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Legon Fires Back   
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The University of Ghana, Legon, has slammed the John Dramani Mahama administration for feigning ignorance at its (varsity’s) plans to build (toll) booths to collect tolls from road users entering its campus.

Contrary to impression given by the government that the controversial toll booths were constructed on its blind side, the Vice Chancellor of the Premier University, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, has stated that the authorities of the university had been in constant dialogue with the government since the inception of plans to rehabilitate the university roads and collect toll to recoup their investment.

The Vice Chancellor, speaking on Metro TV’s ‘Good Evening Ghana’ programme last Thursday, described as ‘shocked’ the demolition of the toll booths by the National Security Coordinator, Lt. Col (rtd) Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, and an eventual order by government for the university to halt the toll collection.

In March 2013 when the sod was cut for the over GH˘7 million project, the Minister for Roads and Highways, Amin Amidu Sulemani, was full of praises for the university, suggesting that other public institutions should take a cue from the universit’s initiative to maintain its roads.

“… It is certainly untrue that the Government of Ghana didn’t know about this project. The Government of Ghana knew about it, the Government of Ghana advised us on how to do the roads. The government of Ghana helped us to identify contractors for the tender process”, Professor Aryeetey disclosed.

“For me, it’s been a great shock that after all of these things, we get accused of acting unilaterally…The Ministry of Roads and Highways always knew that we wanted to create an alternative route and restrict access to Legon”, he stated.

“It appears the government was forced to feign ignorance due to the intense public backlash and lawsuits against the tolling initiative,” observed a lecturer at the institution. The university was charging between GH˘1 and GH˘2 from every vehicle that used the rehabilitated road into the campus.

In the letter ordering the institution to halt the charges imposed on the road users, the Minister of Roads and Highways stated that upon evaluation of the controversy, the government had decided to bear the cost of the road. “The Government of the Republic of Ghana, acting through the Ministry of Roads and Highways, has decided to absolve the University of Ghana from its financial commitments for the maintenance of roads on its Legon Campus,” Mr. Amidu Sulemani wrote in the letter dated February 18, 2014.

“In this regard, we are requesting the university to discontinue with the collecting of tolls on the roads for the repayment of the funds for the maintenance works,” he said.

The university, in consultation with its Council, has agreed to the order, albeit with a caveat. “The University however, maintains its position that the collection of road user charges is a lawful and legitimate act, and it reserves the right to reintroduce it in future,” Mercy Haizel-Ashia, the Registrar of the University of Ghana, stated in a February 21 response to the government’s order.

The authorities stated that they were suspending the tolls as a result of a promise by government to pay the GH˘8 million the university had contracted for infrastructural projects, threatening that failure on the part of the government to honour its promise would cause the varsity to reintroduce the toll.
Source: Raphael Ofori-Adeniran/Daily Guide

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