Of Tolls and Trolls

I begun my studies at the University of Ghana-Legon, in the year 1999. Boy, it was a dreary institution. I have never seen a more disorganized lot than the people who run affairs in Legon. Everything was so bureaucratic, highly unorganized and always involved queues.
The noise about University of Ghana and tolls really got my attention for three reasons:

  • First of all I am an alumnus and as much as I hate to admit it, I try to gauge from the news what is going on in my alma mater.
  • Secondly, I use the route through Legon coming from Adenta.
  • And thirdly because I was in the University for Ghana, I know for a fact that something as simple as organizing a toll collection may be a feat for those running the University.

Last week, the parliamentary select committee on roads and transport summoned the Minister of roads and highways, Alhaji Amin Amidu Sulemani to appear before it and explain the circumstances under which the University of Ghana, was granted permission to charge tolls for the use of its roads. The purpose of the meeting was to ascertain the deal made between the Ministry and University of Ghana. Some students had apparently petitioned Parliament concerning the tolls.  This development shows that not much has changed in the University of Ghana. If the students did petition, it shows that there was probably not much discussion or information that went out there concerning the toll and the users of the said roads.

In my days there was little discussion between the authority of the University and the students. The University had the propensity for coming out with the most ludicrous, impractical and arcane measures seemingly on a whim.
Back then there were less than 30 private cars on campus. These days almost every student seems to have one, or at least a sizeable number have cars.

Toll booths under construction
Toll booths under construction

What were the authorities thinking? That the average University of Ghana  student, the typical Legon student, would pay one Ghana Cedi just like that?…fat chance.

It was reported in the Daily Graphic (Saturday, February 8, 2014) that the Parliamentary select committee on roads and transport, had come to the conclusion that the University of Ghana acted within the law in its imposition of tolls for the use of its road. The vice-chairman of the committee, Mr Theophilus Tetteh-Chaie said the University of Ghana Act, 2010(Act 806) empowered the institution to impose tolls. The paper also reported that a loan of GH¢1.3 million had been secured to rehabilitate the roads and the tolls were thus necessary to pay back the loan.
Whether or not the University of Ghana is empowered to pay tolls is the least of my concern for this article. The University of Ghana has for a long time now restricted cars that ply it road. The University  of Ghana issued stickers years ago, these stickers were renewed yearly. Cars without the stickers were turned away. Many cars paid security men at the entrances or exits, these cars had no stickers. So many security guards could be seen stopping a car, pocketing a red one cedi and waving the car hurriedly on its way.

I was amazed but not shocked, to see that the collection of these tolls imposed was not electronically done. I saw men and women in toll booths that totally lacked design and were simply not practical… something that has plagued my alma mater for a while. The attendant in the first booth I tried to pay at, had to stretch out and downward to give me the ticket and I had to reach high to give her the money, it was a ludicrous sight. The next day I realized the lady attendant was out of the booth and standing comfortably by the booth giving out tickets when drivers paid….are the toll booths already white elephants? And I wonder why the security men who in our time were referred to as Addai Koti could not man these elaborate booths; after all, many are well versed in collection of tolls. I still have my 2012 University of Ghana sticker (UG sticker), which I bought for GH¢150.00 and used for 2 years whilest the road and booth constructions were being carried out. It has of course now been rendered useless with the tolls which came into force on February 1 , 2014. I cannot begrudge the University of Ghana for trying to recoup the money, after all the roads have indeed been rehabilitated. If indeed the authorities of my alma mater want to collect tolls and collect them efficently, then I suggest they do three things:

  • Firstly they should make the stickers easily accessible so that they can be purchased; this is an easier system with respect to monitoring and collection of money. I learnt that students would be issued with UG stickers. Nothing stops the authorities from collecting money as was the case years ago before the toll booths
  • Secondly, persons without stickers should pay the toll to the security men, it is indeed unnecessary to deploy new personnel to collect tolls.
  • Thirdly, there should be close monitoring; a look at the ticket given to me on paying the toll show the system is a recipe for disaster. The ticket was undated and given a simple code…..this looks like a meal ticket for a primary school canteen. If there is no monitoring, money generated will certainly find its way into the pockets of individuals and there will certainly be no money to repay the GH¢1.3 million Ghana Cedis loan.

My alma mater is a small picture of Ghana, brilliant ideas on paper, nice debates about legality or otherwise and a big fat zero on the ground when it comes to implementation. The University of Ghana should raise money, it is in the right direction but they should be wary of trolls who may just pocket the tolls and leave the University high and dry.