The road network in Nigeria has been in a sorry state over the years, and to construct and re-construct it will require funds—parts of which will be generated through tolling, according to Babatunde Fashola, the minister for works, housing, and power.
He made this known in his first news conference Tuesday in Abuja where he said tolling is crucial to support government funding for the road infrastructure.
“So it will not be too much if we ask every road user to pay little to augment government funding for road maintenance,” he said during the conference he tagged “Setting the Agenda for Delivering Change”.
This is about the third time the tolling policy will be introduced after it was first discarded in 2004 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo who introduced fuel tax which increased fuel pump price then.
At the last attempt to bring back toll gate in 2013, former minister of state for works, Bashir Yuguda it would take a Private-Public-Partnership model to be effective. It has been a public service all along, fraught with inefficiency and leakages.
Fashola hasn’t revealed any particular model this time, but as the policy is getting another review, Fashola insisted it is ‘eminent commonsense’ for the government to find that money.
Former works minister Mike Onolomemen said in 2012 Nigeria needed N500 billion annually, for four straight years, to fix the road transport network alone. The amount might be much more than that now.
“We will use technology. So if we don’t pay cash, you will pay by tokens or tickets and the money is accountable and it will go to the right place,” Fashola said.
He stated the government will manage that fund properly and we will hold those who we put there to account.
Fashola, when he was Lagos governor in 2008, embarked on a similar project—the Lekki-Epe expressway. The project was financed using a Build-Operate-Transfer model, and was to gulp about N55 billion in four years. The investors will then toll the route for 30 years before the government takes over.
But the policy, because of the hardship it brought many of road users and host communities, didn’t impress many Lagosians who already saw Fashola as elitist. The opposition party in Lagos (PDP) equally made a campaign issue of the concession as his candidate in the last guber election, Jimi Agbaje, promised to cancel tolling along the corridor.
Fashola will once again stir his critics as he shops for whatever means, elitist or otherwise, to gather revenue he needs to improve and provide roads across the nation.