Though opportunities may surface if tolls are introduced on our highways, it doesn’t mean it won’t come with the challenges which formed the core of the reason for the demolition of same in 2004. In view of this, it is crucial the present government make the masses understand the yardstick behind the planned re-establishment of toll gates on our federal highways.
Toll gates are part of road infrastructures which are meant for the traffication of highways of any country. Its main purpose is for revenue generation which will aid effective and efficient maintenance of federal highways. The demolition of toll gates in the year 2004 under the administration of former president Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo led to serious problems like aesthetic degradation and also made many federal roads to experience all sorts of wear and tear.
Since then, the performance of Nigerian road transport sector has not been satisfactory despite its enormous potentials for growth and development.
Nigerian roads need urgent attention (maintenance) and its is in fact a very vital aspect of human life judging by the activities that go on, on our roads. Hence, one of the main sources of generating revenue for such maintenance is by re-introducing toll gate facilities in Nigeria.
The mishap that happen on our road is heart-wrenching. A conclusion drawn by Nigeria watch states that next to Boko Haram insurgency, road accident is the second highest source of violent death in Nigeria.
In fact, a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) further adjudged Nigeria as the country with the most unsafe roads in Africa, adding that one in every four road accident deaths in Africa occurred in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Inland waterways and Railways are ineffective; hence the heavy reliance of the nation’s economy on road transportation. Apart from the main importance of toll gates which is basically anchored on the generation of revenue for the maintenance and rehabilitation of federal highways in Nigeria, there are so many other benefits attached to its re-introduction which has to do with the spontaneous security they provide to both commuters and transporters because the toll gates were usually managed by armed security agents, their presence provided a level of safety for road users. In fact, the government can consider the building of clinics at the toll plaza to provide emergency treatment for accident victims.
Maintenance of roads can be taken seriously instead of constructing new ones. A large number of roads are built without the use of proper construction methods and suffer from substandard construction work. It is only in Nigeria that a road contractor finishes 10km road in 3days. Within a short period, the qualities of such roads rapidly deteriorate.
To this extent, it is significantly important to state that there is an urgent need to preach breakage from the past wastefulness, negligence, deceit and bad policy with regard to the road network construction in the country.
Also, to guide against bottle-necks such as time wasting, theft of revenue and traffic congestion which were the major bane of toll gates in Nigeria before the demolition 11 years ago, there is a need to put in place electronic toll collection at all toll plazas.
Government has a simple assignment of recreating efficient, toll gate facilities for use in the maintenance and rehabilitation of Federal, States and Rural roads which will serve as catalyst for stable and buoyant economic development of the country.
The move by the federal government to re-introduce toll gates on the country’s major highways has clearly shown the inconsistency and policy failure that is characteristic of governance in Nigheria. There seems to be no suitable policy framework for governing the country. The policies are churned out on ad-hoc basis, tried and dumped, depending on the prevailing circumstances. This absence of enduring focus is partly to blame for the lack of progress practically in every aspect of national life.
The federal government suddenly demolished toll gates on the first of January 2004 to the chagrin of everyone. That action indicated lack of insight. It reportedly cost a whopping N360 million to demolish the toll gates and their infrastructures that were built in the 70s when the economy was buoyant.
To rebuild the toll gates now would cost more than four times what it cost decades ago. Yet, this money would have been saved if the toll gates had not been destroyed.The wasteful way of running the country is lamentable. Therefore, is the return of the toll gates a step forward or backward?
Before the demolition of toll gates, much of the generated funds were not accounted for. Little amount was actually spent on the maintenance of roads. Therefore, if government desires bringing back the toll gates, there is the necessity for the eradication of corruption, embezzlement of collected tolls and to ensure that the realized or generated funds are utilized for road maintenance. Before then, however, government should carry out urgent repair of roads so as to be passable and less calamitous. That would inspire the public trust necessary for the success of toll gates
In a sane country, ordinarily, the reinstatement of federal highway toll gates should be a vital tool for the generation of huge amount of revenue for the maintenance and rehabilitation of highways as well as the provision of social amenities for Nigeria citizens which will be a catalyst for improved standard of living.
But, are we really living in a sane country?
Again, will it be wrong to tell the APC led government to look somewhere else rather than in the pockets of the poor masses as suggested by some Nigerians?
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola had hinted last week Tuesday that the government would reintroduce toll collection on its roads, to help return them to good conditions. Albeit, some people are already crying blue murder!
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