Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola

Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola

Fashola Open Up On Lekki-Epe Expressway Toll Crisis Of 2012


Nigeria’s Minister for Power, Works and Housing Mr. Babatunde Fashola for the first time since leaving office has opened up on some of the crisis that rocked his tenure as governor of Lagos state.

Speaking specifically on the Lekki-Epe Toll Gate crisis that cause a lot of protest in 2012, former governor Fashola said several artiste were mobilised by members of opposition to incense people against him in other to stop tolling on the Lekki-Epe expressway in 2012, while he was governor of Lagos State.

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Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola

The minister who revealed this during the Nigerian Pension Industry Strategy Implementation Roadmap Retreat, stated the lesson of what he experienced is that Nigeria must not play politics with its economic survival.

“Investors want continuity of policies, even if Government changes.

Speaking for the first time on the Lekki-Epe Toll plaza crisis, Fashola said “potholes had taken over its surface, the population it was serving was growing daily and neither Lagos State Government had the funds to rebuild it and the Federal Government at the time was not interested even though oil income was increasing. Accidents were claiming lives regularly and nothing seemed to offer a solution until the Lagos State Government in 2005 signed a concession with a private group of financiers.”

Fashola further said that the financiers after doing their traffic studies, satisfied themselves that the business was “bankable” and they asked the Lagos State Government to pass a law; in effect to tie the hands of the next government that the concession will not be cancelled.

“In other economies, a contract, which Lagos State Government gave them, would have been enough; however, as I said, investors never forget, so they asked for a law, which the State House of Assembly passed. But when we thought that will suffice, they then asked for a “Federal Support Agreement”, which was akin to a sovereign guarantee. Of course Lagos and the Federal Government at the time had different political colours and a Federal Support Agreement was delayed by politics for 3 years. During that time, prices changed, exchange rates changed, many economic indices changed leading to cost impact, but eventually one was signed, during the tenure of President YarAdua. This meant that with the Federal Support Agreement, Nigeria’s Sovereign credit rating had entered the equation.” Mr. Fashola said.

He continued. “Regrettably, when the road was finally built, and tolls were to be charged to repay the financiers, all sorts of informed and misinformed players took centre stage. There was no resistance during the painful period of construction when children had to wake up at 4a.m to get to school at 8a.m. But as soon as the road was motorable and ready for use and Tolling , some sympathizers of the Federal Government of the day, on a political front mobilized resistance to the payment of tolls. They promised that if they were elected, they will cancel the toll. That is not good news to investors.”

“I got all sort of letters from around the world. Investors sent representatives from around the world to meet with us, asking what was happening. All lies were told against our officials after the road was built. But we were undeterred. We bore the lies. We managed the orchestrated protests. Some artistes were mobilized to pour red paint on their faces and posted these on the social media as evidence to incense people falsely that we had used violence to stop their protests. One newspaper falsely and recklessly carried a headline that our government had killed a person protesting illegal tolls. That was the first and only time I used the coercive power of the State.”

“We deployed Policemen to the toll plazas. They were instructed to allow protests which was legitimate, but they must also protect those who were not interested in protesting and wanted to pay tolls, because those who were opposed to paying had no right to obstruct those who wanted to pay. We begged, pleaded and held meetings for understanding. We explained that those of us who enunciated the policy were going to be affected by it as well. I drove through the toll and paid, to show this.”

“In all of this, my biggest concern was not the road , it was Nigeria’s credit rating and the need to ensure that the project did not fail. What was at risk was now bigger than the road and the Lagos State Government. It was a national reputation in the international business climate. I am happy to say that we preserved our country’s business integrity against all odds and I will do it again. For me, the lesson of this story is that we must not play politics with our economic survival. Investors want continuity of policies, even if Government changes. Our politics must therefore mature to the level where we must refrain from campaigns that threaten to cancel contracts. We will be poorer for it. Even when we perceive that the government of the day has poorly negotiated a contract, threats of cancellation do not help. What we may at the worst seek to do is to re-negotiate after elections are over where it is possible to do so.”

“If we compare the quality of service on the Lekki-Epe Expressway where toll is paid to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway where toll has been removed, the choice is ours to make. Is it cheaper to drive on a road free of toll, and spend 5 hours for a 1 (one) hour journey? If you calculate the fuel burnt in 5 hours of standstill traffic and the stress, you will see that the toll free is not free.” Mr. Fashola told his audience.

Left to Mr. Fashola, he has no problem with the installation three toll plazas on the 60km road, however, his successor in office, Governor of Lagos State Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has since cancelled the two additional toll plazas. The second one so far erected now serves as ‘Customer Service Points”.

Osun Defender recalls Governor Ambode while cancelling the remaining two toll plaza, said “the interest of the present administration is not to make the infrastructure a moneymaking venture, but rather, to expand the road to make commuting easier for the residents.”

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