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Editorial: The reasons why to toll the federal high ways.



Did much of the requisite critical thinking go into the decision by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration to abolish toll gates on federal highways in the country in 2003? With the benefit of hindsight, it is difficult to answer this question in the affirmative. Over a decade and a half after Nigerians woke up to find all toll gates across the nation destroyed at humongous public cost, the Federal Government has decided to return the toll gates on federal highways.

Announcing this decision after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on October 2, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), said: “There is no reason why we can’t toll, there was a policy of 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 design of what they will look like, what materials they will be built with, what new considerations must go into them. What we are looking at now is how the bank end runs”.


In demolishing the toll gates, the Obasanjo administration had assumed that revenues from the increase in petroleum products prices at the time would be utilised to maintain the roads. It appears to have miscalculated badly on this score. None of the benefits expected to accrue from the incessant increase in petroleum products’ price hikes over the years has ever come to fruition, and this was no exception.

Among other reasons given for the demolition of the toll gates were the massive corruption associated with the collection of the tolls, with much of the revenue ending up in private pockets, and the perception that the toll gates compounded the pain of motorists by inhibiting free flow of traffic on the highways. There is no reason why these problems could not have been creatively solved without the resort to drastically abolishing tolls.

Given the marked deterioration of the national economy and the severe shortage of revenue to fund critical infrastructure, including construction and maintenance of federal highways, the reintroduction of toll plazas seems to be an inevitable policy choice for the government. It is commendable that the government plans, this time around, to tackle the corruption that characterised toll collection through the introduction of electronic mode of payment to replace cash transactions.

We believe that most road users will not be unwilling to pay the road tolls if the roads are efficient, safe and secure. Mr. Fashola should, therefore, not ignore the argument of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), for instance, that “The roads are in very bad shape across the country; how can you toll a bad road? If you have fixed the roads and you now talk of tolling to recoup the money spent and to generate money to maintain the roads, people will consider it”.

There can certainly be no plausible reason to oppose tolling of federal highways that are in motorable condition, well-lit and provided with adequate security. But to toll roads that are death traps to users and devoid of the requisite security would surely mean exposing travellers to double jeopardy. It is our view that there should be specific legislation on how the funds accruing from tolls on various roads should be tracked, accounted for and utilised.

A situation whereby tolls from users of various highways end up in the labyrinthine belly of the Federation Account only to be disbursed for omnibus purposes that have nothing to do with the roads from where they were derived should be avoided.

Editorial: The reasons why to toll the federal high ways. Reviewed by nationalmoonlight on October 13, 2019 Rating: 5

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