The federal government will be re-introducing toll plazas on federal roads. This is what the policy means for you.

Minister of Works and Housing; and former Governor of Lagos, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, has concluded plans to return tolling to interstate highways or federal roads. 

It's actually a plan he has been mulling for years.

“We expect to return toll plazas. We have concluded the designs of what they will look like, what materials they will be rebuilt with, and what new considerations must go into them. What we are looking at now and trying to conclude is how the back end runs”, Fashola told State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of Wednesday, October 2, 2019.

The Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos (Punch)

What Fashola means is that if you commute across Nigeria in the next couple of weeks, you would have to pay an amount as you make the journey from one state to another.

The amount is yet to be stated, however.

A “toll” is essentially defined as a charge to use a bridge or road. You can also call it a tax on roads.

Who dismantled the toll plazas Fashola wants to restore?

In 2003, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was rounding off his first term as democratically elected president, considered the toll gates spread across Nigeria, something of a nuisance and ordered that they be dismantled without delay.

Obasanjo advocated that roads should be maintained with the revenue derived from the hike in the pump price of petrol at the time.

Obasanjo also argued that the N63 million accrued daily from tolling was insignificant in the larger scheme of things and contributed very little to the nation's fiscal budget.

Olusegun Obasanjo dismantled federal tolls in 2003 (Guardian)

The former president also argued that toll gates compounded traffic on highways, had become a source of pain for motorists and encouraged corruption.

Most of the monies collected across the nation’s highways at the time, ended up in private pockets and in the bank accounts of certain law enforcement syndicates, anyway. 

Fashola and a short history of tolls

Anyone who has followed Fashola’s career in the public service shouldn’t be surprised by his latest move. 

As Lagos governor, Fashola directed the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) to begin the collection of toll on the Lekki-Epe expressway on December 18, 2011.

The lawyer and politician has always been of the school of thought that the private sector should be major players in road construction and maintenance through a public-private-partnership arrangement. The man is after all a capitalist.

During his budget presentation speech in the first week of December 2011, Fashola said it had become necessary for motorists to be charged for using the Lekki corridor road because the state government had paid N4 billion as toll on the road to the company in the last year.

Lagos NUJ urges FG to repair federal roads before reintroducing toll gates (Punch)

Another toll collection point was mounted on the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge as soon as it was commissioned by Fashola on May 29, 2013. 

It took several protests and lawsuits from Lagosians and residents of Ikota, for a third gate around the Lekki peninsula not to be tolled on Fashola’s watch.

It is also worth noting that there have been toll hikes and protests from motorists and residents alike over toll fares, after Fashola left Lagos government house. 

In 2017, security expert Abiodun Ladepo wrote of Fashola and his love for tolls: “When he was governor of Lagos state, Raji Fashola was notorious for collecting tolls. The joke used to be that if he constructed one foot of road, he would charge you for using it," Ladepo wrote.

In November of 2017, Fashola told lawmakers that if Nigerians crave smooth federal roads, they should be ready to pay for it. He advocated that monies accrued from tolling will be used to maintain federal highways all year round. 

Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN is a Nigerian lawyer and politician who is currently the Federal Minister of Works and Housing (360dopes)

Most federal roads are in a perpetual state of disrepair. 

“We have concluded plans to reintroduce toll gates across the country and we have finalised the design.It will be managed by the private sector and it will be located in the old places, 38 points across the country. We are only waiting for the completion of those roads before we introduce the toll gates,” Fashola told a senate committee in 2017.

Like roads, like electricity

Fashola’s mindset of paying (heavily) for what you use or consume was also on full display when he held sway as power minister from 2015 to 2019.

His argument throughout his stint in the power sector was that if consumers want to enjoy regular public power supply, a hike in tariff is a necessary evil. 

“Electricity is a product; it is made from raw materials; some of the raw materials are gas, power plants; they are also related. So, the issue of tariff is the single issue of price; when the raw materials of course go up, the price cannot stay the same.

“Investments in power are not where they should be and part of the reason why the government opted for privatisation was to get more private capital. If the recovery price and the income and profit do not make economic sense to the investor, would you do that business if you are the one?

“There are a lot of investors who want to pay a little more than the open market tariff; if we want them to come into the industry, we have to allow the new tariff order, which allows for embedded order. There are a lot of people producing excess power, they want to put it on the grid but the price must be right,” Fashola said in 2016.

Why does Fashola want toll gates back on highways?

'Maintenance' is the word and answer you have been looking for.

The minister’s views on how to run the public sector haven’t been altered one bit. His message is simple: ‘for better roads, at least pay for the maintenance.’

Some 51 highways across Nigeria will be affected by the tolling exercise. 

“There is no reason why we can’t toll. There was a policy of the government to abolish tolls or as it were, dismantle toll plazas. But there is no law that prohibits tolling in Nigeria today,” Fashola said in Abuja this week.

Fashola after grilling by senators in 2019 (Presidency)

The new tolling regime will also be cashless, the minister promises. 

“We want to limit significantly if not totally eliminate cash at the plazas while ensuring that electronic devices that are being used do not impede rapid movement.

“We are also now faced with the need to acquire more land to establish the width of the toll plazas because I believe that we are looking at a 10-lane plaza so that there can be more outlets and then they merge; so we need to acquire more land,” Fashola said.

The PDP is not buying this whole tolling business of course

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is kicking against the federal government’s plan to re-introduce tolls. 

In a statement issued by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said toll plazas amidst economic hardship and inflation is ill-conceived and anti-people.

“Such an idea amounts to executive bullying which cannot be justified under any guise as it will lead to more increase in costs of goods and services across the country. Only recently, President Buhari approved the increase of Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5 per cent to 7.2 per cent despite outcry by Nigerians, who are also being made to pay exorbitant tariffs for electricity and other essential services,” the political party said.

PDP Chairman Prince Uche Secondus during an outing in Uyo (ThisDay)

The statement adds that: “Nigerians could recall that the PDP administration, in keeping with our determination to ensure the well-being and economic prosperity of our citizens, dismantled toll gates, cut tax profiles and applied our energies towards wealth creation.” 

The PDP is asking President Buhari to immediately rescind the decision.