Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta on November 17, 2021, during the 2022 Budget reading on economic policy announced government’s decision to cease the collection of road tolls across the country.
Ahead of the budget presentation in 2022, the Minister for Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako-Atta, after the budget presentation announced the immediate cessation of toll collection effective November 18, 2021.
The minister on his part to justify the move said in a release that “the cessation was to avert the further unfortunate incidents of motorists engaging in violence in their refusal to pay tolls.”
The result of the toll on traffic suspension was immediate from Kasoa to Pobiman and all other toll centres without drivers stopping to give money to the toll ‘vendor’.
Agitations by tollbooth workers and hawkers
Despite the convenience of the policy to drivers and commuters, the suspension of tolls posed a threat to hundreds of jobs. Persons with Disabilities who were employed to mount some of the tollbooths shared concerns about losing jobs despite an assurance by the government to provide them with an alternative job with GhanaWeb’s reporter, George Ayisi.
“It is the president who asked that they shut down the tollbooths. Since he’s the president we can’t say much because the job is for him but all we need is for him to take care of us. They shouldn’t allow people to dictate to them what to and not to do. The traffic is caused by these trotro drivers,” one of the workers said.
Some hawkers who also spoke to the reporter had this to say:
“Just yesterday when the news came in, you immediately sacked us from the place; what really is he trying to do and what exactly do they want us to do?
Another hawker added that “as for me, I have been selling at the tollbooth since my schooling days. Even after completing JHS, I decided not to go to senior high school because it was not going to help me so I decided to continue selling. Now that they are taking it, it is really a shock.
Tollbooths to be used as washrooms
In an interview, the minister revealed the government’s plan to renovate these toll centres to “provide proper and descent washrooms to be used by motorists so that we advise them to desist from the practice that sometimes you see cars urinating indiscriminately on the highways. At times, you see men on the left and women on the right urinating which is indecent,” he concluded.
What is the state of these tollbooths now?
The minister may have been certain in his words but his certainty failed to translate into reality. Sadly, the scenes at various toll centres across the country tell a different story. A tour by GhanaWeb’s George Ayisi across the Greater Accra region exposed how several of the toll centres built with the country’s scarce capital were in shambles.
At the Kasoa tollbooth, it lay abandoned with a handful of hawkers trying to get their way through to commuters as well as drivers. signs of disrepair were clearly evident with spoilt roofing hanging on the building itself tearing apart. Some parts of the centres had collapsed with one of the lanes unusable bad due to its bad nature.
On the Accra-Tema Motorway also sits one of the toll centres which used to serve one of the dual carriage highways in the country. With the absence of the man tollbooth collecting revenue for the state has sprung an avenue for a criminal venture posing risk to the public.
A group of men whose activity was captured by GhanaWeb during the filing of this report had set up an illegal u-turn for drivers who need to change their route on the motorway but are unwilling to travel the distance.
With no road signs to warn oncoming cars, the illegal u-turn set up by the men proves to be a ticking time bomb that could lead to an accident.
The Pobiman tollbooth which serves as one of the entry points welcoming travellers into the capital region is in a sorry state. According to the reporter, most of the offices in the edifice have been destroyed with thieves breaking in to take some important documents away.
Government announces re-introduction of road toll in 2023 budget reading
As part of measures to reduce economic hardships in the country, finance minister Ken Ofori Atta in the 2023 budget presentation said actions were underway to help fight the hardship.
“The fiscal policy measures to underpin the 2023 Budget for consideration and approval by Parliament include the reintroduction of tolls on selected public roads and highways with a renewed focus on leveraging technology in the collection to address the inefficiencies characterized by the previous toll collection regime,” paragraph 462 of the 2023 Budget statement reads.