The Rights group which carpeted the federal government for proposing to re-commence the operations of toll gates on the heavily dysfunctional and rapidly collapsing federal road’s infrastructures in Nigeria, also stated that the policy if implemented will further impoverish Nigerians and lead to the deterioration of the living standards of Nigeria.
In a media statement after a meeting of its strategic executive committee, HURIWA has through the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the Media Affairs National Director Miss Zainab Yusuf asked President Muhammadu Buhari to put on hold the reintroduction of this economically suicidal policy because of the prevailing atmospheres of mass poverty afflicting over 100 Million Nigerians, the poor purchasing power of the greatest majority of Nigerians and the already excruciating costs of public transportation created by the recent hike in the pump prices of premium motor spirit and the hike in the tariffs paid by prospective importers of fairly used vehicles.
HURIWA said the plot to reintroduce toll gates which ib effect would result in the reintroduction road taxes by commutters will lead to massive suicide and emotional breakdowns by millions of people who would be incapacitated from travelling to search for their daily breads due to high costs of transportation and the poor purchasing power of millions of extremely pauperised population.
Besides, HURIWA said the timing was criminally inappropriate for the Federal government to think of reintroduction of toll gates with the attendant reintroduction of toll fees payable by all road users which would inevitably lead to the sky rocketing of costs of public transportation for millions of Nigerians most of whom are jobless, hungry, poor and sick. The group said that even the less than five percent of Nigerians actively engaged in both the public and private sectors of the economy, the poor national minimum wage of N18,000 is barely enough to convey them to work just as the draconian policy of new toll gates will inflict further pains on them collectively and individually.
HURIWA argued that the policy will inevitably violate the Constitutional provision which says the welfare and security of all Nigerians are the primary duty of government.
“In the last two years, the current President Buhari’s administration has taken a number of draconian and anti-poor economic measures such as the triple hike in the pump price of fuel and essential kerosene which progressively led to increase by over one hundred percent the cost of public transportation and the weakening of the economic status of millions of Nigerians.”
The Rights group charged the Federal Ministry of works to find better and more innovative and non-punitive approach to revamping public roads infrastructures such as the comprehensive auditing by international forensic auditors of the budgetary releases made to the ministry of works since 1999 till date which have ended up been stolen by federal government officials in collaboration with rogue contractors.
HURIWA submitted that nearly N100 billions have disappeared from the coffers of government which were earmarked for federal roads infrastructures since 1999 till date.
“Government should go after these thieves in and out of government and retrieve the stolen national commonwealth to be used in fixing all of the collapsed roads rather than going back to the antiquated practice of setting up toll gates to further impoverish the majority of the people of Nigeria. The government should also investigate the monumental heist of public fund from Railways and Aviation sectors so as to more appropriately fix the broken down national transportation infrastructures.”
HURIWA recalled that the Federal Government said it has concluded arrangement to reintroduce toll gates across the country, according to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.
The minister, who appeared before the Senate committee on the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), told the lawmakers that the facilities would be managed by the private sector.
HURIWA quoted the Works minister as stating that the proceeds from the toll gates would be used for maintenance of highways, he said. Government would design software capable of monitoring vehicles as they pass through and that users would be able to pay the charges.
HURIWA however expressed doubts that this policy is for public good just as it accused the federal government of planning to impose their surrogates to run these toll gates to generate resources to be deployed in manipulating and rigging the 2019 elections given that the popularity of the Federal government has plummeted after it led Nigeria into the worst economic depression since 1960.