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Groaning, chaos over toll increase

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Groaning, chaos over toll increase

The scene looked tense. It carried a poise of commotion and chaos as drivers kept hooting ear-splitting horns as if in an orchestral competition.

 

Some were seen struggling with their vehicles which had developed instantaneous faults due to the long wait. At a point before Lekki second roundabout, some drivers alighted from their cars with perturbed looks on their faces as movement came to a complete halt.

 

Some, however, tried escaping the situation but only succeeded in extending it by hitting other vehicles, which resulted in intense arguments over who was right or wrong. The police and traffic-control officials had enormous task as they made efforts to control traffic on both sides of the road, especially inward Lekki Phase 1 and Ozumba Mbadiwe and within Oniru.

 

 

Suddenly, a bigger chaos erupted. Everyone left his business and focused on the event. A driver, who claimed he needed to get somewhere urgently, bolted out of his car in frustration heading towards the edge of the bridge screaming, “I can’t take it again”. Within the twinkling of an eye, strong hands pinned him to the ground and he kept screaming, “Leave me, let me die. What’s all this. Let me leave this life for them.”

 

All these happened at the Lekki- Ikoyi toll bridge recently. The bridge, which happens to be a 1.346km cable stay iconic bridge was implemented by the state government in collaboration with a private company Lekki Concession Company Limited (LCC) to reduce traffic congestion around Eti-Osa, Lekki, Epe, and Ikoyi environs by providing additional choices and flexibility for road users, through an improved network of top class roads, highways and bridges.

 

The bridge, since it was commissioned on the 29th of May 2013 had met up with expectation over the years providing the necessary services to road users. However, towards the end of last year, LCC declared an increase in the toll, which took effect from February 1 this year. New Telegraph gathered that at the Admiralty Circle Plaza (Lekki-Epe expressway), cars now pay N200 from the once obtainable N120; sports utility vehicles (SUV) now pay N 250 from N 15 0; while commercial buses pay N150 from N80. Motorcycles however pay N100. At the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge, saloon cars now pay N300 from N250; sports utility vehicles (SUV), mini vans, and light trucks now pay N400 from N300. Motorcycles will now pay N200.

 

This decision has however elicited angry reactions from road users, who refused to pay the toll, causing a long queue at the tollgate. They pointed accusing fingers at the government and the LCC for the inconveniences they are made to go through. Speaking with New Telegraph, A motorist, Mr. Olu Bamidele, asserted that the increase in the toll was an unwelcome development and an extorting strategy by the LCC and the government.

 

He said: “This inhumane treatment is not what we deserve. The economy is too harsh and they are aware of that. Everything keeps increasing in cost yet our income has not increased even with one kobo. People are losing their jobs daily and no government in this country can boast of any scheme that they have put in place to employ people.” He therefore called on the government and the LCC to review the new tolls and consider the people’s plight. Another road user, Miss. Korede Olamuyiwa, who spoke with New Telegraph, averred that the increase in the toll should not be considered on the surface level as it will have multiplier effects on the people and urged the government to find a lasting solution to the problem.

 

“At this time of the year, people are still recuperating from their December expenses and to be sincere with  you, transport fare has increased in Lagos. They were blaming it on fuel scarcity and now that fuel is available, they have refused to reduce it. With this one now, transporters will increase fares again. This is not what we bargained for. The toll fare is too much. Even the initial toll was much, let alone this new one.” Mr. Bolatito Anthony, a motorist, said that the increase in the toll is one of the means of getting campaign money for those in power to remain there even as the 2019 election is approaching. According to him: “These people are very unfair to us.

 

They deliberately created gridlock on the route so that stubborn motorists like me would have no other option than paying the toll whether it is convenient for us or not.” He said that he had resolved to avoid the tollgates until he could understand the logic behind the increase but which he cannot avoid now after weighing the cost of taking the alternative route which is far more than the hiked toll. “I turned back and accepted my fate like every other person but God will judge.

 

Paying N500 per day which is approximately N12,000 for 24-working days in a month is too much. How much is the salary remaining,” he quipped. Speaking on the issue, Alhaji Taofeek Oluwa, the chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (Jakande chapter) had assured commuters that there won’t be an increase in transport fares and that the union welcomed the toll review. He however urged the LCC not to renege on its agreement. He also stated that the NURTW had been carried along by LCC in their decision- making.

 

He said: “It is encouraging that LCC carried the union along as one of the critical stakeholders consulted during the engagement process for the toll review which resulted in the minimal increase in the toll charge branded commercial buses. Commercial buses, which previously paid N80.00 would be paying N90 for e-Tag payments and N100 for cash payments.” Oluwa further assured commuters that there would be no increase in fare and affirmed the union’s support of the toll as long as LCC honoured its agreement of the mutual understanding which was established at the stakeholders’ meeting. “The NURTW is happy to endorse the toll fare review,” He said.

 

In an interview with journalists, the Managing Director of LCC, Mr. Mohammed Hassan, justified the review. He maintained that the feedback and recommendations received during the series of consultations held in December 2017 with stakeholders in Eti-Osa Local Government area and its environs led to the adoption of the new toll. Hassan said: “Since the commencement of tolling in December 2011, the toll had remained the same despite the continuous increase in the cost of operations to ensure that the toll plazas and the road infrastructure are well maintained.

The toll review has also become necessary to enable the company meet its loan obligations to its local and foreign lenders, considering the fact that foreign exchange rates have continued to increase astronomically in the last couple of years. LCC cannot continue to operate or provide the services required from us if we do not review the toll.”

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