THE Senate, yesterday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency re introduce toll gates on the nation’s highways to create a financial pool through which bad roads could be maintained and rehabilitated.
The Senate asked the President to immediately reverse the toll gate policy by ensuring that every federal road has a toll gate.
The Senate adopted the recommendation on the reversal of the toll gate policy contained in the report of the Ad-hoc Committee on Works, which investigated the total collapse of federal roads in Nigeria.
Senators in their contributions, supported the position of the ad-hoc committee report and called on Nigerians to contribute their quota to national development by supporting the reintroduction of toll gate and concession of some major federal roads.
In his contribution, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, PDP, Imo East said, “When they come to Imo State, the team will agree that a state of emergency would have been declared on the roads. In Lagos State, some roads have been tolled and monies realized from them are used to maintain the roads. The Federal Government should begin to think in that direction.
In his contribution, Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’ Allah (APC, Kebbi) said, government must partner with the private sector in order to develop our roads. He said, ”in the developed worlds, people pay toll fee. Nigerians must pay the price. It is a global practice. Nigeria should begin to think in that direction. As lawmakers, let us look at Nigerians and tell them the truth. It is impossible for government to provide good roads everywhere.”
The call for toll gates to resurface on the nation’s highways was coming eleven years after former President Olusegun Obasanjo disbanded toll gates along major federal highways in the country.
But why were the toll gates scrapped in the first place?
The reasons leading to the demolition of toll gates ranged from …manifest corruption, concealment and diversion of funds and double taxation. These reasons have not been tackled. Indeed, the government had introduced the petroleum products tax as a form of substitute for the cancellation of the toll fees.
Speaking on a Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) forum tagged: The President explains, Obasanjo said the toll gates had been known to record serious vehicular accidents while portions of roads near many of them were full of pot holes.
In 2003, The President assured that proceeds from the petroleum tax of N1.50k per litre which would be used to improve federal roads in the country.
Other arguments made against the policy include the problem of motorists subjected to all manner of ill treatments, kept in long queues and traffic bottlenecks, for no reasons whatsoever. It was said that toll points were also outlets for criminal activities, for human traficking, for prostitution and illicit trading in drugs and petroleum products.
There was also the matter of insufficient alternative routes.
Lets get background on tolls and how they can work…or not.
Toll fee is a form of road pricing typically implemented to help recoup the cost of road construction and maintenance, which (on public roads) amounts to a form of taxation. The amount of the toll usually varies by vehicle type, weight, or number of axles, with freight trucks often charged higher rates than cars.
Technology is used for it in many countries.
Some toll collection points are unmanned and the user deposits money in a machine which opens the gate once the correct toll has been paid. To cut costs and minimize time delay many tolls today are collected by some form of automatic or electronic toll collection equipment which communicates electronically with a toll payer’s transponder.
Some toll roads have “automated” toll enforcement systems that take photos of drivers who do not pay the tolls and their license plates.
They are a source of controversy even in those countries. Some people object to paying “twice” for the same road: in fuel taxes and with tolls.
Some toll roads are managed under such systems as the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) system. Private companies build the roads and are given a limited franchise. Ownership is transferred to the government when the franchise expires. This type of arrangement is prevalent in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, South Korea,
The BOT system is a fairly new concept that is gaining ground in the United States.
Toll roads have been criticized as being inefficient in various ways:
They require vehicles to stop or slow down (except open road tolling); manual toll collection wastes time and raises vehicle operating costs.
Collection costs can absorb up to one-third of revenues, and revenue theft is considered to be comparatively easy.
Where the tolled roads are less congested than the parallel “free” roads, the traffic diversion resulting from the tolls increases congestion on the road system and reduces its usefulness.
By tracking the vehicle locations, their drivers are subject to an effectual restriction of their freedom of movement and freedom from excessive surveillance.
There were some creative solutions offered by the Senate, though, including investment in Rail, Air and Water ways to act as alternatives to road transport and to decrease traffic on the roads for longer lifespan as well as the construction of concrete roads instead of laterite roads in some parts of the country especially in areas not suitable for Bituminous pavement
The Senate also mandated its Committee on Works to meet with the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission to look for new methods of funding federal road projects.
In his presentation, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Barnabas Gemade, recommended the rebuilding and constant maintenance of existing road infrastructure as well as introduction of weigh bridges to protect roads and discourage the over usage of the highways that were constructed for ferrying heavy vehicles and trucks.
Back to the basics, Also yesterday, the Senate mandated the Federal Government to make provisions for repair of major highways in the 2016 budget against the backdrop that the state of existing roads were deplorable and would need urgent Federal Government’s intervention.