A Human Rights group on Sunday appealed to Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State to urgently do something about the increased toll charges at the Lekki-Epe Expressway and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge toll gates.
The Socio-Economjc Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) made the appeal in a statement signed by Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, its Executive Director, in reaction to recent fares increase by the Lekki Concession Company (LCC).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the LCC had on Feb. 1, increased the toll fare at the Admiralty Circle Plaza (Lekki-Epe expressway) from N120 to N200 for cars, N150 to N250 for Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV), N80 to N150 for commercial buses and N100 for motorcycles.
At the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge, saloon cars now pay N300 from N250, SUVs, mini vans, and light trucks now pay N400 from N300 and motorcycles will now pay N200.
SERAP, however, described the toll increase as “unfair and discriminatory” and not in the interest of the public.
“In the face of rising poverty and economic inequalities across the country, the Lagos State Government should be considering eliminating toll charges rather than allowing LCC to get away with overcharging citizens and residents, prioritising profits over the public interest.
“Unless the situation is satisfactorily resolved in the public interest, the government runs the risk of being viewed as beholden to special interests and out of touch with the public good.
“This latest increase in toll charges at the Lekki-Epe Expressway and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge toll gates is unacceptable, as it conflicts with the goals and commitment of the Lagos State government to provide basic public services to citizens and residents.
“It seems the agreement between the Lagos State government and the LCC is no longer serving the needs of citizens and residents,” he said.
The executive director said the government of Lagos State is obliged to respect the human rights of citizens protesting the toll hike.
“It’s time for Ambode to ensure and maintain a balance between the needs of the citizens and residents of Lagos State and the LCC.
“The authorities should respect and protect the right of protesters to demonstrate against the hike in toll charges and to voice their opinion.
“International human rights treaties ratified by Nigeria and the country´s own constitution obligate the government to safeguard the rights of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, ” Mumuni said.
He noted that the hike in toll fares went against government’s democratic duty of accountability to the people.
The executive director said: “Accountability principles require the government to ensure that the activities of the LCC aligns with the policies and activities of governance, and that the LCC is not allowed to exploit its monopoly position to charge excessive rates.”
“It is the duty of the Lagos State government as custodian of the public trust, to take the public interests into account in assessing the activities of the LCC.
“The government is further obligated to prevent unnecessary and unjustified harm to the public trust and interests.
“Both ‘pre-decision accountability’ in the form of consultation with citizens, residents and other stakeholders, and ‘post-decision accountability’ in the form of taking corrective measures to redress the apparent injustice to those that might be affected by the hike are key democratic and governance values.”
The group alleged that the toll increase by the LCC did not afford Lagos citizens a participatory role in governance.
“Citizens cannot be mere recipients or purchasers of government services; they must also participate in the act of governance itself.
“The shift from a participatory role to a consumer role changes the role of individuals vis-a-vis their government from one of citizens to one of consumers.
“This itself erodes the ideals of a democratic society.”
“States contravene their human rights obligations when they fail to take appropriate measures or to exercise due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate or redress the harm caused by acts by private persons or entities,” SERAP said.