Malaise as the federal government plans the return of toll gates

Experts in the logistics and transportation sector have raised concerns over the federal government’s plan to reintroduce toll collection on designated two-lane highways across the country, questioning its effectiveness in line with accepted practices in the country. the world.

The planned reintroduction of toll barriers comes 18 years after the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo dismantled all toll barriers on federal roads across the country in 2003 over widespread allegations of corruption and exploitation.

The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) a fortnight ago in Abuja, announced that the council had approved the ministry’s request to reintroduce toll barriers on certain roads in two lanes across the country.

Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP in Abuja, the outgoing Chairman of the State Council of NURTW Lagos, Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede, said he was optimistic that the return of the toll gates would help strengthen security on the highway.

Agbede urged the government to take advantage of the use of technology for toll collection to ensure transparency and accountability.

National Freight Hauliers Association President Chief Jackson Malam Bent, in an interview with LEADERSHIP in Abuja, said toll gates are used in almost every country in the world.

Bent said if the country is to have good road financing outside of the national budget, it must be a priority.

He said the revenue generated from the toll gates should be used to maintain the country’s roads, to avoid potholes. He lamented, however, that corruption had killed the toll before now.

Bent said the return of the toll gates will lead to improved security as there will be a more advanced security system through the use of surveillance cameras. He said overweight trucks and trucks would be reported to descend after weighing the trucks to avoid pressure on the roads.

He said the toll would also provide areas where drivers could rest and even take a bath. Tired drivers can even stay there to avoid an accident.

“Toll gates must be managed by a responsible and credible organization, as well as an organization that will directly feel the impact of the success of the system. We expect the mandate to do so.

“Corruption has caused toll gates to be closed before now. The money generated by the toll gates can help pay off our foreign loan and maintain the national highway. If we get the mandate to operate, it will be staffed up to global standards.

He added that contractors should not be allowed to operate toll barriers.

In addition, the former Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr Muda Yusuf, in an interview with LEADERSHIP, corroborated Bent’s statement that the need to generate funds outside of budget allocations is inevitable.

“The best practice in most parts of the developing world is to create frameworks to generate income outside of normal budget allocations for road infrastructure development. The toll proposal is therefore a welcome idea, ”he said.

Yusuf, who is an economist, added that the exemption clause for paramilitary organizations and others should be reviewed because the risk of abuse is high.

Does FG succeed in borrowing to finance infrastructure?

The results clearly show that if given a choice, investors prefer countries with more developed infrastructure. Therefore, rapid infrastructure development is one of the most fundamental ways for countries to take advantage of economic opportunities.

For example, the access roads to the two ports of Tincan Apapa in Lagos, where heavy traffic on the network is caused by too many vehicles competing for road space, with several trucks parked on both sides, has stressed the need for the port of Onne to be functional to pave the way for easy transportation of goods to the north and other parts of the country.

For more than two decades, travel on many highways, especially for commuters in the south of the country, confirmed to any commuter that there are no better highways in hell, underscoring the need to rehabilitate these roads.

To change the rhetoric as part of the efforts to reorganize the country’s economy, the administration headed by President Muhammadu Buhari has, by all indications, determined the effectiveness of the project and embarked on a plan to loan to increase the budget allocation planned for the road project. Borrowing has become vital for the government because when the road is fully completed, it will stimulate trade and the smooth flow of goods and services from one place to another.

According to information from the Ministry of Public Works, the government is changing the discourse in the field of road infrastructure with the construction of 5.4 km of the Abuja-Keffi highway and the dualisation of the Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road (Phase I) and the construction of the Lafia Bypass Road, and dualisation of the 9th Mile (Enugu) -Otukpo-Makurdi road project (phase II) which is under construction.

To finance the infrastructure project, it is recalled that the Senate approved President Buhari’s request for outstanding external loans to the tune of $ 8,325,526,537 (USD) and € 490,000,000 (euros) under the Plan. external borrowing (rolling) 2018-2020.

The approval follows the examination of a report on the 2018-2020 External Borrowing Plan (rolling) by the Local and External Debt Commission.

In his presentation, Committee Chairman Clifford Ordia said the panel noted with the utmost importance the concerns of Nigerians regarding the level and sustainability / serviceability of borrowing over the past decade.

He explained that due to insufficient annual income as well as the need for rapid infrastructure and human capital development, “we have had to adopt a deficit budget every year, forcing us to borrow to finance the deficit. of our budget “.

Ordia noted that out of the total borrowing request of $ 36,837,281,256 contained in the President’s new request, an amount of $ 26,154,536,533 relates to the funds proposed to be borrowed from various financial institutions in the Republic. people of China.

He continued, “These projects have a great multiplier effect on stimulating economic growth through infrastructure development, job creation and poverty reduction, stimulation of business and engineering activities and tax revenues. consequential payments payable to the government as a result of these productive activities.

However, the road project marked Phase I in Lafia, Nasarawa State, and Makurdi in Benue State. Both cities have a large population and are growing rapidly. In phase I of the Keffi-Makurdi road project, except the urban section of the Lafia road is four-lane, the other sections are two-lane.

During the phase I construction process, subject to limited financial resources, the basic requirements for upgrading the A234 and A3 national roads will be increased from two to four lanes.

Recall that since the start of the phase I project in 2012, with the rapid growth of the economy, the volume of traffic on the A3 road has increased, and the urban population and the scale of Lafia are gradually expanding. At that time, the bottlenecks in the Lafia section of the A3 road and the imperfect road network in the town of Lafia were getting worse.

The urgency of building the Lafia Circle Road has also attracted increasing attention from the local government council.

In addition, during phase II of the project, the professionals studied how to solve the congestion of A3 roads and how to extend the urban road network for the future development of the city.

The need to build the road section of Lafia Circle City was to improve the national road network in Nigeria and improve the transport capacity of the main roads.

The North-South direction has mainly “four verticals” built by the four major vertical axes A1-A4. The east-west direction is mainly made up of the “seven horizontal motorways connecting the four vertical A1-A4 motorways. The “four vertical and seven horizontal” road network mainly covers the main states and major cities of Nigeria. The project is a section of the A3 vertical trunk motorway in the Nigerian national highway system and is connected to the A233 and A344 horizontal national highways. The A3 road begins at Port Harcourt in Rivers State and ends at the vertical national road in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, radiating horizontally to Abuja.

Basically, the project implementation will directly assume the function of the main transport routes in four states which include Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi and Enugu to effectively improve regional traffic conditions, improve the construction of the national road network in Nigeria, and improve service in the A3 motorway areas.

Second, it is necessary to build a transport corridor for the economic zone of the “gold strip”; build the national high-grade road network which, with the capital Abuja as its center, will link Lagos in the southwest, Port Harcourt in the south-south region and Kano in the north.

At present, the implementation of the project is not only necessary but also very urgent. Also in the planning of the regional economic traffic corridor of the “gold strip”, the Abuja-Lagos section completed the transformation from two lanes to four lanes, except that the 28 km of the Ogbomoso-Atiba section and the 326 km of the Lokoja-Ilorin section have not been transformed from two lanes to four lanes.

Abuja and Lagos belong to two central cities in Nigeria. There are currently two main crossings between Abuja and Lagos, which are Lokoja-Ilorin-Lagos and Lokoja-Benin-city-Lagos respectively, both are two-lane highways, with a total capacity equivalent to four two-lane lanes. The Abuja-Kano section currently has the only main crossing, and the current road has completed the renovation and upgrading to four lanes. Abuja-Port Harcourt also has only one main passage. In addition to the Keffi-Makurdi section, which was launched, the Enugu-Port Harcourt section has virtually completed the upgrade and four-lane reconstruction.

On November 12, 2020, during the 70th session of the Trans-Saharan Road Liaison Committee (TRLC), the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola led the ministers of Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Niger and Chad to visit the road construction site. project where he told ministers that the roads should serve 37 regions of Africa and connect 74 urban centers as well as 60 million people in the six member countries of the committee. This confirms the role and commitment of the federal government since the start of the project.

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