By Leke Adeseri, South West Regional Editor & Olasunkanmi Akoni
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, Wednesday, directed the indefinite suspension of planned toll collection on the Eti-Osa Lekki Epe Expressway billed to commence on Monday, January 3, 2011.

The suspension, acccording to government, is to enable it further engage with the concessionaire, Lekki Concession Company Limited, LCC and the concerned stakeholders to chart a new agreeable course.

Announcing the directive by the governor, Mr Ayo Gbeleyi, Director-General,  Lagos State Public-Private Partnership Office, PPPO, said the move became necessary due to appeals by well-meaning citizens.

According to Gbeleyi; “in the intervening period, the government would work with LCC to ensure that the road works progress considerably and that alternative routes (in addition to the one at Toll Plaza I that has been fully upgraded), for which the government has responsibility, are substantially completed.

“This would ensure that road users who desire not to pay tolls would have the option as well as the benefit of enjoying a significant part of the completed sections.

“In addition, government will be addressing the financial implications of this suspension with the concessionaires and their financiers to maintain the integrity and investor friendly posture of the state.

“The government would like to seize this opportunity to once again thank all citizens and stakeholders who have been very supportive of the administration’s efforts for a radical transformation of Lagos State for their continued understanding and support towards the successful delivery of the road infrastructure.”

How it all started

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 on Monday  generated sharp disapproval among residents of the highbrow neighbourhood.

While some residents were in support of the project, many others 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 earlier told Vanguard 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 father’s houses. Do they expect us to go and rob to pay the tolls?” he asked.

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