The Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ONICCIMA) has urged the Federal Government to be wary of its tolling policy, especially as it relates to the re-introduction of toll gates and the impact it might have on consumers’ disposable incomes.
According to the chamber, there are many pertinent issues surrounding the return of tolling on our expressways and bridges that require immediate consideration before the implementation of that policy.
The chamber stated that the re-introduction of toll gates on federal highways nationwide has spread palpable fear especially among the commuting public, given the realisation that the result is another hike in transport fares, which in turn worsens the disposable income of the citizenry.
“We implore the Federal government to reconsider the planned toll fee amounts in line with the current hardship faced by the masses. It is no secret that Nigerian citizens are going through extremely difficult times as runaway inflation continually erodes the purchasing power of families.
“We humbly appeal to the government to consider a 75 per cent reduction in the planned toll fee based on current harsh economic realities. This will make it affordable for the commuting masses, reduce negative impact and guarantee sustainability”, the chamber added.
ONICCIMA President, Chris Ukachukwu, in a statement made available to The Guardian, noted that the issue of diverse toll collection by touts and agents of various state and local governments along Federal highways is causing untold hardships on commuters.
He added that with the re-introduction of the toll gates, the Federal Government should first do all within its powers to dislodge these touts and state and local government agents from their collections as this amounts to multiple taxation.
“To start with, it is common knowledge that the toll gates are usually outsourced to contractors who pay agreed amounts in advance to the government. In the previous era of tolling, citizens severally complained of the difficulty to trace the impact of these monies so collected on our road infrastructure. The dilapidation continued even with all the funds collected. Is there any guarantee that this reintroduction will be impactful?
“Furthermore, to achieve the desire of the Federal Government, it is imperative that they delay the implementation of this policy till about 2024 just so, they will possibly complete most of the critical road projects especially in the South East; like Enugu-Onitsha expressway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway, the Onitsha-Owerri highway, the 2nd Niger Bridge, etc which are all in either unimaginable state of disrepair or are still under construction. Many motorists have since discovered alternate routes through the villages and hinterlands which will render this policy ineffectual.”, he added.
He then urged the government to ensure that the various contractors who shall operate the tolls work under strictly laid down guidelines and standardized procedures that are applicable across board, as this will go a long way in checkmating corruption, intimidation and acrimony usually witnessed at toll gates.