Nigeria: Lagos Rebels Against Toll Road

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Babatunde Fashiola at toll gate

Babatunde Fashiola at toll gate

The concessionaire of the Lekki-Epe expressway, Lagos State, Lekki Concession Company (LCC), made good its promise to start the collection of toll on the highway Sunday.

But it came at a heavy cost to the public.

Heavy vehicular traffic on both sides of the expressway and continued protests by the residents of Lekki/Ajah areas – for which 20 persons were arrested on Saturday and released Sunday by the police – blighted the commencement of the tolling.

 

Lagos Governor, Babatunde Fashola has, however, promised to build more alternative, toll-free routes for those who do not want to use the toll road.

He blamed a section of the media for sensational reports that a protester had died during the anti-toll agitation, saying it was a figment of someone’s imagination.

Sunday, as motorists approached the Toll Plaza from the Victoria Island section of the highway, the traffic stretched beyond the Nigerian Law School on Ozumba Mbadiwe Road and from the opposite direction, it went beyond the Lekki roundabout.

On Saturday, scores of residents that came out to protest the tolling regime were manhandled by a combination of men of the Rapid Response Squad, the anti-crime outfit of the Lagos State government led by Chief Superintendent of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, and some suspected thugs.

Speaking to THISDAY Sunday, one of the organisers of the ‘Occupy Lekki’ protests and counsel to the Lekki Residents Association, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said if such heavy traffic could be experienced on a Sunday, people should be prepared for the worst on week days when more residents would be required to go out and come in for their businesses.

Adegboruwa said this is one of the reasons why they have consistently rejected the erection of toll plazas on the road, which is in a metropolis of the dense population in the areas.

“There is no way you will erect toll plazas in a metropolis where a majority of the people are residents. Even the alternative route they promised is so narrow that you can see for yourself that the gridlock from that end has joined the Lekki expressway. So they have not fulfilled the conditions they set before they commenced collection of fees and we will continue to resist this,” he said.

 

Also in a statement issued Sunday, human rights lawyer, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, described “the decision of the state government to unleash violence on the people it claims to govern as barbaric, condemnable and unacceptable”.

Speaking to THISDAY, a distraught commercial bus driver going from CMS to Ajah, simply identified as Tunji, said the traffic caused by the collection of the toll fees had adversely affected his business.

“We could not meet up yesterday (Saturday) because of the protest and the crisis it generated and here we are again today (Sunday), we cannot move. The whole thing is not good for us and let me tell you that we never supported this toll gate fees collection; they are forcing it down our throats.

“If they want to collect money, let them finish the construction of the road first and let there be alternatives where we can take because of this traffic and waste of time,” he stated.

The tariffs being paid Sunday are N50, N120 and N150, for motorcycles and tricycles; saloon cars, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs); minibuses and pick-up trucks respectively.

Commercial buses paid N80, light trucks and two-axle buses, N250 and heavy trucks and buses, N350 according to the toll gate fee regime on the route.

Fashola has allayed the fears of the state residents living along Lekki-Epe axis, promising that he would provide more alternative routes in addition to the existing one.

The governor, who paid toll at the plaza, officially flagged off tolling on the road at exactly 1.35 p.m., driving through the plaza without his official convoy after being in the traffic.

He appealed to the residents to be patient and that the government “has indeed provided an alternative route contrary to the accusation by some people that there is no alternative route”.

 

“Of course, there is an alternative road; we are increasing them. The story out there before was that there was no alternative road, but you have seen for yourselves that there is alternative road. We will make it better and increase it as we go on,” Fashola explained.

He said there “are some people who are aggrieved by the tolling. But that is democracy; there must be another side.

This is also employment. The concessionaire is a Nigerian company with international investments. They are employing our people”.

The governor, who was visibly elated at the development, expressed satisfaction on the take-off of the exercise, urging the people to embrace the positive change that had come to the country through the road.

The governor said the road was the first technologically driven toll gate in the country and assured its users of efficient service as the road was built with facilities for electronic operations.

He asked the residents to see the road with its modern facilities as a positive change which was necessary to connect them with the future, saying technology “is change; Lagos is moving on, Nigeria is moving on. We cannot continue to wish this kind of thing only in our experiences outside our country. Change has come upon us; let us embrace it”.

He also appealed to the people to see the future and the bigger picture of the toll gate rather than the little discomfort they “may suffer at this initial change. Change calls for all of us to give up our vested rights and move on. I see a better future, I see a brighter future”.

“It is the change. Every time we have had to adapt to something new, there is always some discomfort. The day GSM started, there were so many drop-calls that you could not connect. But within a few days, there were feedbacks which made it easy for the operators to rectify the situation and make it better.

“We need feedbacks. What is the problem? Feedbacks will help us and the concessionaire to adapt and respond. We are here to serve, that is our job. Anywhere the shoe pinches you, tell us and leave us to solve it and make it better,” Fashola explained.

He appealed to motorists to use the electronic tag instead of paying cash at the plaza, pointing out that the process of paying cash and obtaining change contributes to the delay in the process and the consequent slow movement of traffic.

According to him, you get a discount for even buying the electronic tag and you get the discount immediately, adding: “I am sure we will all be telling a better story in a few weeks time.”

 

In : Lagos

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