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If we’re going to have tollgates, there must be alternative roads – Utomi

If we?re going to have tollgates there must be alternative roads ? Utomi

Pat Utomi, a professor of political economy and management expert has said that alternative roads must be created if tollgate fees are going to be reintroduced. 

Utomi also stated that the idea to scrap the toll gates in the first place was a very unwise one as government spent tens of millions of dollars knocking them down.

On payment of the tollgate fees, Utomi stated that no one should be above the law and government departments should add it to their budget. 

He said; 

Nigeria is not a place where we often have rational conversations. I speak about this and people are always complaining. The idea to scrap the toll gates in the first place was a very unwise one. I said so at the time and I wrote opinion pieces about it. Not only were they scrapped, the government spent tens of millions of dollars knocking them down. Now, they’ll spend hundreds of millions getting them back up. I’m not sure what point was proved when the tolls were stopped and then the structures bulldozed so they can’t start again.

Now, 23 years later, we realise that we can’t maintain the highways, saying we have to bring back toll roads again, shamelessly. It is not right; it is an unreasonable use of scarce resources in a country where people are so poor, even if the elite live recklessly on public resources. In principle, I have no problem with tolls; they should never have been removed. Secondly, tolls money should not go into the treasury; it should be specific-use tax for maintaining the highways. And there should be a monitoring committee of users of the highway; for example, members of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and the association of drivers that ply that highway, among others. Their business is to make sure that every kobo paid on that highway is used to make sure the highway is maintained.

In Nigeria, there is a culture of some people being above the law. In many ways, it is an assault on the rule of law, but they don’t realise it; they think it’s the privilege of power. And we must begin to change these things. Let the government departments budget for their toll payment. Let them buy e-tags so that they won’t be disturbed when blowing their sirens. But the tag immediately makes sure that the tolls are deducted from their payments; if they want special discounts or volume consumption, that is a commercial consideration. But creating this privileged thing is what creates a mess every time, everywhere. And people have an entitlement mentality, because they’re in government, they can do whatever they like. Let them have a budgeting department for their tolls; let them go and buy e-tags and use them to ply the highways.

Advising the government on how to structure the toll gate deals, he said; 

In the United States, highways have existed for long. I lived in a small town called Bloomington in Indiana, a few miles away from Indianapolis, the state capital. A fantastic beautiful road that I used to drive on then is still there. But it has been sold by the state government to a bank, not even an American bank, an Australian bank.

This allowed the road to become even more motorable; the bank collects its tolls, makes profit, and everyone is happy. Of course, there are a few moral laws that go to tolling roads. If you’re going to have a toll road, there must be an alternative. The thing is that those who want to go more quickly can pay their toll and go. Those who don’t have money will suffer the slighter indignity of traffic delays on the freeway. These are some of the basic principles that we can use to confront these issues if we act logically.

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