By Bose Adebayo
WHEN the Buses Rapid Response (BRT) was launched on March 17, 2008,Â government officials said it was meant to ease transportation problem in Lagos State. So, the coming of the bus service scheme was immediately hailed as a blessing to most Lagosians since the buses were expectedÂ to carry a maximum of 60,000 Lagosians on daily basis.
Indeed, it hasÂ largely been a huge success as Lagos residents have since then been patronising the buses in their thousands. This is evidenced by the fact that on a daily basis, long queues of Lagosians wait patiently at designated bus-stops for the buses.
In fact, Lagosians residing around Ketu, Ikorodu, Palmgrove and Lagos Island are now regular customers of BRT buses in the state and happily applaud their services.
Also at the first anniversary of the scheme, the Managing Director of LAMATA said there were plans to extend BRT services to seven new routes within the next few months.
Ikotun residents were among thousands of Lagosians who had prayed endlessly to benefit from thisÂ state government gesture owing to the prohibitive costÂ of transportation in the area. Last week Monday their prayer was answered as the service was extended to them. In fact it was joy unlimited whenÂ as early as 6am the buses were already on queue to convey commuters to Iyana-Ipaja, Maryland and Ikeja.
However,Â it now seems as if the joy is shortlived as many of those who thronged the bus-stop wereÂ disappointed on discovering that the transport fare was far beyond their reach. Rather than the initial praises that welcomed the buses, officials were inundated with complaints about the high fare being charged.
When Vanguard Metro visited the bus-stop in the afternoon, there was little or no patronage as a lot of commuters boycotted the service even though officials pleaded with them to have have a change of heart.
When this reporter went round the Ikotun Bus-stop, it was discovered that private commercial buses were charging N40 to Council Bus-stop, N60 to Egbeda and N80 to Iyana-Ipaja. Meanwhile, a BRT ticket was being sold at N100 to Iyana-Ipaja without consideration forÂ Council, Egbeda and Idimu residents. At the same time BRT tickets to Ikeja Along were being sold at N100, while it costs N150 to Ikeja inside.
A ticketing officer who gave her name as Rita Okenwa said patronage was low due to the fare. â€œMany of them complained about the fare and I think it should be reviewed because if it continues like this, it will affect the scheme,â€ she said.
Another ticketing officer who pleaded anonymity also agreed osn the need to revisit the fare,.â€œWhen they come here to buy the ticket, before I know what is happening, they have already turned back to patronise commercial buses which they findÂ more affordable,â€ she told Vanguard Metro.
A commuter who spoke with Vanguard Metro said the buses were comfortable but costly. â€œIs there any need to talk about comfort when the fare is not affordable. I think it is better for those going directly to Maryland, the rest is nonsense,â€ said Kalu.
But to Grace Laguda, the service is commendable, â€œWhat do we do? Some of these commercial buses will never stop at Ikeja-Along; they will tell you LASTMA officials would arrest them but BRT will stop there and that is the only reason why I decided to patronise them,â€Â she said.
Attempt by Vanguard Metro to speak with top BRT officials on this route proved abortive as they were said to be unavailable as at the time of filing this report. A junior officer, however, said only the threeÂ senior officers are empoweredÂ to comment on the development. â€œAh! This is civil service O, only the three of them can attend to you,â€ he said .