BY EBUN SESSOU
It’s illegal —Barr. Ebun Olu Adegboruwa
The plan by the Federal Government of Nigeria to re-introduce toll gates on major express ways is totally unwarranted and illegal. By virtue of section 13 of the 1999 Constitution, the government is under a sacred obligation to provide good road network for the citizens, free of any charges.
Thus, provision of motorable roads, across the length and breadth of Nigeria, is a sacred constitutional responsibility of the government of Nigeria. Under and by virtue of section 38 of the same Constitution, citizens are entitled to freedom of movemment throughout Nigeria without any hindrance or let, by way of toll gates for the collection of toll fees.
These toll gates, in so far as they may hinder the free flow of movement of people and goods, will amount to a violation of the right to freedom of movement.
Government has the responsibility to provide security of lives and property for the citizens. The lives of citizens cannot be secure where the roads through which they travel are filled with pot holes which are death traps; when citizens spend hours on the same spot and are left in the hands of robbers.
The toll gates were in place before but were scrapped by the Obasanjo regime. The reasons leading to the demolition of toll gates ranged from manifest corruption, concealment and diversion of funds and double taxation. These reasons have not been tackled. Indeed, the government had introduced the petroleum products tax as a form of substitute for the cancellation of the toll fees. To now go back on these toll fees is tantamount to multiple taxation.
We cannot all forget our sordid experiences at those toll gates. How motorists were subjected to all manner of ill treatments, kept in long queues and traffic bottlenecks, for no reasons whatsoever. It transpired then that these toll points were also outlets for criminal activities, for human traficking, for prostitution and indeed illicit trading in drugs and petroleum products.
For government to insist on collection of toll fee on any major road, there must certainly be other subsidiary roads, which motorists who are unable to afford the toll fees, can access without difficulty. Presently, there is no such alternative route.
For a road to qualify for any form of toll at all, it must be motorable. Can this government in good conscience announce any toll fee on the Shagamu-Benin or Lagos-Ibadan expressways? With almost half of these roads submerged and caving in? Perhaps, the government will first embark on massive reconstruction of these roads, allow citizens to benefit from the gesture of the taxes that they have paid over the years and then build alternative routes, before ever toiling with the idea of a toll, if ever at all.
We surely cannot afford to go back on the decision to abolish these toll gates. The provision of infrastructure is the responsibility of government, all over the world.
In the case of Nigeria, the citizens do not deserve the kind of economic hardship that the government is seeking to impose on them by way of reintroduction of toll fees on expressways. At the same time, this same government is tinkering with the idea of removal of fuel subsidy, of removing education subsidy, PHCN subsidy, etc, virtually everything that the citizen sby way of government subsidy is being obliterated.
The lesson we can learn from the economic disasters of the western powers, where this idea of taxing the people to death originates from, is that sooner than later, it will become clear that the welfare of the people is always the responsibility of government.
The other point against the re-introduction of the toll fee is that unless we tackle headlong the monster called corruption, the essence of such toll fee will be defeated right from its very first day. This is because as it is presently the case with all other government incomes, the proceeds of such toll fee will invariably always end up in private pockets.
It is totally unfair to impose hardship on the generality of our people for the undeserved economic benefit and prosperity of a few. The IMF and World Bank-induced idea of the toll fee is totally ill advised and should be jettisoned.
The experience with the Lagos State Government’s failed attempt to introduce toll fee on the Lekki-Epe Expressway is that it is possible for the government to take care of its citizens in the area of infrastructure through existing income generating procedures, if only the government would be bold enough to cut down on its wasteful spending. It is commendable that the Fashola administration learnt that lesson well enough and it is now working out for the good of his administration and the entire people of Lagos State.
It will be painful – Matthew Amadi, Motorist
There is no idea given by government that is not always to the detriment of the people because cost of transportation will soar. It will be difficult for the people of Nigeria to travel couple with high cost of living. Cost of foodstuffs will be rise. It will be very painful for the Nigerians.
I think the federal government should focus on maintaining the roads without enslaving its citizens. There is no road in Nigeria that is good. There is need for provision of electricity without asking the citizens to pay a dime. The country is up to the task. Some of the African countries that are smaller than Nigeria are enjoying dividends of democracy. Nigeria should be able to have constant electricity. And other amenities that will make life meaningful to the citizens should be provided instead making life difficult to for them.
It’s genocide – Bro Thadeaus Anunne, Clergy
Since independence, things have not been the same That is one of the reasons for what is happening in Nigeria.
Now the government wants to put toll gates, remove fuel subsidy and devalue the naira. People are pushed to the wall. There is no point in removing fuel subsidy, instead, build refineries. For the toll gate, it is just adding to the removal of fuel subsidy which means life will be more difficult for Nigerians. These three issues are coming up at the same time, it is genocide.
Some people are still earning N10, 000 as monthly salary. And looking at transportation…. If we should believe in the revelations, there have been messages that the country will split if things are not put in place. Removal of fuel subsidy, bringing back toll-gate and devaluation of naira will only cause disaster to this country. And the point is that government has not been sincere to its promises.
For instance, road that link Lagos and Ore is bad. This situation is going to lead the Nigerian youths into what they are not supposed to do. The level of crime will be high, people will die without being noticed. Nigeria is too big to be a nation. We were amalgamated and therefore there is need for the country to have a Sovereign National Conference before peace will return. If splitting will be the solution for every Nigerian child, so be it. So, government should go back to the drawing table.
Our leaders are hawks – Bro Peter Nwaoha, Clergy
Nigeria hasn’t been blessed with good leadership. Nigeria has never had a leader right from independence. Even the colonial masters were not sincere. Nigerian leaders have been hawks. To me, Jonathan is a great disappointment. He has disappointed many Nigerians who voted for him. The first time he took over, he started the elongation of tenure campaign.
Nigeria is a place where leaders are only concerned about themselves. For Nigeria as an entity, the future is doubtful. What is President Jonathan doing to address the issue of Boko Haram? Will he say the members of Boko Haram are invisible creatures? It is very bad for people to leave the real thing and start chasing shadows.
I think government should have an answer to the future of the people in the country. President Jonathan and his cabinet should tell Nigerians the plans they have that will better the life of every citizen. Graduates are without jobs, no electricity supply, there is no adequate pipe borne water, yet they want Nigerians to pay tax. Whatever will alleviate the conditions of the poor is trampled upon.
It’s a fraud — Abiodun Adeosun, businessman
Nigerians are going through lots of difficulties and Nigerian government is not concerned about its citizens. I think, it is time for Nigerians to wake up. It is a fraud for government to come up with different ideas that is tantamount to enslaving the citizens.