Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State on Tuesday threw his support behind plans by the Federal Government to re-introduce toll gates on the nation’s trunk A roads.
But the governor warned against abuse and compromise of the process of returning toll gates, advising that it should be driven by the private sector through concessions.
Fielding questions from newsmen at an interactive session in Asaba, Okowa also stressed that the toll gates should not be given to political or filial cronies but to competent and trusted hands who will judiciously manage the tolls from road users to maintain the roads.
The governor urged Nigerians to accept the simple truth that the massive failure of the nation’s roads would overwhelm both the state and federal governments’ efforts to fix them.
“Our roads are failing, and the rate at which they are failing is overwhelming. And the economy is going down, and there are several competing needs for the available resources.
“So, there should be toll gates for people to pay minimally. But it should not be the old way in which the government was in charge. It should be concessioned so that the money can be ploughed back into its maintenance.
“It is much more cheaper to pay for toll and drive on good roads rather than spend more on fuel and car repairs. The fear of the people is that it might be given to cronies who will not add value.
“So federal government should guide against that. They should find an appropriate way of dealing with this situation so that in five years, our roads are properly fixed,” Okowa stated.
On the stand of the Federal Government not to refund monies spend on fixing federal roads in the states, Okowa admitted that as at last year, the states were made to understand that there would be further refunds for such expenditures.
He said the state was still intervening on deplorable sections of the federal roads in the state in order to boost the state economy and not necessarily for the sake of getting refunds.
According to him, the state government adequately sought for approval to fix the roads to avoid being embarrassed by federal agencies, explaining that when the state attempted to intervene in 2018 without seeking approval, the contractors were chased from site.
Okowa said his administration was not piling more debts for the state, adding that the payment plan of huge debt he met was conveniently restructured by the federal government so as to free resources for other projects.