The federal government has expressed its willingness to reintroduce toll collections on designated dual carriageways across the country. Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this yesterday while briefing newsmen at the end of the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja.

The planned reintroduction of tollgates comes 18 years after the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo dismantled all toll plazas on federal roads throughout the country in 2003.

Fashola said after the FEC meeting presided by the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, that only 5, 005 kilometres of dual carriageways out of the 35,000 kilometres of federal roads in the country– that is 14.3 per cent – would be eligible for tolling. He said vehicles would pay between N200 and N500 per trip, depending on their make.
However, diplomatic, military, para-military vehicles, and as well as tricycles and motorcycles would be exempted from toll payment, the minister stated.

Fashola said his ministry presented a memo for the reintroduction of tollgates, which the council approved.
He stated, “The total network of roads today, assuming we wanted to start today, which will be eligible for tolling on federal network will be 14.3 per cent of the total network.

“So 85.27 per cent will not be eligible for tolling. We have seen that most of those dual carriageways also have alternative roads, but they are single carriageway. That was why we left them.

“The only exception to single carriageway are some bridges and they are listed in the regulation.”
The former Lagos State governor said with the council’s go-ahead, modalities were being worked out to determine when the tolling system would take off.

He explained, “The Ministry of Works and Housing presented a policy memorandum for the approval of federal roads, bridges, tolling policy, and also a regulation that will provide legal framework for the tolling policy.
“We have taken another step. So let me be clear, tolls are not going to start tomorrow. Let us be clear about that.

“But the big step to actual tolling was taken today by presenting for approval the broad policy that will guide the tolling so that local people, states, local governments, all those who manage roads, investors who want to come in, will know what our tolling policy is. And that will form the basis of their financial modelling, their investment decision.”

Fashola emphasised that the open tolling system to be introduced would not commence until the affected roads were motorable, while agreements as to the erection of the plazas would be negotiated with relevant government agencies.
He said, “First of all, toll will not start until roads are motorable. So let’s be clear about this.
“There will be agreements that have to be negotiated with government through the Ministry of Works and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission.

“Some of the highlights are that we will adopt an open tolling policy, as distinct from a closed tolling policy. The difference is that only open tolling policy, which is what we were used to, you pay at a barrier over a fixed or predetermined distance.

“The closed toll system means that you will pay tolls over the distance you travel and the size of your vehicle. We haven’t operated that before. So we are going back to what we know. We also approved that consultations must be done. Willingness to pay surveys must be done before specific roads are tolled.”

The minister also said the fees to be collected, apart from being used to maintain the roads, would be used to construct new roads, while the toll system would be electronically driven for transparency.
According to him, “We also got approval that the toll will be used to maintain roads, to construct new roads as they accrue and also to pay the investors who invest in building or completing a road and then take a concession on it. Those are the uses.

“We will also be going through a process of largely electronic toll collection and management system for audit and transparency.”

Fashola stated, “We concede this as a national policy, that is why we are making general framework so that states can also decide, subject to their local laws, local governments can do their own tolling based on all of these considerations as a broad framework.”

Fashola emphasised that government had consulted widely with both stakeholders in the public and private sectors before agreeing on the policy.

He stated, “We met with a lot of people, we met with government agencies, first of all, but more importantly, we met with private sector and organised labour. Nobody that we met with opposed the idea of tolling, at least none of the people that we have met with opposed it.

“Some of the people, you might wish to know, are members of the National Assembly, Senate, and House of Representatives Committees oversighting us, so that they can take this feedback to their constituents.
“We had consultations with the Office of the National Security Adviser, Bureau of Public Enterprises, the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, which will be helping us with the electronic and digital aspect of it.

“We also met with those who are affected by the tolls themselves: Ministry of Transportation, who supervises a part of the transport business and, then, the Road Transport Employers Association, the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), and National Union of Road Transport Workers (NUTRW), and Ministry of Trade and Investment, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council.”