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Unease As Federal Govt Plans Return Of Toll Gates

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Unease As Federal Govt Plans Return Of Toll Gates
Unease As Federal Govt Plans Return Of Toll Gates

Experts in the logistics and transport sector have raised concerns over the federal government’s plan to reintroduce toll collections on designated dual carriageways across the country, questioning its efficiency in line with globally accepted practices.

The planned reintroduction of tollgates is coming 18 years after the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo dismantled all toll gates on federal roads throughout the country in 2003 over widespread allegations of corruption and exploitation.

Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting a fortnight ago in Abuja, announced that the council had approved the ministry request to reintroduce toll gates on selected dual carriageways across the country.

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Speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP in Abuja, the immediate past NURTW Lagos State Council Chairman, Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede, said he was optimistic that the return of toll gates would help enhance security on the highway.

Agbede urged the government to leverage the use of technology on tolls collection to ensure transparency and accountability.

The national president, National Freight Hauliers Association, Chief Jackson Malam Bent while speaking with LEADERSHIP in Abuja, said toll gates are used in almost all countries globally.

Bent said if the country must have good road funding outside the nation’s budget must be prioritised.

He said revenue generated from toll gates should be used to maintain roads in the country, to avert potholes. He, however, lamented that corruption killed the tollgate prior to now.

Bent said the return of toll gates would lead to improved security as there will be a more advanced security system via the use of surveillance cameras. He said overweight trucks and lorries would be flagged to alight after weighting the trucks to avert pressure on the roads.

He said the tollgate would also provide areas where drivers can rest and even take their baths. Tired drivers can even lodge there to avert an accident.

“Toll gates must be managed by a credible accountable organisation, as well as an organisation that will directly feel the impact of the success of the system. We are expecting the mandate to do this.

“Corruption led to the closure of the toll gates before now. Money generated from tollgates can help repay our foreign loan and maintain the nation’s road. If we get the mandate to operate, it will be manned in line with global standards.

He added that contractors should not be allowed to operate tollgates.

Also, the former director-general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Dr Muda Yusuf while speaking with LEADERSHIP corroborated Bent’s statement said the need to generate funds outside budgetary allocations is inevitable.

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“The best practice in most parts of the developing world is to create frameworks to generate revenue outside of the normal budgetary allocations for the development of road infrastructure. The tolling proposition is, therefore, a welcome idea,” he said.

Yusuf, who is an economist added that the exemption clause for paramilitary and other organisations should be reviewed as the risk of abuse is high.

Is FG Getting It Right On Borrowing To Finance Infrastructure?

Findings clearly show that if given a choice, investors prefer countries whose infrastructure is more developed. Hence, rapid infrastructure development is one of the most basic ways countries can take advantage of economic opportunities.

For instance, the access roads for both Tincan Apapa Port in Lagos, where serious grid traffic is occasioned by too many vehicles competing for road space, with several trucks parked on both sides has stressed the need for Onne Port to be functional to pave way for easy transportation of goods to the north and other parts of the country.

For over two decades a trip through many of the highways, especially for commuters in the southern part of the country, confirms to any commuter that there are no better highways to hell, stressing the need for the rehabilitation of these roads.

To change the narratives as part of efforts to revamp the nation’s economy, President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has from all indications driven the efficiency of the project and embarked on a borrowing plan to augment the budgetary allocation slated for the road project. The borrowing has become vital for the government because when the road is fully completed, it will boost the trade and movement of goods and services smoothly from one place to another.

According to information from the Ministry of Works, the government is changing the narrative in the area of road infrastructure with the construction of 5.4km of Abuja-Keffi expressway and dualisation of Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi Road (Phase I) and construction of Lafia Bypass road, and dualisation of the 9th Mile (Enugu)-Otukpo-Makurdi road project (phase II) which is under construction.

To finance the infrastructure project, it would be recalled that the Senate approved President Buhari’s request for ongoing external loans to the tune of $8,325,526,537 (USD) and €490,000,000 (Euros) under the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan.

The approval followed the consideration of a report on the 2018-2020 External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan by the Committee on Local and Foreign Debt.

In his presentation, the chairman of the Committee, Clifford Ordia, said the panel noted with utmost importance the concerns of Nigerians about the level and sustainability/serviceability of the borrowings in the last decade.

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He explained that due to the shortfall in the annual revenues as well as the need for rapid infrastructural and human capital development, “we have had to pass a deficit budget every year, requiring us to borrow to finance the deficit in our budget.”

Ordia noted that out of the total borrowing request of $36,837,281,256 contained in the re-forwarded request of Mr. President, a sum of $26,154,536,533 is for funds proposed to be borrowed from various financial institutions from the Peoples Republic of China.

He continued, “These projects have a great multiplier effect on stimulating economic growth through infrastructure development, job creation, and poverty alleviation, stimulation of commercial and engineering activities and the consequent tax revenues payable to government as a result of these productive activities.”

However, the road project tagged Phase I in Lafia, Nasarawa State, and Makurdi in Benue State. The two cities have a large population and are developing rapidly. In Phase I of the Keffi-Makurdi road project, except the urban section of Lafia road is four lanes, the other sections are two lanes.

During the construction process of Phase I, under the condition of limited financial resources, the basic requirements of improving national trunk roads A234 and A3 will be from two lanes to four lanes.

Recall that since the start of the Phase I Project in 2012, with the rapid growth of the economy, the traffic volume of A3 road is increasing, and the urban population and scale of Lafia are gradually expanding. At that time, the traffic bottlenecks of the Lafia section of A3 road and the imperfect road network of Lafia city were becoming more serious.

The urgency of the construction of the Lafia Circle Road has also attracted increasing attention from the local government council.

Also, during the Phase II Project, professionals studied how to solve the congestion of A3 roads and how to expand the urban road network for the future development of the city.

The necessity to construct the Lafia Circle City Road Section was to improve the national trunk road network in Nigeria and improve the transportation capacity of the main roads.

The North-South direction mainly has ‘four verticals’ constructed by the four vertical trunk roads of A1-A4. The east-west direction is mainly the ‘seven horizontal highways connecting the four vertical trunk highways of A1-A4. The ‘four verticals and seven horizontals’ road network basically covers the major states and major cities in Nigeria. The project is a section of the vertical trunk highway A3 in the Nigerian national trunk highway network and is connected to the national horizontal trunk highways A233 and A344. A3 road starts with Port Harcourt in Rivers State and ends at the vertical national trunk road in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, radiating Abuja horizontally.

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Basically, the implementation of the project will directly assume the function of the main roads of transportation in four states which include Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi and Enugu to effectively improve the regional traffic conditions, improve the construction of the national highway network in Nigeria, and enhance the service within the A3 road areas.

Secondly, there is a need to build a transportation corridor for the ‘Golden Strip’ economic zone; construct the national high-grade road network which with the capital city of Abuja as the centre will connect Lagos in the Southwest, Port Harcourt in the South-south region and Kano in the North.

At the moment, the implementation of the project is not only necessary but also very urgent. Also in the planning of the ‘Golden Strip’ economic regional traffic corridor, the Abuja-Lagos section has completed the transformation from two lanes to four lanes, except that the 28km of the Ogbomoso-Atiba section and the 326km of the Lokoja-Ilorin section have not been transformed from two lanes to four lanes.

Abuja and Lagos belong to two central cities in Nigeria. There are currently two main passages between Abuja and Lagos, which are the Lokoja-Ilorin-Lagos and Lokoja-Benin-city-Lagos respectively, both are two-lane highways, with a total capacity of equivalent two-way four-lanes. The Abuja-Kano section currently has the only main passage, and the current road has completed the four-lane renovation and upgrading. Abuja-Port Harcourt also has only one main passage. In addition to the Keffi-Makurdi section, which has been launched, the Enugu-Port Harcourt section has basically completed the four-lane upgrading and reconstruction.

On November 12, 2020, during the 70th Session of the Trans Sahara Road Liaison Committee (TRLC), the minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola led ministers from Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Niger and Chad to visit the construction site of the road project where he told the ministers that the roads are expected to serve 37 regions in Africa and connect 74 urban centers as well as 60 million people across the six countries that are members of the committee. This confirms the role and commitment of the Federal Government since the commencement of the project.

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