The Federal Government has concluded plans to reintroduce electronic driven toll gates across highways in the country.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this yesterday while briefing State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The minister explained that the idea is to do away with the use of cash in operations of the tollgates and establish efficiency in the system.
Joined by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at the briefing, Fashola explained that there was no reason why the Federal Government cannot toll the highways.
According to him: “There was a policy of government to abolish, or as it were, dismantle toll plazas. But there is no law that abolishes tolling in Nigeria today. We expect to return toll plazas. We have concluded their designs. What they will look like, what materials they will be built with, and what new considerations must go into them.”
The Works and Housing Minister noted that what the government was considering at the moment was how the back end of the programme would be handled.
He said: “What we are looking at now, and trying to conclude is how the back end runs and that is important because we want to limit significantly, if not totally eliminate cash at the plazas while ensuring that electronic devices that are being introduced do not impede rapid movement.
“We are also now faced with the need to acquire more land to establish the width of the toll plazas because I believe we are looking at about 10 lanes plazas, so that there are more outlets when they merge. So, we need to acquire more land.
“That is work that is currently being done. But let me also say that the expectation that the collection of tolls will then produce the replacement cost of the roads is perhaps not accurate because, the traffic toll counts that we have done on major highways not suggest that there is enough vehicular traffic across all roads.
“The two or three heavy routes are Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kano, Abuja-Lokoja. Now, Lagos-Ibadan, the heaviest traffic we can find is between Lagos and Shagamu is about 40,000 vehicles. After Shagamu, heading to Ibadan, it drops to about 20,000. So, most of it have gone east ward going towards Ondo-Ore.
“And by the time you get to Benin, the number significantly drops. It reaches up again at the confluence where they are heading towards the Niger. You can see that it is not a static 50,000 all the way. Same thing with Abuja, Kano, Zaria. After Kaduna, the traffic significantly drops. It’s about 40,000 there too. But after Kaduna, it begins to drop.
“By the time you get to Zaria, if you have driven to the road before, by the time you are driving between Zaria and Kaduna, you see how thin the recurring number of vehicles is, and as you begin to head closer to Abuja, the number of vehicles begins to increase. I think it is important to understand this. Not all roads have the traffic counts,” Fashola said.
Fashola also disclosed that FEC, during its meeting, approved a total of N46 billion as new contract amount for the construction and rehabilitation of the Ibadan-Ilesha bye pass, with 22kilometers in Oyo State and the Suleja/Minna/Lambata Road in Niger State.
The minister explained that, “the first one Ibadan-Ilesha bye pass 22 kilometers contract was awarded in 2010. No budgetary provision. So, the rates have become obsolete.
“Contractor wants new rate. So, that has necessitated a revision of the rates by N3.165billion. That means the old contract price of N6.7 billion has now moved to N9.8billion. The same is true of the Suleja/Mina/Lambata Road. The entire road is a 101 kilometers and was awarded in two phases.
“The first phase was awarded in 2010 for 40 kilometers. The second phase, covering kilometer 40 to 101, was awarded in March 2015, but they used the 2010 rates. The contractor is now at a point where he says those rates are not sustainable; he can’t continue and we have recommended that the revised rates be considered and council approved them,” he added.
The minister noted that, “it’s a revision by addition of N12.6billion. So, the contract price moves from N23.6 billion to N36.2 billion. It is important to emphasize that all of these are in keeping first with the desire and determination to focus on projects that can be completed rather than just starting new projects. It is also consistent with the realities of economic rates and market price indices for roads inputs like cement, iron rods and diesel, petrol, lubricant and the changes that have taken place in the national economic stage between 2010 and now.”
Giving reasons for the contract variation, Fashola said that the price of cement, the price of petrol, diesel, minimum wage now is being reviewed, which are all inputs of construction that impact some contracts.
He said: “What is causing variation I think is first of all, economic common sense and reality. Don’t forget that in 2015 when I was done into office, we were reviewing what we met, national budget for roads for the whole of Nigeria was N18 billion.”