Private toll operators squeeze Lagos residents, rake in N30 million monthly
•Motorists, pedestrians, underage pay N50 to N300 •We have daily revenue targets, says collector
Despite a plethora of road construction projects by the state government, the plight of Lagosians in key residential communities appears to favour private toll operators.The managers of multiple makeshift bridges in the guise of service providers, are arm-twisting motorists and pedestrians to amass revenue in excess of over N30 million monthly.
Investigation by The Guardian revealed that some of the link-bridges are not new and so poorly maintained. Yet, their mastermind and beneficiaries alike have lately increased the tolls on the young and old.Residents though alleged connivance of some officials in the scheming, they called on the state government to check the “powerful” operators and see to the development of proper basic infrastructure in communities.
One of the most popular private makeshift toll corridors is at Hotel Bus stop on Isheri-Igando Road. Road Link Venture manages the bridge, which connects both Egbe-Idimu and Ayobo-Ipaja Local Community Development Areas (LCDAs) in less than 10 minutes drive. A visit to the toll corridor revealed traffic snarl as early as 6a.m. on weekdays, as motorists, commercial operators, motorcyclists and pedestrians jostle to mount the wooden bridge.
The facility though has provision for dual carriage, is only half covered, forcing both ends of the traffic to take turns. The tollhouse is painted in red and black colours with an inscription, ‘Mopol zone, keep off’.Quite staggering is the heavy toll users pay. While cars pay N200, commercials N300, motorcyclists (without passenger) part with N50. Individuals be it pedestrian, in commercial bus, tricycle or on okada, each pays N30 fare.
The Guardian learnt that an average of 1200 vehicles, 2,000 motorcycles and over 2,000 pedestrians mount the bridge during the morning and evening peak periods everyday – bringing the daily take-home to at least N500,000 and N15 million monthly.A frequent user, Taiwo, told The Guardian that the corridor is strategic for his daily movement from home to work and back. “I live in Baruwa and work at Volks on Lagos-Badagry Expressway. This is a shortcut to beat traffic around the Egbeda and Iyana-Ipaja axis. I pay N400 (two-way) daily to use this bridge. But I hope it (the wooden bridge) does not fall off someday because they seem not to be maintaining it well,” he said.
Muneer Akinlotu also confirmed the strategic route, though was worried about the traffic pull.Akinlotu said: “I discovered this place about two years ago. It is like a lot of people are now using the bridge. The traffic could be so serious sometimes that even the pedestrians would have to look for alternative.”About 15 minutes walk from the bridge, is another privately owned wooden construction, often called “Pako Oko-Oloyun bridge.” Unlike the other, the bridge is only for pedestrians and charges N50 per head with an average of 15 users per minute.
Another popular private plank bridge is that of Idowu Egba around Isheri Olofin. The busy bridge, which accommodate all forms of vehicles except for heavy duty trucks, serve as link to Osapa London community around Ayobo.The Isheri route is indeed the shortest for commuters across the ends of Igando, Ikotun, Isheri, Idimu, Iyana Iba, and LASU inwards Baruwa, Ayobo, Lafenwa, Itele, Ishefun, Olayemi, and the Ogun State environs. It, however, turns out to be more expensive than plying the state-of-the-art Lekki-Ikoyi link-bridge, Lekki-Epe Expressway and even the Murtala Muhammed Airport Toll Plaza, all in Lagos State.
A passerby, Ade Bajomo, was harassed for asking for a balance of N20 from N50 paid to the toll operators. His attention was drawn to a nearby notice, which read: “Please! Ensure you come along with your exact fare N50; Ensure you don’t fight anytime you are told to wait for your change or you go back; No more Staff; Children from 10 years above will pay N50; Please don’t bring bad money or fake money; Please no more paying go-come.”
Akinlotu explained that the operators had in May this year, increased the toll by about 50 per cent. He complained that despite the increment, there is no improvement on the structure “as the woods are breaking up and posing danger to users.”He said: “There is no justification whatsoever for the increase to N300. It is so bad that the tolling does not discriminate between the young and old. Even children are made to pay toll of N30 and without the exact fare, you are made to part with N50.
“The truth is that where we have a government that doesn’t care a hoot about the masses, some few omo-onile (land-owners) will freely use touts to take advantage of the people. This place has been there for years, but who cares?”It is not the case the state government really didn’t care about the plight of Lagos residents. It will be recalled that the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration came in with a populist impression of shifting the focus of infrastructure development to the masses that are resident in the mainland part of the state.
Just recently, the Governor approved the construction of additional 285 roads and other projects across the 20 Local Governments (LGAs) and 37 LCDAs, aimed at easing transportation problem and improving standard of living for residents.In April, the administration commissioned 21 network of roads and two bridges totaling 27.4 kilometre in Alimosho Local Government, with a pledge to further develop other communities within the axis. Several of the projects are ongoing, including the bus terminus at Oshodi and the Lagos Airport Road.
Some residents are, however, worried that the administration is yet to look in the direction of some communities like Isheri-Igando, given how strategic the route is to traffic decongestion.They noted that the Ilamoshe and Ajao Estate communities used to be apart until the Babatunde Fashola Administration constructed the January 27 Link-Bridge (toll-free) that now attract heavy traffic inflow from Ejigbo axis inwards Airport Road and Oshodi.
Prior to the intervention, residents plied the Oke-Afa canal, with a canoe and at the rate of N20 per person. Today, there is a world of difference between the Oke-Afa and the Isheri-Igando communities.An official of the Road Link Venture told The Guardian that the recent increase in toll was on account of the “daily target” expected of them, though declined to say how much and persons behind it.
The situation is hardly different at the Faseun Bridge at Okota and Ijesha-Ago footbridge, behind The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministries headquarters on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.The Faseun wooden bridge, allegedly constructed and controlled by Dr. Fredrick Faseun, a factional leader of Odua People’s Congress (OPC), serves both motorists and pedestrians crisscrossing Okota-Ago and FESTAC ends of the state. Cars pay as much as N300 to access the bridge.
The Guardian gathered that the Ijesha-Ago footbridge was constructed by an individual called Prince. Prinnock Group of Companies, a real estate and property firm operates it in partnership with the National Inland Water Authority (NIWA), and has been in operation since 2015.The bridge shows signs of decency in design and operations. The well-laid concrete and steel structure gives pedestrians the ease to crossing from the Ijesha to Gramite, Waterside and Ago at the ticket of N50 per head. An average of nine persons use the bridge every minute, with a monthly revenue estimate in millions of naira.
An okada rider on the Igando route, Lucky, said the bridges are avenues by the rich and highly connected to exploit the poor.Lucky said: “I don’t know why some rich men are like that. They have told their boys to send anyone with incomplete fares away. Yet, they keep getting traditional titles all over the state.“It is painful that the government has failed to yield our calls. How will anyone tell me that we have a government when I provide my own light, water, health and even roads to get to my house. It is a shame,” he said.
Jimoh Aderemi said it was high time the state government moved in to rescue the poor people. Aderemi, a civil servant, disagreed that the government willfully neglected the communities to the benefit of friends and opportunists.He said: “This administration deserves commendations for the grandiose road projects all over the place. I don’t think we have been forgotten around here. I can only appeal to the governor to see to it that we also have toll-free bridges and good roads around here. I have no doubt that such will decongest the major roads and give the people a sense of belonging.”