This Is Lagos

July 27, 2010

Unending controversy over tolls on Lekki-Epe Expressway

Why tolls will commence in August -LCC

By Jude Njoku, Kingsley Adegboye, Bose Adebayo Adebayo & Olasukanmi Akoni
WHEN in April 2006, the Lagos State government engaged Messrs Lekki Concession Company (LCC) to upgrade and expand the 49.5 kilometre Lekki-Epe expressway under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) model, many did not understand the full implications of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme designed to ease the usual traffic gridlock along the road.

But with the first phase of the project almost completed, the proposed collection of tolls on the road expected to commence next month, is now generating mixed feeling among residents  of the highbrow neighbourhood. While some residents are in support of the project, others have vehemently kicked against it. Their opposition is mainly based on the proposed collection of tolls.

The contractual agreement between the concessionaire and the State Government provides for three toll plazas where users of the road will pay a stipulated fee before  exiting the 49.5 kilometre road. Aggrieved residents of the area however claim that the plazas will not only fence them off their community but will also subject them to unfair financial burdens.

A traditional ruler who pleaded anonymity told Vanguard Features that the project has numerous flaws. According to him, there was no due consultation with the leaders of the community before the project was embarked upon,”The project will help the community in its own little way but only a section of the community was carried along while the rest were ignored by the stakeholders.

My grouse is this: “How can the government wake up overnight and decide to construct three toll gates in one community and expect residents to pay the tolls?  A lot of people are of the opinion that those of us living in Lekki are wealthy without considering the fact that many of us are still living in our fathers’ houses. Do they expect us to go and rob before to  pay the tolls?’‘ he asked.

A technician who gave his names as Uche Edike said LCC should have waited for a while before introducing tolls. ‘’ It is a 30- year project, why is the company in a hurry to collect tolls when a substantial part of the project is yet to be done?

Lekki toll plaza Photo by Diran Oshe

To me, only five per cent of the project has been completed and I believe you must see what you want to buy before paying for it. I am not against the project because it will bring development to our community but I guess there is a game behind it and only the government could give us a tangible explanation,’‘ said Edike.

Another resident of the area, Mr.Willy Badmus echoed similar views. Said he: “ I know Tinubu wants to indict Fashola on this project. Fashola has been doing well in Lagos but this idea is nothing but a burden to our community. The government should be interested in poverty eradication instead of adding to our problems. We must pay tolls whether we have eaten or not, this is nothing but slavery. This is not done in other developed countries of the world.

A commercial driver who introduced himself as Gbogbo Irawo said that collection of tolls on the road will bring hardship to the community. “There is no basis for a toll gate. We will resist any hardship that we are being deliberately subjected to by the State government and LCC.  The toll collection is unacceptable for now as it is unfair to all motorists plying the Lekki-Epe expressway.

The government and LCC should sit down and rethink the idea in a way that will benefit the entire community,” he said. According to him, the communities were left in the dark and wondered why projects initiated by the government in the Lekki corridor should be geared towards making profits and impoverishing the residents. “The state government cannot force the decision to pay tolls down our throats. Let me make it clear,  anyone who intends to erect toll plazas on that road in exchange for its expansion has made an economic misadventure.

No doubt, we want the road, but to ask us to pay toll is impossible. Moreover, the government is supposed to provide roads since we are tax payers but we cannot afford to bear the cost of the tolls,” he said.

A taxi driver Adewale Alamu also gave reasons why they are opposed to tolls on the road. “We are opposed to tolls. There is no doubt that the community needs good roads but we should not be allowed to pay through our nose since our tax will speak for us. Fashola should take it softly  or he will not go for a second term,”  he said.

Why tolls will commence in August -LCC

Despite the ongoing controversy over the commencement of tolls on the Lekki -Epe Expressway, the concessionaire, Messrs Lekki Concession Company (LCC) Limited, says it has met all the requirements stipulated in the contractual agreement to commence collection of tolls on the ever-busy expressway.

LCC’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Mr Charles Imebvore told Vanguard  that key elements stipulated in the agreement signed with Lagos state under Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to be in place, have been completed and are already in use.

The key elements in the first phase, according to Imebvore include the completion of work on the first six kilometres of the carriageway, reconstruction of the First Roundabout, construction of a new Second Roundabout, expansion of the Exxon Mobil Bridge from four to six lanes and completion of the Admiralty Circle Plaza.

Mr. Imebvore said the commencement of tolls on the Lekki Toll Road is subject to the inspection and certification of completed sections of the road as fit  by an internationally certified independent Engineer.

The Engineer, he said, has already inspected the road and will submit his report within the next ten days. ‘We have received information that portends positive outcome, hence the possible commencement of tolling at the end of July or in August, 2010.’‘ The toll rates, he said, will be announced at least two weeks before tolling commences.

The LCC spokesman who noted that there are alternative routes for those who do not want to pass through the toll plazas, however pointed out that it is the responsibility of the state government to create the alternative routes.

“Regarding road users who do not wish to pay toll, alternative routes exist for such people. Road users who do not wish to pay toll will be able to bypass the Toll Plaza using the alternative routes that have already been provided. Regardless of this, they will still be able to return onto the new Lekki-Epe Expressway, use it and enjoy other services provided by LCC, until they get to the next Toll Plaza and decide whether to pay toll or take the next alternative route,” he stated.

On toll payment procedures, he explained that road users will have the option of paying their tolls via electronic means or cash. He said the electronic mode of payment involves the use of smart cards called “SwiftPass” and an electronic device known as eTag.

“We are encouraging people to make toll payments via electronic means because of the discounts available on this platform and the added convenience it offers.

discounts will also be given to commercial bus operators to avoid increase in transport  faces”, he said. It is expected that the payment platforms will be expanded to include mobile phones in the near future