SOME Nigerians have described the reintroduction of toll gates on federal highways as callous, wicked, totally uncalled for and should be kicked against.
Responding to questions from Prime Business Africa on the reintroduction of toll plazas, a legal practitioner and political analyst, Mike Umonnan, said it was a very callous decision on the part of the government as it would affect all of the citizenry, adding that every reasonable Nigerian should condemn it in totality.
Umonnan said, “Toll gates issue in this country was put to an end by the Obasanjo government, somebody is now saying that we should reinstate toll gates. All I can see is that this government has decided to inflict pain on the people without blinking an eye and it is too bad.”
Human rights activist and social commentator, Chude Achike, remarked that government had set up toll gates in the past without results.
According to him the essence of setting up toll gates then was that revenues realised may be used to finance road projects.
Achike said, “So, toll gates were erected in virtually every part of this country in the past. If you move from one state to another state, you would meet a toll gate, yet, virtually all the roads in the country were bad.
“The question that needs to be answered is, what happened to all the hundreds of millions and billions of naira generated from these toll gates back then, obviously they were mismanaged and stolen.
“So the toll gates have become a veritable source of graft and corruption in the country. Since Nigeria has not changed and corruption still thrives.”
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had earlier this week explained to journalists that though the policy and regulations guiding the toll gates had been approved, it would not be implemented until the roads were repaired and in good conditions.
A lecturer at the University of Lagos and a former governorship candidate in Lagos under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Gabriel Adetokunbo Pearse, said the idea of collecting tolls and building road infrastructure was a welcomed development as the government needed money to carry out projects.
He however noted that such projects were mismanaged in the past.
Pearse said, “Don’t forget that the government already tried it before and the money went into the pockets of the workers instead of the government coffers, therefore it was a wasted effort.
“So, if this administration that has shown the country in every way possible that it lacks integrity, tells us that they are going to collect tolls to maintain roads. Their level of inefficiency and lack of integrity as a leader tells me they are not going to achieve anything.”
Umonnan said rather than return toll gates the government should had tried other means of revenue generation.
He said, “the government is always saying they are looking for money and trying to raise money, so what of all the money they have been raising from the citizens, what have they done with it?
“They go about borrowing money and waste the money through corruption. So why should they continue to inflict pain on Nigerians on the basis that they want to raise money to repair roads?
“Granted we hear they are going to install or use electronic monitoring, so that any vehicle that passes will be accounted for but what happens at the backend, those that receive the money, how do you monitor and account for them? There are just too many loopholes and leakages everywhere that need to be blocked.”
Achike, on his part, said Fashola should explain to Nigerians the new development the toll gates would bring.
“What different things will happen to the money that is going to be collected? Will they not go the way the other monies have gone? Will they not be stolen, is there going to be any significant improvement on our roads? These are questions that need answers,” he said.
Pearse, however, showered encomiums on Fashola, describing the minister as a man of integrity.
He said, “I know Fashola personally and I can say that the epileptic power challenge in the country would have been a thing of the past if Fashola had been given a free hand to work. He would have built houses for Nigerians if he had a free hand.
“He is not the president of Nigeria, whatever he tries to do since he became a minister has been thwarted, undermined, and sabotaged. It is hoped that the government will do what is right, fair, and justifiable and also ensure that the principle of accountability is followed to the latter.”