Toll Plaza: Buhari Upturn Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Policy

By Stephen Ubanna

 The last may not have been heard  why President Muhammadu Buhari led All Progressive Congress, APC,  government, appears determined to return the toll plaza dismantled by former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the then  ruling Peoples Democratic Party in 2003. This is because of the government drive to raise money from different sources to execute its  2019 electioneering Campaign promises and prosecute the  ongoing counter Insurgency war in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.  This is in addition to tackling the activities of Bandits I the north western states of Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina, the President’s home state.

Recall that the Katsina state born Nigerian President  had on Tuesday during his 59th Independence  anniversary speech read the riot act to the revenue generating agencies  to ensure to meet their targets., warning that ‘’severe consequences  await  any  of the agencies that failed to achieve agreed revenue targets.

The Value News learnt that Babatunde Fashola, a former governor of Lagos state and now minister of Works and Housing, who has been looking  for ways to turn the Federal Highways , across the country into an avenue  for revenue generation  to recoup the money for maintaining the roads  may have taking advantage of the  billions of naira raked annually by the Lagos state government on the  busy lekki –  Ajah toll plazas, established during  his Administration to work on the President to support the return of toll plazas on major Federal roads across the country.

The  minister was said to have made it clear to the Katsina born Nigerian President that there is no law that forbids toll gate collections in the country. It was a matter of time for the President to  cue into the  ministerial advice. The opportunity came with the Presidential  directive to the revenue generating agencies last Tuesday to meet their targets or face severe  consequences. On Wednesday, October 2, after the Federal Executive Council, FEC, presided over by Buhari, before jetting out out with 10 governors and a retinue of ministers to Pretoria, on the invitation of Cyril Ramophosa, the South African African President, Fashola, was forced to  open up on the closely guided secret based on the approval of the Council.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo: Dismantled Old Gates

Note that former President Obasanjo   had ordered the dismantling  of the old toll gates in 2003 towards the tail end of his first term in office , stressing that the Federal Highways  should be maintained  through revenue  from increase  in the pump price of petroleum products. The then President Obasanjo had argued   that the N63 million collected  daily  was insignificant   and the toll constituted   great inconvenience  to motorists  and encouraged Corruption.

Past and present Administrations have continued to increase the pump price of products to raise revenue  but they have remained insatiable  in their revenue generation.  Fashola, may have  exposed the Buahari Administration that the decision on the return of the toll plaza was  not taken at the last FEC, as he revealed that the ministry have concluded  the designs  of what the tolls would look –like, what materials they would be built with, and what new considerations  must go into  it. The ministry, according to sources , are currently targeting  the Lagos Ibadan, Lagos-Benin, Abuja-Lokoja, Abuja-Kano Express ways for the first phase of the project before extending it to other Federal High ways across the country.

He may have made Nigerians to know that there is no going back on the plan despite the opposition  from several quarters but what the government is about now  was looking out and trying  to conclude   is how the  banks would  run the toll plaza to avoid fraud.

 Political watchers believe that the return of the Toll plazas was part of the APC slogan which the party  had promised Nigerians during the 2019 electioneering Campaigns.Oludayo Oluyemi, Chairman,  Nigerian Institution of Highway  and Transportation Engineers, insists that the re-introduction of the toll plazas  would not solve the problem of the country Federal roads.

The APC may have played into the hands of the Opposition PDP, with the planned return of toll plazas  on Federal Highways across the country as the party has kicked against it to win back the support of the people. The party described the action as ‘’executive bullying  which could not be justified under any guise  as it would lead to an increase on the prices of goods and services including food stuff across which heighten inflation across the country.

Recall that the Buhari led APC government only recently approved  the increase of the Value Added Tax , VAT,  from 5 percent to 7.2 percent . This is in addition to the exorbitant  tarriffs  being paid for electricity and other essential services provided by the government.

Babatunde Fashola: Spear headed Return of Tolls Plaza On Federal Highways

The party which could not hide its opposition to the planned return of toll plazas on the Federal highways across the country  noted that ‘’since 2015 that Buhari came into  office with his populist  ideology,  the Administration  had continued to increase  prices and impose all  manner of levies  on Nigerians   which proceeds are being frittered away in reckless abandon by  the cabal in the presidency, thus  leading to further bleeding of the economy  and despondency among the citizenry.

Appealing to the Buhari led APC government to shelve the plan of return of the toll plazas and  cut tax profiles, the party urged the Administration to concentrate its efforts on wealth creation  to ease the suffering of the people.

Many believe that  if the past Administrations had properly managed the  toll plazas in the country’s  major highways in the past, there would  not have been any need to  be talking about toll plaza   by another Administration. They cited the Republic of Benin   managed toll plaza, along the Abidjan corridor, which is raking in billions of West African CEFAS to the country annually which is used in the maintenance of its  basic infrastructural facilities like roads.  It is a major source of revenue for the country as its operations are Computerised to ensure  that motorists, tankers or trucks laden cargoes plying the Cotonou –Seme/Krake joint border to  and fro, pay the relevant levies, without absconding. The Buhari Administration may have to take a cue  from the Beninoise government on the Administration of their Toll Plazas since it has become a last option to raise revenue to run the government.  Until this is done, there are fears that the project may be abused by motorists and the ministry of Works and Housing officials and their bank Collaborators.

This is where Buhari may have to tighten up  the loose  ends for the project to ensure that much of the revenue that would be generated  did not end up private pockets.

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