Six years after scrapping toll gates on major highways, the Federal Government is to reintroduce them to raise funds for road maintenance in the country.
The government is also planning to introduce a five-per cent road user charge on the pump price of petrol and diesel, through which it hopes to raise about N30bn annually to maintain the nation‘s 220,000 kilometres of roads.
The Chairman, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, Mr. Abdulkadir Kure, said in Lagos on Monday that the decision to bring back toll collection on federal roads had already received the blessing of the stakeholders.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had ordered the dismantling of the toll gates with effect from January I, 2004, following the imposition of a fuel tax of N1.50 on every litre of petrol.
The controversial fuel tax was, however, suspended on the orders of the Court of Appeal, Abuja. The suspension order came after all the toll gates had been demolished and were not restored.
But speaking at a press briefing in Lagos on Monday, Kure lamented the poor funding of road projects by government, and insisted that the return of the tolling system remained one of the best ways to rescue the situation.
He said that while FERMA would require about N1tn annually to fix the nation‘s deplorable roads, it had received only N30bn in the last two years through budgetary allocation for road maintenance.
According to him, with about N35m needed to effectively restore one kilometre of road, FERMA will require 35 years to maintain the roads under the current level of funding.
For this reason, the FERMA chairman said, “The agency intends to reintroduce toll collection on major federal roads and bridges in order to generate funds for road maintenance. The management of the facility will be very different from the former arrangement where only a pittance came to the public coffers from toll collection.
”Stakeholders in the transportation sector have agreed with the introduction of tolls on our highways once assurance can be given that the proceeds will be used for maintaining the roads.”
Kure said that the establishment of fuel tax was also inevitable as a funding source for road projects in view of the pressure on roads as a mode of transportation. For instance, he said that 95 per cent of the movement of people and goods was being done by road.
Kure said out of the N30bn expected to be generated from the fuel tax, only 40 per cent would be utilised by FERMA for federal roads, while ”the remaining 60 per cent would be shared by established state road maintenance agencies.
“It is envisaged that the agency will exit from budgetary allocation from the Federal Government in the long run once this funding mechanism takes root,” he added.
International vehicle charge is another avenue for raising funds by the agency, according to the FERMA chairman. This, he said, was provided for in the FERMA (Amendment) Act 2007.
”When fully operational, the agency hopes to generate about N7.765bn for road maintenance from nine of the country‘s border posts,” he said.
Kure also stressed that the involvement of the private sector through concession would play a major role in the new direction of improving the conditions of the nation‘s roads. To this end, he said that four major federal roads already selected for the concession programme included the Nine Mile-Oturpka-Orturpo; Mokwa-Tegina-B/Gwari-Kaduna; Abeokuta-Ibadan-Ife-Ilesha; and Jos-Bauchi-Gombe roads.
Earlier, the Federal Ministry of Works had handed over the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to Bicourtney Highways Limited, a private firm, for expansion, rehabilitation and management through a Build, Operate and Transfer arrangement.