A hike in bus fares is imminent along the Lekki-Epe expressway following the introduction of toll fees along that route, commercial bus drivers in Lagos have said.
The Lagos State government, on Sunday, commenced the collection of toll fees from vehicles plying the 49.5 kilometre expressway still under construction by the Lekki Concession Company Limited (LCC).
While commercial buses are expected to pay N80; motorcycles are to pay N50 while saloon cars and tricycles are charged N120. Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) would pay N150 while N250 and N350 are for light trucks and heavy trucks and buses with two or more axles respectively.
“The money we give to all these agberos (touts), each motor is about N3000 every day,” said Moshood Haruna, a commercial bus driver who plies the CMS-Ajah route.
“And now plus the toll gate money, e no go easy because small time now katakata (trouble) go come,” said Mr. Haruna.
Tolling brings traffic
The commencement of tolling has, no doubt, worsened the traffic congestion along the expressway, although the state government had said it was a teething problem that would soon be history.
Traffic stretched to almost two kilometres on both sides of the tolling plaza on the first day of tolling.
A visit to the tolling plaza on the second day of tolling showed that traffic had reduced to about 400 metres on the side coming from CMS into Lekki; although commuters noted that it could become worse during the rush hours.
Armed police officers, who clamped down violently on protesters the day before, lurked around the tolling plaza. Four police patrol vans were stationed a few metres away. A team of Man O’ War and LCC’s security officers complemented the police on duty.
A vehicle spends about 15 – 30 seconds to complete payment at the toll plaza and pass through. According to LCC, passage would become faster when drivers embrace the electronic tag mode of payment.
“We are begging Fashola, this thing is too much,” Mr. Haruna said.
“And all these problems, it is our passengers that will suffer it because small time we have to increase the price of the motor,” continued Mr. Haruna.
“Now we are carrying N200. If they don’t stop this kind of thing, it will go to N300 and from there wahala (problem) will come.”
‘Hellish’ alternative road
About 400 metres before the tolling plaza, a green sign post with a bold white arrow points towards the narrow, toll free alternative road, through Lasode Crescent.
The alternative road runs from Oba Yesufu Abiodun Oniru Road, after Mobil petrol station, to Market Road and back on the expressway to enable drivers by-pass the first toll plaza at Admiralty Circle.
Driving through the alternative road is hellish, according to Mr. Haruna.
“Yesterday (Sunday) that was where I passed, when I entered we spent almost six hours there, we (had to) come back again to that toll gate, they blocked the alternative road,” he said.
Olaleye Ogunleyi, another commercial bus driver, said that passing through the alternative road was not an option.
“If they see that the go slow (traffic) is too much on the expressway, they will open the (toll) gate and pass everybody. After the go slow move, they will start collecting money again. I paid once to go and then to come back again. But I didn’t pay on the second trip,” said Mr. Ogunleyi, who plies the CMS-Lekki route.
“I no dey follow the alternative route as that place dey always dey busy, and if it hook, no amendment for person,” he said.
Mr. Ogunleyi added that the current fare of N100 from CMS to Lekki may be upped as a result of the introduction of the toll gate.
“E dey affect (our business). If person see passenger carry, e no go affect too much. But if you no see passenger, e dey affect. There is nothing person can do.”