The federal government is now set to reintroduce toll collections on some selected dual carriageways across the country.
Minister of works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Fashola said FEC approved for tolling to be reintroduced on dual carriageways of the 35,000 kilometers federal roads, adding, however, that dual carriageways represent only 5,050 kilometres of the total 35,000 kilometres in the country.
He said, “The Ministry of Works and Housing presented a policy memorandum for the approval of federal roads, bridges, tolling policy, and also a regulation that will provide the legal framework for the tolling policy.
“You will recall that about two years ago, you had asked me here when roads would be tolled, and I told you, there’s a lot of work. So, we have taken another step. So let me be clear, tolls are not going to start tomorrow, but the big step to actual tolling was taken today by presenting for approval the broad policy that will guide the tolling so that local people, states, local governments, all those who manage roads, investors who want to come in, will know what our tolling policy is. And that will form the basis of their financial modeling, their investment decision.
“Now, when will it start? First of all, the tolls will not start until roads are motorable. So let’s be clear about those.
“There will be agreements that have to be placed, negotiated with the government through the Ministry of Works and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission.
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“Some of the highlights are that we will adopt an open tolling policy as distinct from a closed tolling policy.
“The difference is that in open tolling policy, which is what we were used to before. you pay at a barrier over a fixed or predetermined distance. The closed toll system means that you will pay tolls over the distance you travel and the size of your vehicle.
“We haven’t operated that before. So we are going back to what we know.”
Stating that the government also approved that consultations must be done, Fashola said the willingness to pay surveys must be done before specific roads are tolled.
“We presented and the Council approved that only dual carriageways of 5,050 kilometres out of the 35,000 kilometers of federal roads should be eligible for tolling by the federal government.”
“So, the total network of roads today, assuming we wanted to start today (which we’re not) that will be eligible for tolling on the federal network will be 14.3% of the total network. So, 85.27% will not be eligible for tolling.We have seen that most of those dual carriageways also have alternative roads, but they are single carriageways that’s why we left them.”
He said the ministry also got approval that the toll will be used to maintain roads, to construct new roads and also to pay the investors who invest in building or completing a road and then take a concession on it.
”We will also be going through a process of largely electronic toll collection and management system for audit and transparency. We’ll still have some cash at the very many points and, hopefully, they will be phased out as we go ahead.
“We have proposed and Council has approved that certain types of vehicles be exempted from paying tolls. These are bicycles, pedal cycles, tricycles, motorcycles, and others tjat have two or three wheels used for transport mainly by disadvantaged members of our community. They will be entitled to 100% exemption,” he said, adding that diplomatic vehicles and military and para military vehicles will be similarly exempted from paying toll.
“We concede this as a national policy; that’s why we’re making a very general framework, so that states can also decide, subject to their local laws; local governments can do their own tolling based on all of these considerations as a broad framework?”
The works minister explained that the tolling move was a product of wide consultations.
“Well, how did we get here? We met with a lot of people; we met with government agencies, first of all, but more importantly, we met with the private sector and organised labour.
“Nobody that we met opposed the idea of tolling; at least none of the people that we’ve met with opposed it. Some of the people you might wish to know are members of the National Assembly, the Senate, and House of Reps committees oversighting us, so that they can take this feedback to their constituents.
“We had consultations with the Office of National Security Adviser, Bureau of Public Enterprises, the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, which will be helping us with the electronic and digital aspect of it.
“We also then met with those who are affected by the tolls themselves – Ministry of Transportation which supervises a part of the transport business and then the Road Transport Employers Association (RTEAN), the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and National Union Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Ministry of Trade and Investment, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council. These are some of the people who have made very useful input which have been embedded in some policies that I have spoken about.”
Fashola said his ministry also recommended that “people who live around the toll plaza area will benefit from what we call frequent user discounts, because they will be mostly impacted unlike people who just pass once in a while, and this is global best practice.
Speaking further he said, “We’ve classified vehicles into five categories – the cars, the SUVs and the jeeps as a second category. Private bus and commercial bus as third and fourth categories. And then luxury buses and trucks as a fifth category.
“So, in the start-off tolls that we have for financial modelling and investment decision making, cars will pay N200, SUVs and Jeeps will pay N300, private buses will pay N300, commercial buses will pay N150, luxury buses and trucks will pay N500.
“Now I think it is important to share with you how we arrived at these prices. Some of these prices were recommended by the operators themselves that I said we met. Some of them were also obtained from a survey we did across the six geopolitical zones, talking to households and talking to people in the garages, motor parks and all of that, which was quite extensive. We covered about 17 or so states or 22 states out of the national framework just to get a sampling of what people felt.
“So, in terms of comparison, for example, we also looked at the tolls being paid at Lekki, Ikoyi bridge and the Lagos airport, and Abuja airport toll plazas as a basis for further comparison. And in doing that, we found that the N200 for cars, for example, is the same as Lekki, Abuja airport, Lagos airport, but it is N50 cheaper than Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge.
“For the SUVs and Jeeps, the N300 that we got approval for is the same as Abuja airport and Lagos airport and N100 cheaper than Lekki and Ikoyi toll bridges, those ones charge N400 for jeeps.
“Private bus is the same as Lagos airport toll, N100 less than Lekki toll and Abuja airport toll. Commercial buses, which are the cheapest here in sensitivity to the most vulnerable members of our society, the rate is not more than N150. This is N50 higher than the Lekki toll, because commercial buses are not frequent in this toll but it is N50 cheaper than the suggestion of the transport unions themselves. And it is equal to the maximum price that the willingness to pay survey picked up from the streets. Luxurious buses will pay N500. This is the same as Lagos airport, but it is N500 cheaper than Lekki, N200 more than the maximum gathered from the willingness to pay survey.
“The reason why we have no difficulty with this is because those are the vehicles, they are the heaviest axial load and inflict the most impactful stress on our pavement.
“So this is the sum and substance broad line and then there is a tolling regulation, which now uses a regulatory framework to these policies based on the provisions of the Federal Highway Act that allows the minister responsible for works to issue regulations that define the policy of government with regards to roads, ” he added.