The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has told Nigerians not to see toll fee as extortion or double taxation meant to make lives difficult for people, but a means to maintain roads in the country and enhance safety of road users.
The disclosure was made at a one-day critical stakeholders workshop with the theme: ‘Road Maintenance: Our Collective Responsibility’, held at Ibadan Business School, Bodija, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on Thursday.
The agency spoke against the backdrop of the decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday to return toll gates to federal roads that are at least 35 kilometres. The announcement was made by Minister of Works and Housing, Raji Fashola in Abuja, saying the project would be executive in collaboration with some ministries.
The workshop was attended by critical stakeholders, including the leadership of National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Oyo State Park Management System, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The agency, however, lamented that in spite of the huge resources committed by the Federal Government on maintenance of roads, a number of roads are still in deplorable state.
But many Nigerians have described the planned re-introduction of toll fees as insensitive, extortion, double-taxation, and wrongly timed in the face of the current realities of economic hardship on the part of the Federal Government.
A facilitator, Mr Akinjide Sadiq, who is a lawyer, who was engaged by FERMA to deliver a lecture on the occasion reiterated the needs for strategic stakeholders in Nigeria to contribute their quota towards effective maintenance of road across the country.
He said: “A lot of people have seen tolling by the government as extortion, double taxation and other names. But the basic truth remains that for effective road maintenance, there has to be steady and regular source of funding which can be generated through tolling, properly managed and accounting for.”
Sadiq states further: “In Nigeria, we are never short of roads. We have many roads; we have many of them from federal to states, and local governments as well as villages. The problem we have with our roads is maintenance. Government alone should not take the blame. We are all guilty. We must all take responsibility.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Corps Commandant, FRSC, Oyo State, Joseph Ojerinde; NARTO president, Azeez Sabitu; PMS representative, Rotimi Oladeji; promised to work together to senstise road users on habits capable of shortening lifespans of roads as well as the need to form the right attitude to ensure safety of lives and property on Nigerian roads.