…commuters trek long distances as commercial bus drivers hike fares
….as gridlock reduces across metropolis
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Following the sudden increment in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, known as petrol from N488 to between N568 and N617 per litre, civil servants in Lagos state have resorted to shifting operations across the board to cushion the effect of the increment.
Consequently, most private vehicle owners in Lagos have decided to board public transportation to their offices and various destinations with the erstwhile gridlock often witnessed across Lagos metropolis reduced drastically in recent times as most of the highways visited witnessed free flow of traffic across the state.
Most of the areas visited include Egbeda, Iyana-Ipaja, Dopemu, Ikeja, Oshodi axes, Ikotun Isolo, axis, Agege, Yaba, Ikorodu Road, CMS, and Ikoyi, among others.
Also, residents have been left with no choice but to resort to trekking as means of transportation due to hikes in fares, with many unable to afford the exorbitant fares.
The metropolis, which is like a ghost town, has continued to witness commuters trekking to their various destinations on a daily basis. The inability to cope with the rising transport fares has forced people from different walks of life to embark on long walks despite the scorching sun.
Commercial buses and taxis have recorded a considerable drop in patronage by passengers, as more commuters have taken to alternative commercial transportation like Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, and trekking. particularly, short-distance journeys.
This development is being felt across various sectors. Lagos civil servants are not left out in the hardship as most of them have embarked on shift operations to reduce the financial impact.
While the government has acknowledged the concerns raised by the public regarding the fuel price hike, immediate relief for residents remains elusive. The situation has prompted calls for urgent intervention to address the economic challenges faced by Nigerians and to alleviate the burden of transportation costs.
As residents of Lagos continue to adapt to the new reality of trekking long distances, many are yearning for a relief package in the much expected “palliative” as promised by President Bola Tinubu- led Federal Government to address, cushion the fuel price crisis and restore affordable transportation options for all citizens.
Recently, Lagos State Public Service organized a public lecture for workers on the need to evolve and embrace digital operations as part of measures to reduce the effects of fuel subsidy removal on effective service delivery in the state.
State Head of Service, HoS, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, at an event to kick-off the commemoration of the “2023 Public Service Week,” and giving the highlights on the public lecture, tagged: “Building and Sustaining Digitalized Service,” explained, “As of today, we all understand the issue around the fuel increase which has actually affected the purchasing power with the fact that civil servants have to come to work through road transportation. Some travel in their private vehicles, while others in public buses.
“So, the topic of the lecture was actually picked in order for civil service to explore the new way of work, the digitalised mode of operations that are going on all over the world, the remote way of working.
“We want to explore how civil servants can work from home. This, we know will require a lot of change in the public service rules and operations.
“So, it is tailored in order to understand the new way of working all over the world. The communique of the lecture would be submitted to the state government for consideration and implementation.”
Workers and residents speak
Some of the workers and residents who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, mostly under anonymity, narrated how they have been coping with the economic situation in the county.
Commercial bus drivers have hiked the transport fares as high as 300 per cent. A journey that earlier cost N200, is now N600, while a journey of N100 is between N250 and N300 across the state metropolis.
A journey from Ikotun to CMS which used to be N1000 has gone up as high as N3,000.
A worker, simply identified as Idowu, who resides in the Alimosho area of the state, lamented how he has dropped his car at home and dumped the commercial bus to join the Lagos State staff bus in order to avoid the high cost of fuel on his meagre salary.
Idowu, narrated, “The hike in petrol has forced me to drop my car at home, I now join the staff bus home and to the office now because I can not afford the daily cost of fuel.”
Also Mrs. Adeola, who lives in the Ifako-Ijaiye area, told Vanguard that most of the ministries have adopted one day on and one day off for workers to limit the number of days at work due to the situation in the country.
Adeola stated, “Since the fuel subsidy and the latest fuel hike. We have resorted to a kind of shift service of One day on, One day off among staff. That is what most of the ministries staff are doing now. This is to relieve staff of financial stress occasion by the fuel hike.
“Though, we are working from home in most cases. If take random check around the ministries you will find out exactly what I just told you.”
Meanwhile, a check by our correspondent revealed that most workers operate on shift basis presently, as few workers were seen in most of the offices visited.
A senior official who spoke under anonymity as well, simply told Vanguard, “Anyway, everyone is still regular at their respective offices, just that many were thankful for the provision of staff bus that conveys them to and fro, as that’s the only support at this tough time for now.”.
A resident, Ayo Elemide insisted that the new subsidy regime, which enjoyed the endorsement of the APC-led administration, was worsening an already dire economic situation.
According to Elemide, “The increase is worsening the already suffocating economic situation on Nigerians and could crumble the country if not quickly addressed.
“It is appalling that instead of seeking ways to stabilize and grow the economy, the government has abandoned the primary purpose of providing welfare to Nigerians “Nigerians do not deserve what they are getting from the present government.
“I have been abandoned by two vehicles to board a commercial bus to work which is considerably low to driving. I have even scale down on the number of days I report at work. The hardship is overwhelming.”
Cash transfer register: We’ll come out with a stance in due course-Lagos govt
On the rejection of former President Muhammadu Buhari cash transfer register, Lagos State Government said efforts are on to evolve a comprehensive register that will capture a reasonable number of residents in due course
The Chief Press Secretary to the state Governor, Gboyega Akosile, who spoke to our correspondent, simply said, “We are taking a holistic look at the development and Lagos State, being a centre of excellence will soon come out with a stance on this.
“Lagos State already has a similar register called Social register, though it is not comprehensive because series of dynamics have taken place. I just want to assure you that very soon Lagos will come with a definite register. There is a template for it already.”
Commuters scramble for BRT bus amidst dwindling services
Residents have also resorted to boarding Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, to yellow buses, popularly, called “Danfo,” despite limited buses and dedicated routes with dwindling services.
15 years after Lagos launched it’s first set of BRT schemes, it was gathered that most of the buses have become a shadow of what they used to be, with many losing their former luxurious facilities and gradually looking rickety like their LAGBUS counterparts.
Checks by Vanguard revealed that Lagos first launched it’s BRT buses in 2008 with many of the buses air-conditioned and fully fitted with mobile phone charging ports.
For most users of the BRT buses, the comfort and ability to charge their mobile phones while in transit endeared them to the new transport mode.
But these days, the cooling system of most of the BRT buses has stopped working, so most of the windows are always open. Even the charging ports are no longer working.
Mr. James Owolabi lamented, “The cooling system has stopped working. The charging ports have packed up. It’s like sitting inside the regular Molue or LAGBUS. But for it’s dedicated lanes, and reasonable fare most of us would have stopped using it every day.”
Responding, the regulatory body of BRT, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Agency, LAMATA, through the Consultant, Communication and Public Affairs, Kola Ojelabi, said, “On the cooling system in the BRT buses, they are working but have to be switched off as part of cost-saving measures. We don’t want the operators to use the fact that they are using AC in the buses to increase fare. We do care about the enormous burden on the average commuter.
But the major challenges the operator is facing today are galloping maintenance cost, operations, and lack of spare parts, especially in the face of huge cost of sourcing foreign currencies for their procurements.”
PDP, LP, Falana kick
Following the increment the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Labour Party, LP, yesterday, rejected the hike, describing it as an act of provocation by the All Progressives Congress, APC-led administration against Nigerians.
While the PDP accused the APC of extreme insensitivity and callousness towards Nigerians, the LP, on its part, said it was just the beginning of hard times Nigerians will be facing under the current administration. Also, human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, insisted that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, NNPCL, should be restrained from further fixing the prices of petroleum products in the country.
Falana, also noted that having liberalised the NNPCL, the company should be restrained from further fixing the prices of petroleum products in the country. The legal luminary, in a statement, said: “In his inauguration address delivered on May 29, 2023, President Bola Tinubu announced that his administration will govern the country under the rule of law.
“The people of Nigeria were taken aback when the NNPL increased the pump price of petrol from N500 to N617. After increasing the price, the NNPCL turned round to claim that it was fixed by market forces.
“It is submitted that the increase of the pump price of petrol by the NNPCL is an affront to the rule of law on the ground that it is illegal in every material in particular,” he said.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to look into the incessant increase in fuel prices.
The resolution followed a motion of urgent national importance, titled ‘The need to investigate the incessant increase in fuel pump price’, moved by Ikenga Ugochinyere at plenary.
However, an amendment moved by another lawmaker, urged the House to direct the NNPCL to suspend the new pump price of N617 and revert to the old price of N540 was put to vote by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Benjamin Kalu, lawmakers unanimously rejected the amendment, shouting ‘NAY’.
Moving the motion, Ugochinyere noted that the incessant hike in fuel prices had, in turn, caused hardship for Nigerians.
According to him, the high cost of transportation will, in the coming days, lead to a hike in food prices in the market.
The lawmaker said: “Mr Speaker, this is the peoples’ House and we represent the Nigeria people, very soon with the way things are going, fuel will be sold for N1,000 per litre.”
He, however, urged the House to set up an ad hoc committee to summon the Group Managing Director of the NNPCL to look into the increase in fuel price.