By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Abdulwahab Abdullah
LAGOS—FOLLOWING the toll review along Eti-Osa/Lekki-Epe Expressway, by Lekki Concession Company Limited, LCC, motorists and commuters, yesterday groaned as they spent several hours on long queues on the road.
The LCC recently announced a hike in toll at the Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza and the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge Toll Plaza, which took effect from February 1.
The toll review elicited angry reactions, yesterday, from Lagosians, who ply the route.
However, officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, deployed to the area had a tough time controlling vehicles as a result of standstill traffic at the toll gates.
Residents, motorists groan
Refusal by most motorists to pay the fares resulted in long queues leading to traffic gridlock along the axis.
Other motorists, who were impatient, were seen taking alternative routes.
One of the motorists, Mr. Ayinla Hakeem, who expressed anger over the review, said: “This is unfair. This government should please have a human face. This is not what we voted for. We do not deserve this inhuman treatment in this harsh economic situation.”
Another motorist, Mrs. Aita John, said: “Our income has not increased. Why should Lagos State government make life unbearable for people? Transporters will increase fares and so on. It will have multiplier effects. Not this time of the year. Are they looking for campaign money for election from the masses? The toll is too much even the initial toll was too much let alone this new one. This is unfair by Lagos State Government.
Mixed reactions trail review
Meanwhile, mixed reactions have trailed the toll review.
While National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, assured commuters that there won’t be an increase in transport fares, it welcomed the toll review.
The NURTW chairman in Jakande, Alhaji Taofeek Oluwa, while addressing newsmen in Lagos, however, urged the LCC not to renege on its agreement.
Oluwa said: “Following the announcement of the toll review at the Admiralty Circle Plaza and the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge Plaza by the Lekki Concession Company, LCC, there will be no fare increase.”
Oluwa also stated they had been carried along by LCC in their decision making.
He said: “It is encouraging that LCC carried the union along as one of the critical stakeholders consulted during the engagement process for the toll review which resulted in the minimal increase in toll charged the branded commercial buses.
“From February 1, branded commercial buses popularly called ‘Danfo’ which previously paid N80.00 would be paying N90 for e-Tag payments and N100 for cash payments.
“As long as LCC honours its agreement of our mutual understanding at the stakeholders’ meeting, we can confidently support LCC.
“We assure commuters that they will not suffer any increase in the fares paid to board the branded commercial buses coming into or going out of Eti-Osa/Lekki-Epe Expressway. The NURTW is happy to endorse the toll fare review,” Oluwa said.
Lawyer faults hike
Faulting the decision to review the toll, Lagos lawyer and rights activist, Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa argued that there were pending court actions over the creation of the toll gates filed in 2011.
Adegboruwa, in a telephone chat with Vanguard, said: “The government has a duty to obey the rule of law since there are cases pending in court on the creation of the toll gates. So, any decision to increase the toll being collected while the case is still on will amount to executive recklessness.
“I expected that the state government will convene a meeting of stakeholders to discuss any possible increment or policy that will affect the masses negatively.
“We are in a period of recession; the expectation of the people is that the toll will come down, rather than an increase because there are no alternative routes in this area.
“So we have no choice than to pay the levy. My advice to the state government is to tread with caution and call Lekki Concession Company, LCC, to order. Government or public Infrastructures are not established for profiteering.”
New tariff endorsed by stakeholders—LCC
Justifying the review, the Managing Director of LCC, Mr. Mohammed Hassan, said the feedback and recommendations received during the series of consultations held in December 2017 with stakeholders in Eti-Osa Local Government area and its environs considerably influenced the new toll.
Hassan said: “Since the commencement of tolling in December 2011, the toll had remained the same despite the continuous increase in the cost of operations to ensure that the toll plazas and the road infrastructure are well maintained. The toll review has also become necessary to enable the company meet its loan obligations to its local and foreign lenders, considering the fact that foreign exchange rates have continued to increase astronomically in the last couple of years. LCC cannot continue to operate or provide the services required from us if we do not review the toll.”
Lagos govt keeps mum
When contacted, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan could not be reached for comment as his telephone line was busy.
At press time, he was yet to respond to a message sent to his mailbox.