Sixteen years after the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo dismantled tollgates on Federal highways, President Muhammadu Buhari is planning to revive it as the Federal Government continues to seek ways to generate more revenue for road maintenance and rehabilitation.
The decision to return the tollgates on Federal roads was announced by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola. He said the government approved the return of the tollgates after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Buhari in Abuja.
Obasanjo had scrapped the tollgates, stating that it had outlived its usefulness to Nigerians. While giving his reasons for destroying the tollgates, Obasanjo said its daily returns of N63 million wasn’t that significant, considering the corruption surrounding the funds and the inconvenience motorists experienced due to the tollgates.
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The idea of returning the tollgates to federal highways was considered during the administration of former President, Goodluck Jonathan. It was, however, frowned upon then. But according to Fashola, no Nigerian law prohibits tolling in Nigeria.
“There is no reason why we can’t toll. There was a policy of government to abolish tollgates or dismantle toll plaza but there is no law that prohibits tolling in Nigeria today,” Fashola said, adding that the government was considering employing cashless payment through electronic mode.
Fashola said to achieve this, the Federal Government needed more land, and this might lead to the acquisition of more land by the government. He said 10 lanes were proposed in order to expand the length of the tollgates.
Shocking move: The move by the administration of Buhari to erect tollgates is shocking, knowing that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN – now a part of the ruling party, APC), condemned the move in 2011 when former President Jonathan’s administration was considering it. Speaking on behalf of the ACN then, Lai Mohammed, the current Minister of Information, had criticised the tollgates move.
“It is a cruel irony that the toll gates that were removed seven years ago when the roads in the country were still fairly motorable are to be reinstated now that the roads have virtually disappeared. Nigerians daily die on the traps that the roads have become, and all a government can say is that it will impose tolls on the same people. What style of governance is this?
”The ideal thing would have been for the government to begin a massive rehabilitation of the roads across the country, then allow Nigerians to ride freely on these roads for some time, if only to make up for the years they have suffered on the roads, before any contemplation of reinstating toll gates,” Lai Mohammed said.
Although during the announcement of the return of tollgates, Fashola said that approval had been given for two road contracts that were awarded by the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan but without being cash-backed from N30.3 billion to N46 billion. But considering the fact that the Lagos-Ibadan expressway is still under repair since Jonathan’s administration, no one can tell when this approval will yield result.
Value of the tollgates: With the Federal Government said to be cash-strapped, the tollgates will be a big plus to the government’s purse. If the Obasanjo-led administration could gross N63 million daily in 2003, making N23 billion yearly, then the Buhari administration can record more, regardless of how insignificant Obasanjo said the revenue was. Also, considering there are more vehicles on the road today than there was in 2003, the tollgates will be a goldmine.