February 1st, 2018…. Imagine that we already have <11 months left in the New Year. How time flies right? Incredible stuff…. Hehehehe….
Absolutely no thanks to Lagos State Government as we enter the new month with immediate hike in toll-gate charge (i.e. both Lekki toll and Ikoyi toll link bridge). You will recall (if you are resident in Lagos) just last year, LCC (owners of Lekki Toll) attempted to increase toll gate charge but Nigerians stepped forward, protested and quickly took the case to court. So I am guessing the case just sat there in court futilely until it magically resurfaced and owners of both tolls brought forward weak justifications for the current increase in toll. It just breaks my heart when people (especially decision makers) who are fortunate to be given power make decisions based on simple selfish desires. It gets me really upset. Why you may ask? Because the ‘’masses’’ (often referred to as the poor) whose voice is rarely ever heard suffers it, hundredfold.
So yesterday (February 1st), I took the usual Lekki toll and all of a sudden I was welcomed with N250 toll fee (for SUVs) which was previously N150? What’s even worse, today (February 2nd) I took the Ikoyi link bridge for a meeting and I was also greeted with a N400 toll fee (again for SUVs) which was previously N250. Like what happened overnight? Who does that? How can the so-called “caring” government (i.e. both Lagos State Government & Federal Government) permit this atrocity? I mean it’s simply ridiculous. The average toll charge across different vehicles types just increased astronomically by 50% overnight and it was allowed? Keep in mind income for most Nigerians (i.e. for those still employed given that Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased from 14.2% to 18.8%; Source: The Vanguard) has remained constant for the last 3-4 years if not more (e.g. my income has remained constant since 2014 but inflation has jumped from single-digit of <9% to double-digit of ~15.8%; Source: Trading Economics).
This is totally unacceptable. Sadly, Nigerians in its very cowardly manner has slowly and willingly accepted this selfish act. The ripple effect of this toll charge increase for both Lekki and Ikoyi-link bridge will only worsen the already unacceptable poverty level in Nigeria. Every business that utilize this toll (which is the majority in Nigeria) will leverage on this price increase which will only make the already high cost of doing business in the country even much higher. It saddens my heart that the poor will suffer this even more. Yet no one – and I mean no one will speak even on their behalf. Why?
What justification does the shareholders/owners of the toll road have for the sudden and astronomical increase in toll charges? Don’t Nigerians have a right to this very unique and hidden detail that led to this unilateral decision to increase the charge? Why isn’t the poor ever considered before harsh and selfish decisions by the ‘’rich’’ are made? Why? Why? Why? Why can’t a fair and transparent review of both toll road’s cost and profitability analysis complete with justification for a ‘reasonable price’ increase (if at all needed) shared with the public. This would have at the least positioned the Government as viewing interest of Nigerians as priority. Yet again, knowledge will give you power but character will give you respect. Nigerians have been over equipped with power which is very often abused but severely lack character and respect!!!!
This is simply unfair. This is also what makes developed economies so distinct from emerging markets. In a developed market (like US or Europe), such a selfish decision would have been taken to the highest level of jurisdiction and a fair verdict will be announced which will favor the poor while also protecting interest of investors. But ‘’the law’’ in Nigeria remains non-functional because there is a ‘price tag’ for everyone.
Each Nigerian is responsible for themselves and their neighbor. One voice will create unity. This is all we need to succeed and mirror the success of developed markets. To remain quiet and instead allow people in power make decisions for us will only bring us closer to poverty. Thus, moving us in the wrong direction. Speak up! Speak out! Speak loud! Speak now!