By Elizabeth Chukwuma
In spite of the initial impression created by Raji Babatunde Fashola. A former governor of Lagos state and minister of Works and Housing who spearheaded the approval by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, of the return of Toll Plaza gates along some Federal roads across the country, President Muhammadu Buhari, may have been guided by the desire for revenue generation to execute its 2019 electioneering Campaign promises to scatter the all Federal roads, particular the ones in the south east with such Toll Plaza gates.
Many had expected the Katsina born Nigerian President to give Fashola, the minister of works and housing, the mandate to establish more of such Toll plaza gates in the north which has 19 states out of the 36 states of the Federation and better transportation roads than the south east, south –south and the southwest.
A document made available to The Value News shows that the ministry has designated some 134 Toll PLlaza gates across the country. The document shows that 56 of the Toll plaza gates would be established in the south east alone, while 78 would be shared within the remaining Federal roads along the five geo-political regions of the country. Going by the calculation that was said to have been made by the ministry of works and housing officials which had been approved by Fashola, awaiting to be presented to the President for final approval and immediate implementation,21 of the toll plaza gates would be sited in the south-south, 22 in the south west and 14 in the north central states of Benue, Plateau, Niger, Nasarawa, Kwara and Kogi. The President geo-political region of north west, comprising of Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa settles, with its large land mass and population settles for 12 toll plaza gates and the north eastern states of of Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Borno, Taraba and Yobe , 9 toll plazas.
The ministry officials may have justification for creating more toll plaza gates in the south east because of the volume business and traffic in the region compared to any other region in the country and therefore the need to lash on it to generate the untapped revenue from the source. The thinking of the ministry officials and their pay master, may not have been the thinking of the people , who believes that there was no basis to approve 56 toll plaza gates for a region that has only five states: Anambra, Abia, Eboyi, Enugu and Imo.
Chuma Nzeribe, an Imo state born politician, may have spoken the mind of the people when he allegedly demanded for a meeting of the five states governor of the region to address the problem, which he described as a great injustice. Nzeribe, who would not take the establishment of 56 toll plaza gates in the south east because of the revenue that would come into the Federation account from such projects wants Fashola and the cabal in the ministry of works and housing to have a rethink.
He lamented that the treatment which the south east is about to get from Fashola led ministry of works and housing is not different from the treatment meted to the region by past and present Inspector Generals of police, IGP. According to him, the south east has more police checkpoints than any other region in Nigeria. There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that the issue of the toll plaza gates would force John Nnia Nwodo led Ohaneze Ndigbo to mobilise to work closely with the state governors to force the government to reduce the number of toll plaza gates in the region because of the fear that inter-state cost of transportation and t carrying food stuff to the market from one area to another would skyrocket beyond the reach of the ordinary people.
Note that the people of the region and other parts of the country are already getting worried over the high cost of living in the country because of the closure of the borders with the neighbouring countries of the Republic of Benin, Niger, Chad and the Central African country of Cameroon which had entered its eighth week by President Muhammadu Buhari, on the advice of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, in Collaboration with Mohammad Babadende, his Counterpart in the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS. There is no gain saying the fact that the worst hit among the Cross border traders are the Igbos whose business are spread all over the markets in the West and Central African sub-regions. This is where the President may have to take another look on the spread of the toll plaza gates to ensure that no region was unfairly treated in the interest of fair play and justice.
More worrisome to the people of the region was the absence of a viable Federal government project in the region. The Onitsha Inland port, which was initiated by the late President Musa Yar’Adua Administration and the Niger second Bridge, initiated by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, remain a pipe dream. Many Communities, in Anambra state, particular, Onitsha, the state Commercial nerve centre, have almost been taken over by erosion but past and present government appears to have done concrete to address the situation.
It is not surprising why Mathew Ukachuchi, a Lagos based trader would want the Buhari Administration to address the great injustice in the region before going ahead to site 56 toll plaza gates in the region to generate revenue for the government to execute its Capital projects across the country.