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To toll or not be tolled

By Kate Henshaw
The inevitable happened on December 18, seven days before Christmas, amidst the mad rushing around that is synonymous with this time of the year. Parents going to pick  their wards returning from school, shoppers jostling about for last minute bargains, travellers heading to the airport and  other sundry movements on the road.

The tolling on the Lekki-Epe axis commenced at  midnight on the  December  17, amidst cries and protests from residents of the area. Questions were being asked that needed answers, but the Lagos State Government seemed to turn a deaf ear to all these and kept mute, but a broadcast message  signed by YACOON (whatever that means)  said  people should not lay  much emphasis on the erection of tolls, but on the long term benefits that might accrue.

It went on to say road pricing is known all over the world as a more appealing means of funding transportation as a result of increase demand on infrastructure  and revenue generation.

All well and good, but what research or survey was carried out by the construction company or the government  that signed a 30-year contract to find out what the people want and how it would affect them? Why three tolls on the same stretch of road and where is the alternate road?

There is no provision for an alternate road of equal standard to the tolled road which will give people a choice of paying the tariff or not. The residents have been boxed in so that there is no choice as to where to drive through but the toll plaza.

The “alternate road” which had always been in existence, runs through a residential area and witnessed a huge amount of traffic on  December 18, both by the rich in their SUVs, and the poor in their vehicles. It was mayhem on the day.

The down side of tolling has been examined by the World Bank Group which states that tolls may be so high that traffic diverts off the new road onto parallel roads which pass through residential neighbourhoods therefore reducing the environmental benefits that the new road could have provided. This is the case of the Lekki-Epe expressway.

A group of like minded, intelligent and concerned citizens discussed the tolling and came up with this communiqué:

1. Explore Nollywood Assembly is a BBM group of professionals from the entertainment industry committed to nation building.

2. We are compelled to lend our voice to the cries of the residents of Eti Osa Local Government based on the recent tolling introduced in the community.

3. The 23km Lekki road was constructed in 1983 by Governor Lateef  Jakande to ensure free flow of goods and services… .

4. The contract for the reconstruction of the existing road is the addition of ONLY one more lane and it was awarded in 2002 by the Tinubu Government  to Lekki Concession Company(LCC).

5. The loan for the construction of the road was put at 50billion and the Lagos State Government guaranteed the facility for LCC.

6. It sounds ridiculous too that a 23km road in one local government has three toll gates, and how did LCC arrive at the figures for the toll fares and the road has been concessioned to LCC for 30years.

7. The terms of the contract was the promise of alternative routes but the only alternative which does not look like an alternative is the Oniru axis. What happens to the 2nd toll at Chevron and the 3rd at Pan African University? Do cars drive on the Atlantic?

8. Residents and indigenes of Lekki and its environs came out for a peaceful non violent protest which was infiltrated and hijacked by unknown hoodlums.

9. Based on the FOI bill, every Nigerian has a right to information so the details of the contract should be published.

10. Information has it that part of the contractual agreement is that an alternative route which is the coastal road, be created by the government.

11. Why can’t a single ticket take a car through the three toll plazas rather than paying at each toll?

12. The Governor while presenting the 2012 budget to the State Assembly said the government has paid N4billion in tolling to the LCC in about 8months and cannot continue.

13. If the government has paid N4billion in 8months and the rough estimate for 500,000 trips daily at the three tolls annually is N9billion at N50 (but note that the least fare is for okadas at N70) then in six years will realise N54billion, which is N4billion over the loan.

If the tariff must remain, are the residents getting discounts for an area they already inhabit before the construction of the toll plazas because some are home owners who cannot move away to another area because they cannot afford the tariffs. Has LCC thought about the introduction of peak and off peak times for the toll plaza?

Following the recovery of the total project cost for tolling before the expiration of the time limit, 61 roads were made toll free by the Japanese Government. Will the same apply in Lagos State?

A responsible government provides basic infrastructure for the citizenry and encourages them to pay their taxes in order to continue to enjoy the benefits that accrue from this, but it also has to be humane in the execution of certain policies.

Years ago, taxes were hardly paid in the state, but only a blind person will not see the changes that have occurred and willingly pay tax, and I am a huge supporter of this drive. I ask that the state government reconsider its stand on this matter.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.