Two years after the Federal Government indicated plans to bring back toll gates, which were scrapped during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2004.
The idea was formally endorsed, recently, through the Federal Roads and Bridges Tolling Policy and Regulations, during the Federal Executive Council (FEC) weekly meeting in Abuja.
The approval signalled reintroduction of toll gates on federal roads across Nigeria.
Giving the breakdown of the rates, the Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola, revealed that bicycles, pedal cycles, tricycles, motorcycles, and other two or three-wheeled transport are exempted. Others to benefit from the exemption are diplomatic vehicles, military and paramilitary vehicles.
However, vehicles expected to pay have been classified into five categories. There are passenger cars; SUVs; private buses; commercial buses; and luxury buses and trucks.
Cars will pay N200; SUVs N300; private buses N300; commercial buses N150; luxury buses and trucks N500.
Fashola stressed that a Willingness-To-Pay Survey was carried out before the pricing framework was arrived at.
He said toll payment would not start now, adding that the policy is to help people, states, local governments, road managers and investors have an idea of the initiative.
But, Nigerians who spoke with The Guardian on the issue are worried about the idea, coming at a time many Nigerians are struggling to survive.
Executive Assistant to Governor of Anambra State and founder, Meljenstin Youth Empowerment Initiative, Ambassador Chibuzo Patrick Osigwe, said the reintroduction of toll gates on some major roads in the country is supposed to be a welcome idea but for the level of insecurity and increased hardship it would bring.
Nigerians, she said, are going through a lot financial difficulty. “Economy is bad, inflation is very high and the exchange rate is unimaginable. From Sagamu interchange to Onitsha, the gateway to the East, you can count no fewer than 60 toll collecting checkpoints by both the military and paramilitary agencies that include the police, customs, NDLEA, Navy, FRSC and others.
“Even the cost of maintaining vehicles now is on the high side. So, if the government returns toll gates, then the citizens, who are also the passengers, should get ready to bear the brunt because the add-ons will fall back on them.”
Also, human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun- Olu Adegboruwa, said the Constitution grants to all citizens the freedom of movement without restraint.
According to him, the idea of tolling is an unnecessary restraint on the right of citizens.
“Government has the responsibility to build roads and other infrastructure from taxes being paid by citizens.
“To this extent, it amounts to double taxation for citizens to pay VAT, Income Tax, PAYE and then pay to use the roads.
“Whereas, I commend the Hon Minister of Works and Housing and the Federal Government for massive investment in infrastructure, there is no need to punish citizens through road tax, in the midst of dwindling economic fortunes, unemployment, insecurity and rising inflation in a COVID economy.
“I urge government to drop the idea of tolling on the roads,” he said.
An educationalist and administrator, Treasure Schools, Pakuro, Mowe, Ogun State, Ms. Joan Hyacinth, said: “In my opinion, I feel reintroduction of toll gates on major roads in the country is unnecessary. The erection of toll gates is just a way of siphoning money from citizens. For example, at former toll gates, the amount of money collected from motorists were huge but ended up not being used for any invisible projects. It ended up in private pockets.”
A journalist and human rights activist, Agba Jalingo, said if any government official wants to toll the roads, they should build new ones and toll them.
According to him, most of the roads and bridges, being managing in Nigeria today were built by first and second republic leaders and military despots.
He said: “These corrupt politicians, since 1999, haven’t even been able to maintain those roads and bridges, let alone building new ones and they are contemplating tolling them. Isn’t that crass irresponsibility and opportunism?”
For Disability Rights Activist and the Executive Director of Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), David Anyaele, there was the need for the Federal Government to create an alternative route first before embarking on reopening of toll gates across the country
“There is no doubt that the reopening of toll gates across the country would lead to an increase in cost of transportation. However, managers need to be strengthened with an inbuilt mechanism for accountability.
“Citizens should be made to take ownership of ensuring that the government objectives are achieved.
“The concern is the issue of corruption. The opening of toll gates may be another window of opportunity to settle the boy in government,” he added.
But a security expert, Endurance Iyawa said toll gates seem the only plausible alternative to raise funds for road construction and maintenance in the country going by the whole global financial crises.
According to him, tolling is a universally accepted revenue method for maintaining and building roads, but the Federal Government needs to engage credible private sector partners with proven track record of service delivery to man the toll plazas.
“The toll gate is not the problem, but the credibility of the potential service providers and the exploitative nature of the Nigeria police. That’s what worries me.
“Government should ensure the roads are good enough and secure before creating tolls so we don’t become sitting ducks for bandits to do shooting practice. The roads are not even safe. We travel with fear, and may God help us.”