By Kunle Uthman
The Lagos State Government (LASG) have through a debt buy back agreement acquired the Lekki Concession Company (LCC). According to the Lagos State Commissioner For Information and Strategy, the LASG has 75% holding of LCC, while the balance of 25% is held by other stakeholders. It will, therefore be a misnomer to state that it is the LCC that is proposing resumption of collection of toll on the link bridge. In effect, payment of toll would be tantamount to multiple taxation, because the vast majority of the commuters, which includes judges of the Lagos State Judiciary, civil servants, bureaucrats, proprietors of schools, businessmen and other corporate bodies who ply this bridge daily are taxpayers, which deductions are made through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or self assessment of payment of tax.
Stakeholders Meeting & One Week Test Run:
The Hon. Commissioner of Information and Strategy had affirmatively stated that the toll collection (if at all) will be preceded by an enlarged stakeholders meeting, which will include all residents associations, companies and institutions, veteran broadcaster, Jimi Disu, social critic, Kunle Uthman and other prominent individuals that reside in the Lekki / Epe / Akodo axis and it will take the format of a Town Hall meeting, where all participants will be free to air their views as to the desirability or otherwise of the proposed exercise. This meeting will be broadcast Live on national television.
The motivation, according to the Honourable Commissioner will be to ensure that whatever decisions are taken at this particular town hall meeting will be popular and constitute democracy in action.
The Commissioner categorically stated that a one week test run (free) will avail Government the opportunity to take proactive decisions and access all nagging issues and verifiable complaints by all and sundry relating to the management of traffic, amount payable (if at all) and to avoid a replication of all the factors that bedevilled the exercise, prior to the #EndSARS that resulted in vandalization and stoppage of collection. [All these promises and assurances were made during a phone conversation (broadcast Live) in a 99.3 FM Station early morning broadcast by Jimi Disu with Kunle Uthman as guest].
In concomitant consequence, it is strange that no steps whatsoever, overt or covert, had taken place or initiated by the LASG or its alter ego, the LCC or through its Commissioner of Information and Strategy.
Here lies the dilemma and the social disconnect between the LAGS and the citizens, especially those who reside from Lekki Phase 1, Chevron, NICON estate and other estates, Victoria Garden City (VGC), Lagos Business School (LBS), Akodo, Lekki Free Trade Zone all the way to Ibeju-Lekki and Epe.
Apparently, we have barely a calender week to the April 1st date that the government plans to resume Toll Collection. Non of the promises or proposals made had so far been initiated or fulfilled or any communication whatsoever received from government to those persons promised for a Stakeholders Town Hall meeting.
It is a fact that there is no test run (ongoing) on the bridge as we approach the count-down of the one week promised to ascertain consequences and take proactive measures that will placate the people and allay a further impoverishment of their lives.
As a “responsive” government, the LASG should graciously reconsider its decision to commence collection of toll from a populace who are impoverished by harsh living conditions with a highly devalued currency, without review upwards of income and living conditions that is barely above survival and tolerant levels.
The citizens have shown good intentions and the LASG should reciprocate with an “olive branch” and posit itself as desirable of ensuring good lives [greatest happiness of the greatest number (Jeremy Bentham)] for its citizens. Living in the Lekki / Epe axis of Lagos has become a day-by-day dilemma, due to traffic gridlock, which has adverse health implications on everyone, irrespective of age, gender, tribe or religion.
As a resident in Lekki for more than 15 years, i have witnessed (first-hand) the distortion of the masterplan and conversion into residential estates massive land that were initially meant for agricultural purposes. The massive commercial developments and investments in the Akodo axis, which includes the Free Trade Zone, Dangote Fertiliser plant and upcoming Dangote Refineries have further compounded and will compound commuting time with its hazardous health implications. The coastal road does not exist, due to developments that have altered the natural topography of the region and the Second Mainland Bridge remains on the drawing board.
Therefore, we (residents) passionately appeal and are begging His Excellency, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State Governor, as “father of all” to graciously absorb the 500 workers of LCC into the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) and having bought back the debt from LCC devise an ingenious way to liquidate payment.
As the 2023 elections approach and electioneering campaign resumes, the resolution of this issue will be a major consideration by voters who hold the franchise in this axis.
It is true thatv government is in the nature of a social contract between the elected representatives and the citizens and all times the government must necessarily endeavour to listen to the “voice of the people”.
A final passionate appeal to the LASG is to graciously reconsider its decision to resume Toll Collection on the Osborne Ikoyi / Lekki Link Bridge and listen to the protestations and cocophonously resonating defeaning voices of the people by suspending this exercise and be ingenious in maintaining the Osborne Ikoyi / Lekki Link Bridge. This is a Save Our Soul (SOS).
A Stitch In Time Saves Nine.
Chief ‘Kunle Uthman is a lawyer, and resident of Lekki
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