Organised Labour weekend rejected the proposed plan by the Federal Government to re-introduce toll gates on federal highways.
Labour spoke as the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, Sunday, called on the Federal Government to put in place an efficient policy before panned return of toll gates.
While the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, said the toll gates would worsen people’s misery and raise the poverty level in the country, the United Labour Congress, ULC, said the only condition for Nigerians to accept a return of toll gates on federal roads is a drastic reduction in pump prices of petroleum products.
It contended that the money to be realized from toll gates was factored into pump prices of fuel before they were dismantled in 2003.
The ULC also urged Nigerians to reject the planned tax on GSM calls, lamenting that government had in recent times been emasculating the ordinary Nigerians with several tax burdens.
The Trade Union Congress, TUC, on its part, also rejected the planned re-introduction of toll gates by the Federal Government.
Return of toll gates not welcome — NLC
General Secretary of NLC, Emmanuel Ugboaja, said: “It is not welcome news at this point in time. It is going to put extra pressure on the ordinary people and worsen the poverty level in the country because it will affect the prices of goods and services.
“The roads are in very bad shape across the country, how can you toll a bad road? If you have fixed the roads and you now talk of tolling to recoup the money spent and to generate money to maintain the roads, people could consider it.
“But now, it is unacceptable because roads have remained the only means for transportation for humans, goods and services because the rails are not working. It is desperation by government to raise money at all cost.
“Ordinary Nigerians who have been overburdened will be forced to bear the extra burden the reintroduction of the toll gates will bring. In other words, it will add to the pains and suffering of the masses because the prices of goods and services will go up. This is not what we need now.
“Let the government fix the roads first before it could talk about tolling. If people can travel from Lagos to Port Harcourt in less than seven hours, travel from Lagos to Benin City in three hours on road, or from Abuja to Lagos, to Port Harcourt in less than seven hours on a smooth road, when you talk about tolling, people will listen.
“But today, the roads are in terrible conditions. It is unacceptable because it will bring nothing but more misery to the ordinary man.”
Nigerians must resist tax planned tax on GSM calls — ULC
President of ULC, Joe Ajaero, while speaking at the inaugural Delegates Conference of Private Telecommunications Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PTECSSAN, in Lagos, weekend, said: “Recently, members of the National Assembly have been talking about 10 per cent tax on calls you and I make.
“The way they are going to deduct it, we will not know. Nigerians should rise and resist any tax on GSM calls. It is unacceptable. The era of taxes in Nigeria is becoming unbearable. There is the issue of 7.5 percent increase in Value Added Tax, VAT, another tariff on electricity, and reintroduction of toll gates.
“The issue of toll gates will determine whether Nigerians are alive or not, because the amount that was supposed to be realised from toll gates was factored into the fuel pump prices when former President Olusegun Obasanjo dismantled toll gates in 2003.
“Then, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was the president of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC. The government of Obasanjo increased the pump price from N26 to N42 per litre. We protested and the government, before we could enter into negotiation, dismantled toll gates and told us that the money to be realized from the toll gates were already factored into the pump prices.
“Now, any reintroduction of the toll gates must lead to the reduction of fuel prices in the country. That is the only way it can work or we can’t accept it. If you said you have factored in N2 or N5 into the prices of petroleum products that were supposed to be got from the toll gates, if you want to reintroduce the toll gates, you must reduce the prices of petroleum products.
“Otherwise, that is fraudulent and Nigerians must stand against and fight it. These taxes are becoming too much and unbearable. Nigerians should resist these taxes and put a stop to it.”
On privatization of public enterprises, he said: “The history of privatization in Nigeria is that of agony and woes. As they privatise, the people languished, suffer and weep. Privatization has brought untold hardship on Nigerians.
“The formation of this union is to see through struggle to mitigate the effect of privatization on the workforce principally. The so-called investors laugh to the bank and Nigerians cry. If you know what happened in NITEL, you will cry.
“If you know what happened to Nigeria Airways, you will weep. In Nigerian Airways, workers were evicted from their official quarters, even without being paid their entitlements. In the power sector, it has been battle of life and death.
“We are happy we still have officials of the Ministry of Labour who insist there should be unions in these sectors, otherwise, if they hijack the Ministry of Labour that will be the end. Already, there is regulatory hijack by all the regulatory agencies.
”Whether it’s the NCC or NERC in the power sector, they have been hijacked by the privateers. It is NERC that now determines tariff that should be charged, you and I have no input, so also is GSM, when you call, the call drops, they charge you. There is nothing you can do.”
On his part, TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, said: “This will increase the hardship people are already facing, especially now that the minimum wage has not been fully paid.”
Good policy needed before returning toll gates — NECA
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, has called on the Federal Government to put in place an efficient policy before returning toll gates on federal roads.
The Director-General of NECA, Mr Timothy Olawale, made the call in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos yesterday.
Olawale urged government to engage relevant professional and business organisations to fashion out policies that would guide its operations for effective infrastructure development of the nation.
“We are conscious of the numerous benefits that the economy can derive from tolling. However, we are concerned of the past failures which characterised the management of the toll system across the nation, which were marred by revenue leakages and unmet maintenance of the tolled roads.
“We will like to reiterate that not all roads are viable for tolling, especially subsidiary roads and roads with low traffic volumes,’’ he said.
Olawale also said government should not place additional burden, in form of any tax or levy on businesses or individuals in order to fund the construction of the toll gates.
According to him, businesses and individuals have already been inundated with numerous taxes and proposed additional taxes, including the mobile phone tax, and increase in Value Added Tax.
He said: “All these and many more will reduce the purchasing power of consumers with dire consequences for businesses.
“Private sector operators should be attracted through public-private partnerships, PPPs, in the construction, maintenance and management of the toll systems, as it is done successfully in other climes, such as Egypt and South Africa.”
Olawale also called for the resuscitation of the rail system, as it remained the cheapest and most efficient of all modes of transportation worldwide.
He said the rail system would reduce the high cost of maintenance as it carried more than 90 percent of domestic freight and passengers.
NECA is the umbrella organisation of employers in the organised private sector of Nigeria.