The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has rejected the federal government’s proposed imposition of fresh taxes on Nigerians to fund the reconstruction of toll gates on federal highways across the country.
It was reported that the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had on October 2 said plans were at an advanced stage to return toll gate on federal highways.
The Director-General of NECA, Timothy Olawale in an interview on Sunday said that the agency is conscious of the numerous benefits that the economy can derive from tolling as he applauded the initiative.
However, Olawale noted that the proposed plan should not commence under the present state of dilapidated roads across the country. He also cited concerns from past failures which characterized the management of the toll system and were marred by revenue leakages and unmet maintenance of the tolled roads.
The NECA boss further emphasized on the fact that not all roads are viable for the proposition of tolling especially subsidiary roads and roads with low traffic volumes.
Therefore, the government should not place any additional burden, in the form of any tax or levy on businesses or individuals in order to fund the construction of the toll gates. This is because individuals and businesses have already been overburdened with several taxes and even proposed additional taxes such as the mobile tax and increased Value Added Tax (VAT).
Furthermore, adding a fresh levy to the existing ones would reduce the purchasing power of Nigerians with dire consequences for businesses and households. With new levies, Nigerians may not be able to afford to purchase basic needs as the prices will be affected and if there is little purchasing power, there would be no profit for business owners.
It is advisable that the federal government through the Ministry of Works and Housing engage relevant professional and Business Membership Organizations (BMOs) to initiate policies that would guide the operations, for effective infrastructure development in the country.
Also, private sector operators should be attracted through public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the construction, maintenance and management of the toll systems, as it obtains in other climes.
The NECA boss also canvassed resuscitation of the nation’s rail system, maintaining that rail transportation remained the cheapest and most efficient globally. Bringing the rail system to limelight would reduce the high cost of maintenance as it carries over 90 percent of domestic freight and passengers.