By Uche Amunike
Civil Society Organizations in the country have condemned the move made by the Buhari-led government to bring back toll gates and collections on specified highways in the country, as was disclosed by Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola.
According to the Convener, Coalition in Defense of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo Dare Atoye, Nigerians will only welcome the idea of erecting toll gates on major highways if the process is made digital and be opened up to transparency and accountability. He also added security to the list saying that it can work in Nigerians feel secure.
He further stated that revenue realized from the toll gates could help repair and maintain the roads if properly utilized adding that because the roads will need temporary stoppages at the toll points, this can help to break speed and reduce accident rates, but called on the government to assist in security monitoring and protect the isolated people who will be operating the toll gates.
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, who is the Executive Director,Civil Society Legislative Advocacy, CIFLAC, has posited that the major challenge was a mismanagement of revenue and not a lack of it, so far. He explained that the Federal government has borrowed so much money for the infrastructure that they even have the SUKUK bonds presently. Imposing levies on Nigerians in the face of the currently declining economic situation will be a bad move, especially as the unemployment rate presently stands at 33%.
He further stated that the irregularities caused by corruption need to be addressed properly to avoid still remaining in the same quagmire with the citizens that are suffering multiple taxations, adding that the government should endeavour to manage these resources transparently.
He penciled corruption as a major anomaly, explaining that because funds mapped out for roads and security and are not properly used, societal ills are bound to occur. The number of toll gates, he added, was not the issue but rather properly managing the proceeds generated from them.
He further stated that the government could solve this problem by putting measures that will promote technology into place so as to drastically reduce human interference because transparency will be almost an impossibility if the common practice of mismanagement is sustained.
He advised the government to give proper accounts of previous allocations, loans and bonds that have been put into road construction before overstretching citizens with taxes.
On his part, the convener of Concerned Nigerians, CN, Deji Adeyanju believes that the reason why Nigerians have lost confidence in the government is that the government has used up its credibility limit where the people are concerned. He maintained that nothing can come out of the reintroduction of tolls being proposed by the government because of the high level of insecurity in the land.
He cited the Kaduna-Abuja road as an example, saying that it had been taken over by bandits so tolling the road was not a wise decision because of the insecurity, as it looked like a setup where Nigerians will be exposed to gunmen.
He maintained that the toll gates will be a target for abduction of Innocent Nigerians. Just like his other colleagues, he believes that the target is about corruption as the government lacked the capacity to be transparent.
He described the toll gates as unnecessary and fraudulent, just like the Social Intervention Scheme.
The Elections Program Manager of YIAGA Africa, Paul James, however said that if there was transparency, there was nothing wrong in erecting toll gates. He said that road accidents can be reduced to a large extent if the proceeds are used to rehabilitate the roads.
As for the Director, Health for Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Arc Nnimmo Bassey, introducing toll gates at this time is a huge error as it will even add to the numerous mobile toll gates mounted by security men on our highways and helpless Nigerians are paying millions as ransome to dens of kidnappers laying siege in the highways.