The Senate on Tuesday passed a motion seeking to revive collection of tolls on federal highways across the country.
It said collection of toll, from motorists was the only way to construct and maintain roads and enhance their efficiency.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly recalled that tolls were abolished by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004, who argued that the revenue for road maintenance should rather be generated from an increased pump price of petrol.
A member of the Senate representing Bauchi-North Senatorial District, Suleiman Nazif, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need for the re-establishment of tolls on our federal highways,’ however, said the Senate was alarmed that the state of the country’s infrastructure, including roads, was worrisome, “particularly due to corruption and mismanagement of resources over the years.”
He stated that maintenance of roads could be taken seriously instead of constructing new ones.
Nazif said even though the reintroduction of tolls was coming during economic recession, more lives were being lost due to the bad state of the roads.
He added that he was mindful of the current situation in the country, “where times are hard and resources are scarce.”
He added, “When we talk about tollgates, the major and critical issues are: one, what is the amount that will be fixed for tolls? Two, who are those that will be the collectors of the tolls? Three, what will the money be utilised for? These are the major reasons and problems of the average Nigerian.”
Nazif, in the motion, said, “The Senate notes that the main purpose of the tollgates is for revenue generation, which will aid effective and efficient maintenance of federal highways; observes that the deplorable state of roads in Nigeria has certainly become a national shame and an unnecessary embarrassment.
“The Senate notes that the re-establishment of tollgates is a solution to saving the nation’s generally dilapidated road networks; observes that besides revenue generation, the presence of tollgates, which are normally managed by armed security agents, provides a level of safety for road users; notes that government alone cannot fund road construction.”
The lawmaker further said the Senate was disturbed that the poor state of roads in Nigeria had remained for many years, posing “a great source of risk for travellers and transporters.”
He also said the upper chamber of the National Assembly was worried that cases of road accidents being reported daily in the news painted “terrible and pathetic pictures of this ugly development.”
“The Senate observes that the use of tollgates provides Nigeria with an excellent strategy to improve its road and bridges for the benefit of Nigerians,” Nazif added.
All the senators who spoke supported the motion. They included the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume (Borno-South); the Deputy Minority Whip, Abiodun Olujimi (Ekiti-South); Abdullahi Gumel (Jigawa North-West); Sabi Abdullahi (Niger-North); Albert Bassey (Akwa Ibom North-East); James Manager (Delta-South); and the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary.
Ndume, while seconding the motion, said the resources for constructing and maintaining roads had been limited by the current economic crisis.
Olujimi, in her remarks, said states, which had invested in the reconstruction of federal roads, could not maintain the roads, as the law empowered only the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency to collect tolls on such roads.
Ekweremadu said the construction and maintenance of roads had become an issue of concern to all Nigerians. He, however, noted that due to past experiences on tolling, there was a need for the Senate to do a thorough job on the reintroduction of the system.
The Senate, therefore, unanimously granted the prayer that, “The (Senate) Committee on Works should liaise with the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission and other relevant stakeholders to develop policy and technology to facilitate the construction, maintenance and tolling in Nigeria.”