The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday rejected plans by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to return toll gates to highways in Nigeria.
The toll gates were scrapped in 2004 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, while speaking with newsmen at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, said there is no law against the operation of toll plazas in the country.
He added that some of the logistics being worked out before the reintroduction of the toll gates include acquiring more lands that will provide up to 10-lane plazas.
“Where are we in PPP and toll gate, let me just clarify this impression about toll gates. There is no reason why we cannot toll; there is no reason. 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 their designs of what they will look like, what material they will be rebuilt with, what new considerations must go into them. What we are looking out now and trying to conclude is how the backend runs. And that is important because we want to limit significantly if not totally eliminate cash at the plazas while ensuring that electronic devices that are being used do not impede rapid movement.
“We are also now faced with the need to acquire more land to establish the width of the toll plazas because I believe we are looking at 10-lane plazas so that there can be more outlets. So we need to acquire more land; that is the work that is currently being done now.
“But let me also say that the expectation that collection of tolls will then produce the replacement cost of the road is perhaps not accurate because the traffic toll count that we have done on major highways does not suggest that there is enough vehicular traffic across all roads,” he said.
He also spoke on measures being considered in order to avoid a situation where the tollgates would compound traffic woes.
“The two or three heavy routes are the Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kano, Abuja-Lokoja. Now, Lagos-Ibadan; the heaviest traffic you will find is between Lagos and Shagamu, it is about 40,000 vehicles. After Shagamu, heading to Ibadan drops to about 20,000. So most of it has gone eastward going towards Ondo and Ore and by the time you get to Benin, the number significantly drops.
“It goes up again at the confluence where they are heading towards the Niger. So, you can see that it is not a static 50,000 all the way. Same thing with Abuja-Kano-Zaria. After Kaduna, the traffic significantly drops. It is about 40,000 there too but after Kaduna it begins to drop by the time you get to Zaria. If you have driven to that road before, by the time you are driving between Zaria and Kaduna you see how thin the recurring number of vehicles you meet is and as you begin to head closer between Kaduna and Abuja, the number of vehicles begin to increase.
“So I think it is important to have that at the back of your mind, not all roads have those traffic counts.
“I also want to let you know that what we are doing is not accidental, we are being deliberate and methodical. So collecting information to know what to do with, which place and what.
“Going to PPP, I say that in the context of people arrogate PPPs to the right to toll, no, government can also toll. That is the point and that will happen without taking private sector fund.”
The minister also disclosed that the council had approved additional N15.765 billion for two roads in the country.
The roads are Suleja-Minna-Lambata road and Ibadan-Lagere-Ilesa bypass.
He said the two roads contracts approved on Wednesday were upward review from initially approved rates.
On the 101km Suleja-Minna-Lambata road, he said FEC also approved additional N12.6 billion, while additional N3.165 billion was approved for the Ibadan-Lagere-Ilesa bypass.
Meanwhile the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on Wednesday, said the idea of returning toll plazas on major roads was insensitive and lamentable.
He stated that the insensitive idea, in the midst of excruciating economic hardship and high costs of living occasioned by the alleged incompetence and harsh policies of the administration, was completely ill-conceived and anti-people.
He said, “The PDP insists that at best, such idea amounts to executive bullying which cannot be justified under any guise as it will lead to more increase in costs of goods and services across the country.
“Only recently, President Buhari approved the increase of Value Added Tax from five per cent to 7.2 per cent despite outcry by Nigerians, who are also being made to pay exorbitant tariffs for electricity and other essential services.
“Since Buhari came into office in 2015, his administration had continued to increase prices and impose all manner of levies on Nigerians which proceeds are being frittered by the cabal in the presidency leading to a bleeding economy and despondency among the citizenry.”
Ologbondiyan said that instead of putting more pressure on the already impoverished Nigerians by introducing toll gates at this point in time, “Buhari should exert himself, seek ways of creating wealth out of the abundant resources at the disposal of his administration or make haste to surrender the reign of governance to more competent hands.”
“The PDP, therefore, charges President Buhari to immediately rescind the decision to return toll gates on our highways as such is not in the best interest of Nigerians,’ Ologbondiyan added.