• Friday, June 14, 2024
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FG mulls return of toll gates to drive infrastructure development

toll gates

Fifteen years after 31 toll plazas constructed at an average cost of N1 million each were demolished on the orders of the Federal Government, the government says plans are on to return the tollgates in order to encourage private sector participation in the development of basic infrastructure in the country.

Babatunde Fashola, minister of works and housing, disclosed this on Wednesday while briefing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

But the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), through Kola Ologbondiyan, its national publicity secretary, in a statement described the plan as an insensitive idea. The party described the plan as completely ill-conceived and anti-people because the country is faced with excruciating economic hardship and high costs of living.

The Olusegun Obasanjo administration had in 2004 ordered the demolition of 31 toll plazas across the country.

The Presidency also announced that it would hold an emergency FEC meeting on Saturday to tidy up final copy of the 2020 budget.

Villa sources told BusinessDay that the meeting is in anticipation of possible submission of the 2020 Appropriations Bill to the National Assembly next week Wednesday by President Buhari.

“There is no law that abolishes tolling in Nigeria today. We expect to return toll plazas. We have concluded their designs, what they will look like, what materials they will be built with, and what new considerations must go into them,” Fashola told Sate House correspondents.

“What we are looking at now and trying to conclude is how the back end runs and that is important because we want to limit significantly, if not totally eliminate cash at the plazas while ensuring that electronic devices that are being introduced do not impede rapid movement,” he said.

Fashola had earlier stated that FEC at its Wednesday meeting approved road projects worth N46 billion.

He said the new toll gates would be 10 lanes to enhance free flow of traffic.

Although the cost of the new tollgates is yet to be made public, government had spent about N360 million to demolish the 31 toll gates.

“We are being very deliberate and methodical in our new approach. Government can also toll, not just the private sector only,” Fashola said.

Government, he said, is now faced with the need to acquire more land to establish the width of the toll plazas.

He debunked the notion of expectation that the collection of tolls would automatically produce the replacement cost of the roads, a notion he described as “inaccurate, because the traffic toll counts that we have done on major highways do not suggest that there is enough vehicular traffic across all roads”.

“The two or three heavy routes are Lagos/Ibadan, Abuja/Kano, Abuja/Lokoja. Now, Lagos/Ibadan, the heaviest traffic we can find is between Lagos and Shagamu and is about 40,000 vehicles. After Shagamu, heading to Ibadan, it drops to about 20,000. So, most of it has gone eastward going towards Ondo/Ore. And by the time you get to Benin, the number significantly drops. It ratchets up again at the confluence where they are heading towards the Niger,” Fashola said.

“You can see that it is not a static 50,000 all the way. Same thing with Abuja, Kano, Zaria; after Kaduna, the traffic significantly drops. It’s about 40,000 there too but after Kaduna it begins to drop. By the time you get to Zaria, if you have driven to the road before, by the time you are driving between Zaria and Kaduna, you see how thin the recurring number of vehicles is, and as you begin to head closer to Abuja, the number of vehicles begins to increase. I think it is important to understand this. Not all roads have those traffic counts,” he said.

He noted that the Executive Order Seven signed by the President has made provisions for tax credit for infrastructure.

“Essentially, that is another PPP initiative where companies are supposed to invest their money in infrastructure and then recover it back from their tax payments,” he said.

 

TONY AILEMEN, Abuja