By Joan Nwagwu
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Thursday in Abuja berated the Senate over its approval for the re-introduction of toll gates across the country.
The NLC General Secretary, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, while reacting to the development, said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Nigeria’s policy making processes needed to be interrogated.
NAN recalls that the Senate had on Tuesday passed a motion seeking to resuscitate the collection of tolls on federal highways across the country.
The Upper House argued that toll collection from motorists was the only way to construct and maintain roads and enhance their efficiency.
Sen. Suleiman Nazif, representing Bauchi-North Senatorial District, moved the motion entitled “Need for the re-establishment of tolls on our federal highways’’.
The Senate based its decision on the state of the country’s infrastructure, including roads, which it described as worrisome.
It attributed the situation to corruption and mismanagement of resources over the years.
However, Ozo-Eson, in his reaction said:“We used to have toll gates and we started them under pressure from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, among others.
“We built a number of toll gates and the government itself came and tore down those structures.
“To come back again to re-introduce the toll gates means another waste of public resources and this shows that something is fundamentally wrong.
The general secretary said that the initial implementation of the toll gates suffered a lot of setback due to a number of issues.
According to him, the first experience became an avenue for rewarding favoured cronies, who were given the franchise to collect the tolls.
He also noted that the nation never benefitted from the first experience as some set of people fed fat on the tolls and the roads were never maintained.
“Unless we are able to put in place a mechanism that will ensure that the revenues from the tolls are used for the development and maintenance of the roads, any attempt to bring the toll gates will again be a failure.
“The proposal is questionable, coming at a time when people are facing undue hardship, including high cost of living occasioned by policies of government.’’
Ozo-Eson said that the proposed reintroduction of tolls at this time would be excessively worrisome to all Nigerians.
He said that such a policy would further escalate inflation rate which peaked at 17.6 per cent in August.
He argued that the need for revenue generation and the hardship faced by the people should be placed side by side in reaching a decision on the matter.
NAN recalls 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.