engineers, Oludayo Oluyemi, said: “You can’t tell me there is a good road in the federation except within the Federal Capital Territory. No interstate highway in this country is good. So, how many of them do they think they would get tolls from?”
According to him, the Federal Government does not have a choice “but to do the road sector reform because that is the most appropriate thing for us as a nation. The introduction of tolls will not solve any problem.”
In supporting the move, Kunle Mokuolu, the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) said that it was a good option because Nigerian roads needed funding.
He, however, suggested that a permanent solution would be engaging the private sector with the government acting as the regulator. According to him, it is better for the government to regulate the private sector than regulate itself.
He called for the use of technology if the government insists on tolling. He said this would enhance operations since the number of vehicles has doubled.
In a statement released by Kola Ologbondiyan, national publicity secretary to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the opposition, condemned the move.
It described it as an “ill-conceived and anti-people” move, owing facts that Nigeria was suffering from economic hardship.
“Such an idea amounts to executive bullying which cannot be justified under any guise as it will lead to more increase in costs of goods and services across the country. Only recently, President Buhari approved the increase of Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5 per cent to 7.2 per cent despite outcry by Nigerians, who are also being made to pay exorbitant tariffs for electricity and other essential services,” the party said.
It noted: “Nigerians could recall that the PDP administration, in keeping with our determination to ensure the wellbeing and economic prosperity of our citizens, dismantled toll gates, cut tax profiles and applied our energies towards wealth creation.” The PDP, therefore, charged Buhari to put an end to the plans immediately.