Engineers back govt on tollgates, urge prudence
The Federal Government plans to re-introduce highway tolling to raise additional funds to finance road infrastructure and ensure efficient road maintenance, a proposal, which engineers in Nigeria have said is desirable and long overdue
BEYOND the reintroduction of tollgates on Nigerian roads, a step said to be in right direction and long overdue, renowned Nigerian engineers have called on the Federal government to ensure that all revenue realized must be judiciously used to boost road infrastructure in the country.
They are reacting to revelation by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, that the government was already considering reintroducing tollgates.
But as the step was, Nigerian engineers, have said the government was ensure whatever funds realized from tolling does not go into private hands, like it was in the past, hence, the idea would fail.
In their exclusive interview with The Guardian recently, they said apart from using the money generated from tolling to boost the situation of the nation’s roads, the government must not fail to involve her engineers in the process.
The immediate past president of Association of Consulting Engineers of Nigeria (ACEN), Dr. Temilola Kehinde said the nation must have tollgates, but the important thing was for Nigerians to ensure that the revenue generated are well-utilized. “From what I know, funds from tollgates are supposed to be used to manage and maintain the roads.
He added that, nobody could say categorically that the funds to be generated from tollgates would be used judiciously this time round. However, “we are hoping that we would have learnt from experience and that the management of roads now has moved on to another level. As we speak there is bill now before the National Assembly where they are trying to create a National Road Fund. The idea is that all of those road revenues will go into that fund and would be used to manage and maintain the roads”, he held.
According to Kehinde, it was public knowledge that the nation could not fund road maintenance with budget, hence, the need to have alternate funding, which focus would naturally lead to the improvement on the roads’ construction and maintenance tasks.
He dismissed the argument of double taxation, and contended that, everywhere in the world there is triple taxation, adding: “What we should be concerned about is whether it is laborious and overbearing? If that is the case, then it should be moderated. Secondly, is it used positively? So, the era of government giving everything free should have gone and should go. We should just ensure that whatever money we pay as tax is well used, managed and serve the purpose they are meant for.”
President, Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, Dr. Ore-Oluwa Fadayomi, said it was a mistake removing the tolls in the first instance, as engineers have been advocating for a good road maintenance culture, which could be achieved through tolling.
“In our view, the tolls ought not to be removed in the first instance because they were needed. Now, you can see what has happened to all our roads in this country. These roads had once been good as most of them are over 30 years old. All the roads are all gone now.”
He added that with the downturn in the nation’s economy, it would be suicidal for the government to attempt funding infrastructure from the budget.
“We also see the economic as it is now. Nigerian is barely surviving even to feed itself. Road infrastructure cost a lot to construct. It is not just want the government can do all by itself, there need for assistance and this assistance should come from the users because all the users do benefit from the road either for transportation or any other carriage and we need to do everything we can to ensure the roads are in good condition.”
To him, engineers have been calling for it long before now because the reintroduction of tollgates would expose Nigerian engineers to further training, urging the government not make a mistake of giving the job to foreigners.
Mrs. Mayen Adetiba, said there was nowhere in the world where roads are not tolled. She added that, the problem in Nigeria has not always been with the inappropriate use of the money generated with regards to the maintenance of roads.
“If we have good roads properly maintained, for goodness sake, nobody will complain. The issue like I said earlier has always been that we have not had good roads and the bulk of the money gotten through tolling was going into private pockets.”
According to the former president of ACEN, Nigerian people should hold her government accountable this time and always ask how questions. “Our people are becoming more aware that we should question the government on how it is spending our money. It is a pity that the Nigerian public, we are docile; the citizenry of Nigeria, we are too docile. It is about time we got up to demand our right. When we get up as people to resist some wrong policies, then Nigeria will change”, she added
While calling for the involvement of Nigerian engineers in the design and construction of the roads, she said, the onus is on all of us to ensure what was built is properly maintained.
Also, ACEN’s past president, Mr. Lanre Sagaya tolls would be
appropriate when the roads are in good condition. “I always tell people that they have to pay for good roads whether directly or indirectly. It is either you have good roads with tolls or you pay through ware and tear of your body and vehicle. Therefore, I strongly support the reintroduction of tolls, provided the government has put the roads in good condition.”
According to him, “In the past, the roads that were tolled were in good condition. Remember, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Shagamu-Benin road; even the state government roads, like Minna-Bida road, constructed by the Niger State Government was in good condition. So, you cannot be charging the people if you have not put the road in good condition.”
To tame corruption tendencies, Sagaya called for electronic tolling. “The best tolling method should be electronic tolls. This will eliminate corruption to the barest minimum. It was corruption around the tolling that made the government to abolish the tolls.”
For Mr. Kunle Ogunbayo, the nation’s lean purse could take care of roads’ maintenance, hence the call for tolling was in order. “ We are in a situation where we have many needs but limited resources. So, any government that does not look at other way of funding infrastructure is going to fail. The truth is we cannot afford to build and maintain all the roads we either need or have. With the tolling and judicial use of the revenue, we can maintain the existing roads.”
Ogunbayo, also ACEN’s past president, urged engineers come up with latest design on tolls, which would eliminate paper ticketing, adding that in other parts of the world, there exist easy pass and “we need to device similar means. That demands engineering solution.”
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