Judex Okoro, Calabar
Mixed reactions have greeted plan by the Federal Government to return toll gates. While some said it is a welcome development as it would check insecurity, others believe it would amount to double taxation on road users.
National Publicity Secretary of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Emmah Isong, said Federal Government should only think of bringing back toll gates if they promise that within six months they would fix all the highways where such toll gates would be mounted.
“Nigerians are already tired and hungry and cannot bear another brunt of tolls on our roads, even as there are enough sufferings going through the roads. It is propaganda to say the toll gates would be used to check crimes on our highways.”
An industrialist based in Aba, Abia State, Chief Emma Obi, who is an ex-chairman of Aba Industrialists Association (AIA), said the issue of toll gate is not what the country should rush into.
He said Federal Government must put the roads in good shape first, after which they could introduce toll gates.
Members of Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria (ALBON) said the only way they would back the plan is for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads to be carried out.
Chairman of G. U. Okeke Transport Companies, Chief Godwin Okeke, said Federal Government should put the toll gates on good roads and provide security for the safety of the commuters. He said there was no way Federal Government should put toll gates on deplorable roads and expect motorists to be happy.
But Chief Executive Officer of Uchenna Motors, Mr. Uchenna Maduakor, said he was in support of the idea because it would help the Federal Government to repair the roads.
Cross River State Council Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, Victor Udu, also agreed that toll gates should be returned, but said the tolls collected should be properly managed and ploughed back into maintenance and repairs of the roads.
Cross River State Central vice chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Cletus Obun also backed the return of toll gate.
“In this era of banditry and kidnapping, bringing back toll gates is a good decision as it would checkmate criminal activities. Besides, it would be another way of reducing the burden of road maintenance on government as funds realised from the tolls would be channeled back to the road.”
Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, said the decision amounts to taxing poverty. Spokesman of the group, Yinka Odumakin, said it was unfortunate that instead of government restructuring the polity to create posterity for everyone, it is more interested in imposing endless taxes on the impoverished citizens.
“Let us restructure the polity so that we can generate wealth and prosperity, then you can tax. But, they want to continue to tax poverty; let us see how far they can go. We’re the global headquarters of poverty today. Instead of us creating opportunity for everybody, the government is imposing so many taxes. There is a limit to which you can tax poverty,” he stated.
Former executive chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi said the proposed return of tolls on Nigerian roads was a clear indication that the government was anticipating severe fiscal crunch.
Ordinarily, he said, the idea was laudable if the fund would be used for the purpose of maintaining the roads, but regretted that it would further add to the burden of the masses who are recently informed of increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT).
The Publicity Secretary of the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chris Nehikhare, condemned and rejected the re-introduction of toll gates on federal roads across the country.
“The government is actually telling the world that revenue generation has fallen drastically and they are looking for ways to repair the bad roads they have bequeathed to Nigerians due to bad governance. I reject it and I condemn it,” he said.
On his part, Benin-based legal practitioner, Jefferson Woghiren, said until the details of the re-introduction of the toll gates were made known, he would say much.
“We are happy about the decision. The Federal Government was not getting much return before the toll gates were scrapped by President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.”