The return of the tolls: Tolling is set to be reintroduced on the nation’s highways to raise the funds needed to maintain the roads, according to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.
The minister told members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria that the tolling system would only be introduced to road projects that had been completed by the government.
Throw Back: In December 2003, former President Olusegun Obasanjo announced in a presidential forum that tollgates on federal highways had outlived their usefulness and were to be scrapped from January 1, 2004. Obasanjo said that a petroleum tax of N1.50k per litre which the FG was introducing would be used to improve federal roads in the country.
- The N63 million which the tollgates generated daily was too small.
- They constituted an inconvenience to motorists.
- They encouraged corruption.
Are we ready for the reintroduction of tolling? Let us expatiate on some of the issues of the previous tolling system which made the Obasanjo government scrap it:
- Extortion: The men of the Nigeria Police Force and Customs Service usually mounted their own ‘toll gates’ after the official one. Immediately a motorist passes through the official toll gate, they pull him/her aside and extort.
- Corruption/Revenue leakages: The system was so inefficient that some toll gate operators became stupendously rich, printing their own receipts and issuing several of theirs before giving out one of the FG’s.
- Traffic: On some of the busy roads, the tollgates were source of terrible vehicular traffic. In fact, on the Asaba – Onitsha bridge during festive seasons, motorists spent days in traffic.
- Criminality: Robbers sometimes used the tollgates as hideout to attack unsuspecting motorists.
- Chaos and refuse: Tolling gates became heavy retail/hawking hot spots. Garbage was dumped recklessly, the stench was terrible and beggars were all over the place.
We are yet to hear the details of the tolling system expected to be reintroduced. Towards the end of the Goodluck Jonathan government, the cabinet considered reintroducing tolls in order “to open up the sector to local and international investors and to make more funds available for road maintenance.”
That policy was expected to be run as a Public Private Partnership unlike in the past when it was implemented through public service. However the idea was never implemented and Nigerians never got to see the details. We will be waiting to see how Fashola and the Buhari administration navigates this one.