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Mixed reactions trail reopening of Osborne-Ikoyi Link Bridge, Lekki toll gates

By Benjamin Alade
21 March 2022   |   2:45 am
The decision to re-commence tolling for the Lekki tollgate and Osborne-Ikoyi Link Bridge has continued to generate mixed reactions.

Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge PHOTO: TONYE BAKARE

The decision to re-commence tolling for the Lekki tollgate and Osborne-Ikoyi Link Bridge has continued to generate mixed reactions.

The toll stations were destroyed during the #endsars protests in 2020, toll collection was subsequently stopped until recently when Lekki Concession Company (LCC) announced that collection of tolls from motorists will resume on April 1, 2022.

Some of the concerns border on fears of a return of slow-moving traffic and lethargy from paying tolls after several months of free services.

Reacting to this call, Lagos lawyer and member, Body of Benchers, Chief Kunle Uthman, in his letter to governor Sanwo-Olu, said the government should place the welfare of people over and above monetary considerations. “As it is, life in this axis is hellish in terms of the pains experienced day-by-day, as it relates to movement or commuting from one place to another.”

The letter reads in part: “The LCC has expressed its decision, to resume collection of toll from motorists who make use of Osborne / Ikoyi link bridge from next month. According to the spokesman of LCC, this decision was taken after due consultation with the Lagos State government and its officials.”

He acknowledged that the suspension of toll collection on the bridge was a result of the #EndSARS protests in Lekki, in particular, during winding up days, the two toll Plazas operated by LCC were destroyed.

He added that recently, during the one year anniversary of the #EndSARS, the state government in its reaction to public outcry, rescinded its earlier decision to resume, toll collection.

“Now, a private company, LCC, has set a date to resume toll collection and there are handbills being distributed to commuters announcing the date as April 1 (April Fool’s Day). It is indisputable that the government, in its relationship between citizens and residents of Lekki to Epe, had become callous and insensitive to the pains and tribulations of people, whether vehicle owners or commuters in public transportation. What is the crime of these citizens who pay tax to the government and receive little or no benefits?

“As it is, life in the axis is hellish in terms of the pains experienced day-by-day, especially as it relates to movement or commuting from one end to another,” he said.

He said while many of the officials of the Lagos State government, including Judges of the state high courts and bureaucrats, reside in this axis, they have, apparently, maintained a “silence of the graveyard.”

“As such, the Lagos State Government and its proxy agency LCC, ought to be more sensitive than to give money priority over the welfare of citizens.

“The decision to resume toll collection on the bridge is a sad testimonial of the fact that our elected leaders are wicked, satanic, insensitive and careless, if at all, for the welfare of citizens of Lagos State.

“Please, prevail on LCC to be innovative in other things or give them a part of the Alpha-Beta largesse. To resume toll collection anywhere on Lagos roads will result in anger, and government may not be able to contain its resultant consequences.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State government has announced plans to resume collection of fees at Lekki tollgate, saying LCC has debts worth billions of naira to pay to both local and foreign lenders and investors.

LCC owes local lenders about N11.6 billion and foreign lenders $31.1m, Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso, has revealed.

The tollgate began operations in 2011 with LCC charging users of the Lekki-Epe expressway a toll fee in spite of resistance and protests from residents.

However, residents of estates around Lekki, under the aegis of Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association (LERSA), had given the Lagos State government and LCC some conditions for the re-opening of the toll.

These were contained in a statement issued by the association, comprising over 80 estates and communities, on Sunday.

In the statement signed by Olorogun James Emadoye, and Gbemi Adelekan, LERSA president and secretary-general respectively, the residents urged the state government and managers of the road to provide viable alternative routes to the tolled roads, implement round figure fees at the toll and immediately improve the tolling system technology to guarantee free flow at the toll gates before re-commencement.

LERSA observed that its members had been victims of insecurity and disruption of movement since the #ENDSARS protests in October 2020 which led to the destruction and eventual closure of the tollgate and Saturday’s protest against the order for its reopening.

While appealing for restraint among angry youths, LERSA called on the government to tolerate free expression of discontent in a way that guarantees protection of lives and properties.

The association also called on LCC to create an enabling environment for people and businesses on the axis, adding that the experience of road users at the toll plazas before the shutdown was very unpleasant.

“Our road experience prior to the October 20 shutdown of the tollgates was that of hardship and suffering, with the long traffic at the toll plazas. A tolled road is supposed to provide a quick, safe and motorable experience, where users will be happy to pay”, the statement said.

It added that the government, through LCC should realise that toll plazas could not re-open and operate the way they were before the shutdown.

“Without a doubt, we are the only citizens in Nigeria that are forced to pay toll on a road that is less than 25km, completed in 14 years. With the poor experience and services at the toll plaza, we are actually paying for inconveniences rather than for convenience, as we spend, on average, 20 to 30 minutes to pay.

“We, therefore, ask for viable alternative roads to the tolled roads, implementation of round figure fees at the toll and immediate improvement of the tolling system technology to guarantee free flow at the toll gates before the commencement of tolling,” the statement added.