As an association that has been at the forefront of advocating for resuscitation of tollgate collections across the country, the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) has called for the use of machines for collection of tollgate levies in order to curb corruption in the system. In this interview with PAUL EFFIONG, the National President of RTEAN, Alhaji Shehu Musa Isiwele, also called for the procurement of weigh-bridges at certain locations along highways in Nigeria and the association’s expectations for 2016, among others
You have been advocating for the reintroduction of tollgates along major highways across the country. Now that your request has been granted by the Federal Government, what are your expectations for 2016?
Yes, we have been calling for the resuscitation of tollgates across the country for some years now, but finally our request was granted and that is one of the major landmark achievements by this government. They have done so, and we want to commend them for taking such a bold step. Previous administrations paid deaf ears to our cry on the matter. 2016 is going to be a year of reward for all of us, and soon we shall roll out the drums for Nigerians to see the benefit that will be felt across board, both in transport sector and non-transport sector. In our organization, we have been working round the clock to ensure that things get better for Nigerians. We know that soon people will begin to reap the benefits of all that we have been sowing, because we cannot leave everything for the government. All we need now is for the government to create enabling environment for us and other sectors to thrive effectively. We want to thank the Federal Government again as they have listened to Nigerians by bringing back the tollgates for the country. They have demonstrated to all Nigerians that the government is a listening one. Let us make bold to say that tollgates across the country would help the government in the face of dwindling oil prices. Let me also state that government should also install special machines for the collection of levies at these tollgates. Countries such as china, Saudi –Arabia, among others, are doing it. The reasons for using special machines are obvious; it works transparently, even when humans have failed. The advantages of using the machines for tollgate levy collection in the country are many. For example, the machines can work even in the night, whether people are there or not, as long as it has been computerized to carry out such a task. It works 24/7 with little or no supervision. The machines are able to collate data, as well as issue receipt for all kinds of vehicles plying the highways. Such a development in the country could help us in no small measure, even as it can curb incessant cases of stolen money and misappropriation of funds at the tollgates.
As an association with many years of experience, would you say that our road network is up-to-date, motor friendly, like those of the advanced countries?
The solution for all these problems you have mentioned lies on the use of weigh-bridges in the country. Some advanced countries of the world are using it, and is working for them effectively, I believe it can as well work for us because some of our problems along the road is when vehicles are overloaded with goods, more than their carrying capacity. The negative effect of this is that the road will suffer absolutely. The weigh –bridge, I am talking about is just like a scale, where vehicles, no matter the size of the load it carries are weighed to determine the load capacity before being allowed to ply the road. The weigh bridge helps to determine the tons of load carried by truck along the road at every point in time. That is why I will use this medium to advocate for the establishment of highway parks along major highways in the country. This would allow every heavy duty truck driver an opportunity to drive in there and rest after certain distances. The park may not necessarily be for loading and offloading, but could help highway drivers, particularly those using heavy duty truck and trailers to have reasonable rest along those highways before continuing their journey the next day. The highway parks in the country should also have facilities such as hotels, shopping complex, mini market, etc, to enable drivers, who stop over during their long journey, for refreshment. Most accidents along our roadways occurred because of excessive speed, inability of drivers to have enough sleep and rest while on the steering. Resuscitation of highways in the country will help in addressing some of these problems because whenever a driver reaches a tollgate, he must, first of all, slow down to get his ticket after payment and that two to three minute could help such a driver if he was feeling dizzy. Tollgates generate money; contribute to the economy, as well as save lives of many who will slow down their vehicles when they are at those points.
What are the recommendations your organization is presenting to the Federal Ministry of Transport?
Some of what we have discussed here are already in place in some countries of the world, and they could assist us in different ways, either to improve our economy, preserve lives of our drivers on the road, as well as generate more income to us as a country. The Federal Ministry of Transport has a department that knows all what we have talked about here. For instance, some construction companies know about weigh -bridges, it is the device that detects the capacity of load or ton being carried by a truck or trailer. Most quackery oriented companies use it here to determine the load capacity of their trailers to prevent overloading.
Our major problem has always been corruption. Would you say the ongoing anti-corruption crusade in the country is devoid of sentiment?
The way and manner the war is going to me is good. Why must a selected few enrich themselves with our collective wealth and resources?. Many Nigerians have suffered and died because of corruption, many people have worked without collecting their gratuities. So, my candid advice is those who looted this country should account for it. First of all, the money they stole should be returned back to Nigerians, if such was deposited in the bank abroad. There should be no sacred cows. I also want to say that those who are convicted should be made to return the money they have stolen because, if one is convicted and is allowed to go away with our cash, we might still remain where we are. So, get them convicted as well as get back our money. When they are forced to cough out our money, then the government could use that money to create more job opportunities for Nigerians. The money retrieved from corrupt individuals could also assist the government in her national planning.
Will you support a directive for drivers to install speed limit devices in their vehicles as a strategy for curbing over speeding?
There is nothing wrong with that, I am a member of that committee. The essence of this is to curtail accident arising from excessive speeding by drivers. Enforcement date has been extended till April this year. Drivers buy fire extinguishers to prevent fire outbreak in their vehicles, they also pay for their plate numbers among other things. There is nothing wrong with buying speed limit devices for their vehicles. All we are saying is that such equipments should be original, not those ones from China. In Kenya some speed limit devices were fixed in vehicles only for it to caused fire incident in those vehicles. We discussed extensively on the matter on what should be done and what should not. After our meeting with the consultants brought in by the Corps Marshall Boboye Oyeyemi, we agreed with them that though the cost of the devices are still under negotiations, they should bring genuine and original devices that will last long for drivers.