The Lagos State Government, on Wednesday, said it was inevitable to reopen the Lekki tollgate as the Lekki Concession Company, which is in charge of the tollgate, has debts worth billions of naira to pay to both local and foreign lenders and investors.
Speaking on Arise TV’s The Morning Show, on Wednesday, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, said the LCC owes local lenders about N11.6bn and foreign lenders $31.1m.
The tollgate began operations in 2011 with the LCC charging users of the Lekki-Epe expressway a toll fee in spite of resistance and protests from Lekki residents.
The tollgate was, however, shut down, together with the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge, following the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, which saw men of the Nigerian Army open fire on unarmed, flag-bearing protesters at the toll plaza.
The LCC announced, on Monday, that tolling activities would resume on April 1.
Omotoso said the reopening of the Lekki tollgate was coming after engagement and encouragement from the residents’ association of the area, transporters, and traditional rulers, adding that there won’t be “any resistance at all.”
“The first time that LCC went to the place, it was not just to open the place and begin to collect toll, it was just for the company to go there and see the kind of damage to its equipment and how such damage can be redressed. And not for them to go there and begin to toll.
“Even this one, you would agree with me, has taken about 18 months for LCC to plan to return to the toll gate because it has no choice after owing local lenders about N11.6bn and foreign lender about $31.1m. So, there is no way that LCC can just stay away from going back to tolling on that road,” he said.
“Also, there are about 500 workers at LCC, about 90 per cent of them have been idle for the past 18 months and they have families to feed; they have friends and relations to attend to. So, for the company to want to return now, and like I said, people have shown tremendous understanding,” the commissioner added.
He argued that only Nigerians in the diaspora have resisted the reopening of the Lekki toll gate.
“They send messages from thousands of miles away asking people not to go there and pay a toll while saying all manners of unprintable things about the tollgate and others,” he said.
“I do not know how it (LCC) is going to pay its debts, I do not know how about 500 workers, most of them young men who are just starting their families, I don’t know how they are going to be able to cope with their lives,” he said, commenting on what might happen if the company does not reopen the tollgate.