By Lere Ojedokun
I have read and listened to the diverse reactions and criticisms that trailed the recent announcement by Lekki Concession Company, LCC, notifying residents and those commuting on Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge of the resumption of tolling on the 1.36-km road.
According to LCC, the effective date of tolling commencement is April 1, 2022, with a moratorium of two weeks’ free passage until April 15.
The notice to resume tolling was coming 18 months after toll payment was suspended on both the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge and Eti-Osa Lekki-Epe Expressway in the wake of the End SARS protests, in 2020.
While it is the constitutional right of Nigerians, and indeed anyone or group to disagree on the return of toll, there are vital salient points that those opposed to tolling seem to gloss over with regards to the value that LCC has delivered beyond toll payment.
First is that over the past 18 months that tolls were not paid by motorists while they enjoyed these facilities free-of-charge, LCC consistently invested money in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and initiatives that make their commuting an exciting experience. Routine maintenance of facilities was done without making any income in return.
Contractors were engaged, monitored and supervised by staff to clear the drainage and culverts, sweep the roads, collect and remove debris and litters, remove median and edge sand build-up on the carriageway, mow grass and water the grass during the dry season. The cleaning/washing of road signs and bus shelters and chemical control of vegetation and eradication of undesirable vegetation were carried out regularly. These were done from end-to-end of the roads.
To curtail flooding, LCC cleared/de-silted concrete drains including the Ajah – Ado drains; opened and removed drainage covers and closed back after clearing, and carted away debris.
Over the last 18 months, LCC’s Route and Incident Unit were at work hour-on-hour clearing accident debris, providing assistance to motorists and helping fix up broken-down vehicles. I recall a recent incident that involved a friend’s car just as we drove inwards Abraham Adesanya. We had a sudden tyre burst and successfully manoeuvred the car to the kerb. Just in a twinkle of an eye, like God-sent angels, some guys adorning LCC uniform atop reflective jackets were on hand to pull out the burst tyre and fixed the spare. We continued our journey without any loss of time and met our scheduled appointment.
Secondly, LCC’s impact beyond roads, bridges and tolling has also been evidenced in the healthcare and education sectors respectively. This includes the donation of medical equipment to Ikate Primary Health Centre and Ikota Health Centre. Also, LCC in conjunction with Eti-Osa Indigenes Forum has provided Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) forms to Eti-Osa youths for the past three years.
In addition, the LCC Route and Incident Unit have gone to two public schools within the company’s areas of operation namely; Victoria Island Secondary School and Ikota Primary School to educate students on highway codes and safety measures. The company also provides a lollipop man to aid children crossing the expressway at Ikota Primary School.
Thirdly, it is gratifying to state that antagonists of toll resumption cannot deny the fact that both the Eti-Osa Lekki-Epe Expressway and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge have been a blessing in terms of reducing travel time and decongesting the roads within that corridor. Long hours spent in traffic gridlock in and around Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki and Epe Expressway when the link bridge was not existent and the expressway was not expanded, can only be better imagined.
Fourthly, it is heart-warming to say that the functionality and usefulness of the iconic cable-stayed link bridge, in particular, has even expanded beyond its intended scope. Today, the bridge serves as a recreational facility for residents of Ikoyi and Lekki Phase 1. It is common to see residents do fitness activities such as walking, jogging or running along the wide curbs of the bridge, especially in the mornings and evenings.
What about the tourism and entertainment value of the bridge? The Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge is today a delight of tourists and visitors to Lagos – one of the must-visited iconic structures. Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg went on the morning run on the bridge when he visited Lagos on August 30, 2016. On his social media posts, he wrote: ‘‘Quick run this morning across the Ikoyi Bridge with entrepreneurs in the Lagos Road Warriors running club. Best way to see a city!’’
Available records even indicate that the bridge is the most photographed icon in Lagos. The bridge also appears as a signature in many Nollywood movies. Even some brands have done some activations around the link bridge to derive iconic associate benefits.
Space and time constrain me to talk about streetlights and other road infrastructure on the bridge and the expressway. These have not only made travelling a delight; they have had a great impact on the security and safety of lives and property. Illumination on the bridge and along the expressway both at night and in the early hours of the day wards off criminals. But alas, LCC has been picking up the millions of naira for diesel and maintenance in the last 18 months without asking anyone to pay.
These and more are the reasons for my humble appeal to those planning protests and other forms of mass actions against LCC that they should see beyond the tolling.
More concerning is the fact that the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge and the reconstructed Eti-Osa Lekki-Epe Expressway have become the reference points of success for the public-private partnership financing model for the much-needed infrastructure development in Nigeria.
Nigeria is facing a very huge gap in infrastructure. The global rating agency, Moody’s, estimated that about $3trn would be required to bridge the infrastructure deficit in Nigeria. The current revenue by any government – state or federal – cannot certainly meet this humongous need. PPP is the most feasible alternative funding. But, investors who can bring succour need an enabling environment to operate, recoup their investment and earn a return on investment. So, by allowing LCC the much-deserved enabling environment to operate, the better for all of us.
Ojedokun, Integrated Communications and Brand Management Strategist, contributes this piece from Lagos.
Published on Brandfit.