When former President Olusegun Obasanjo disbanded toll gates along major federal highways across the country in 2004, he cited loss of revenue to government and poor maintenance of the roads as the major reason for his decision.
Though the reasons that lead to the demolition of toll gates then ranged from manifest corruption, concealment and diversion of funds and double taxation, many Nigerians are worried that these reasons have not been tackled.
But experts are of the views that though by virtue of section 13 of the 1999 Constitution, the government is under a sacred obligation to provide good road network for the citizens, free of any charges, the present economic reality in the country has put the government of the day in a very difficult position to effectively perform its responsibilities.
As far as they are concerned federal government’s plans to re-introduce highway tolling to raise additional funds to finance road infrastructure and ensure efficient road maintenance is not a bad idea if it can block the leakages and turn the toll gate points to growth centres.
Experts who backed the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, thinking that reintroduction of tollgates will help to maintain the nation’s deplorable roads, have said the only way for government to realise its objective was to ensure whatever funds realised from tolling does not go into private pockets, like it was in the past.
According to the Chairman of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) Lagos State chapter, Mr. Offiong Samuel Ukpong, although the federal government wants to reintroduce the toll gates it must tell the citizens its plans.
He said, “Can they do this alone, do they have plans to call in the stakeholders? One of the key stakeholders is the estate surveyors and valuers. The previous toll gate system failed because of the inconsistencies in government policies. If we want to reintroduces these toll gates let us look at it as growth centers, it’s a very good thing.
“It can be cited in one remote location so that people could drive long distances and rest there, if there are accidents on the highways, treatment of the victims can be handled in these growth centers. Let everything not be concentrated in urban centers. Some banks could be established there, industries could be established there even if it is a cottage industry.
Speaking further he said, “How will it take the form of a growth center? There must be good infrastructure in place. From these areas where there are toll gates, the government can do 100 kilometer of roads to link the major highways and the infrastructure will attract new settlement to decongest the densely populated urban centers. The traffic situation in cities like Lagos is very serious now because of congestion. When we turn these toll points to growth centers it will help us to grow and decongest the center.”
In his contribution, the immediate past president of the Association of Consulting Engineers of Nigeria (ACEN), Dr. Temilola Kehinde, said why it is expedient for the nation to have tollgates, it was important for Nigerians to ensure that the revenue generated is well-utilised.
He said, “From what I know, funds from tollgates are supposed to be used to manage and maintain the roads. We are hoping that we would have learnt from experience and that the management of roads now has moved on to another level. As we speak there is a bill now before the National Assembly where they are trying to create a National Road Fund. The idea is that all of those road revenues will go into that fund and would be used to manage and maintain the roads.”
Kehinde argued that though nobody could say categorically that the funds to be generated from tollgates would be used judiciously this time around, it was public knowledge that the nation could not fund road maintenance with budget, hence, the need to have alternate funding which would naturally lead to improvement on the roads’ construction and maintenance tasks.
“What we should be concerned about is whether it is laborious and overbearing? If that is the case, then it should be moderated. Secondly, is it used positively? So, the era of government giving everything free should have gone and should go. We should just ensure that whatever money we pay as tax is well used, managed and serve the purpose they are meant for,” he said.
For the President, Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, Dr. Ore-Oluwa Fadayomi, it was a mistake removing the tolls in the first instance, saying the engineers have been advocating for a good road maintenance culture, which could be achieved through tolling.
“In our view, the tolls ought not to be removed in the first instance because they were needed, now, you can see what has happened to all our roads in this country. These roads had once been good as most of them are over 30 years old. All the roads are all gone now,” he lamented.
According to him, with the downturn in the nation’s economy, it will be an exercise in futility for the government to attempt funding infrastructure from the budget.
“We also see the economic as it is now, Nigerian is barely surviving even to feed itself. Road infrastructure cost a lot to construct. It is not just what the government can do all by itself, there is need for assistance and this assistance should come from the users because all the users do benefit from the road either for transportation or any other carriage and we need to do everything we can to ensure the roads are in good condition,” Fadayomi said.
The post Turning Nigeria’s Toll Gates Point To Growth Centres appeared first on Nigerian News from Leadership News.