The federal government is now set to reintroduce toll collections on some selected dual carriageways across the country, according to Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing.
Fashola, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the federal executive council (FEC) meeting presided by vice president Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa on Wednesday.
According to him, FEC approved for tolling to be reintroduced on dual carriageways of the 35,000 kilometres federal roads.
He added that dual carriageways represent only 5,050 kilometres out of the total 35,000 kilometres.
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 recall that about two years ago, you had asked me several here when roads will be rolled. 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. So let us be clear about that.
“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 modelling, 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.
“So but the highlights of the policy, I think is what I would like to share. Some of the highlights are that we will adopt an open tolling policy as distinct from a closed tolling policy.
“The difference is that only open tolling policy, which is what we were used to before. you pay to at a barrier over a fixed or predetermined distance. The close toll systems mean 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 willingness to pay surveys must be done before specific roads are tolled.
“We presented and the council approved that only dual carriageways of the 35,000 kilometres should be eligible for tolling by the federal government. And dual carriageways represent only 5,050 kilometres out of 35,000 kilometres.
“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 tooling.
“We have seen that most of those dual carriageways also have alternative roads, but they are single carriageways that’s why we left them. So the only exception to a single carriageway some bridges and they are listed in the regulation,” the Minister added.
He said the ministry also got approval that the toll will be used to maintain roads, to construct new roads as they accrue and also to pay the investors who invest in building or completing a road and then take a concession on it.
According to him, “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 more and hopefully phased that out as we go ahead.
“We have proposed and the council has approved that certain types of vehicles be exempted for paying tolls. Those are bicycles, pedal cycles, try cycles, motorcycles, and other moves that have two or three-wheeled transport use mainly by disadvantaged members of our community, they will be entitled to a full 100% exemption, as will be diplomatic vehicles and military and paramilitary vehicles.
“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 government can do their own tolling based on all of these considerations as a broad framework?
“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 with opposes 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 oversight us so that they can take this feedback to their constituents.
“We had consultations with the Office of National Security Advisor, Bureau of Public Enterprises, the Ministry of communication and the digital economy, which will be helping us with the electronic and digital aspects of it.
“We also then met with those who are affected by the tolls themselves, Ministry of Transportation, who supervises a part of the transport business and then the road transport employers Association, the National Association of road transport owners (NARTO) and National Union Road transport workers (NUTRW) 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 has been embedded in some policies that I have spoken about.”
Fashola noted that the ministry also recommended that people who live around toll plaza areas will benefit from what is called frequent user discounts so that because they will be most impacted, unlike people who just pass once in a while, saying it is the global best practice around the world.
“So these are some of the highlights of the policy. And then we got his start off toll because certain investment decisions have to be made in the next few weeks.
“You remember I briefly about the HDMI, about the concession about 12 roads, spanning about 1000 plus kilometres. That process has kicked off we have about 70 applicants who are waiting for a policy. So we need to have a kick-off policy. So we’ve classified vehicles into five categories, cars, SUVs and 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 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 busses 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, 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 the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge.
“For the SUVs and Jeeps, 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 charged N400 for jeeps.
“Private bus is same as Lagos airport toll, N100 less than Lekki toll and Abuja airport toll. Commercial bus, which is the cheapest here insensitivity 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 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 that 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 the regulatory framework to these policy based on the provisions of the Federal Highway Act, that allows the minister responsible for works to issue regulations that define the policy of the government with regards to roads,” he stated.