By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsur Olowopejo
THEÂ ceremony was elaborate and colourful and venue was the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja. The gathering was there for one purpose: To witness the launching by the Lagos State government of the second phase of 1,255 modern taxi cabs and hire services scheme being jointly financed by Union Bank of Nigeria and Lagos Micro Finance Scheme.
The scheme which was made possible through public-private partnership was, according to state government officials aimed at easing public transportation sector in Lagos . Governor Babatunde Fashola in his address at the occasion said that public- private partnership would go a long way in achieving and improving economic development if well tapped into.
According to Gov. Fashola, the measure was part of efforts to alleviate poverty in the state as well as creating a conducive environment that would encourage private sector involvement and investment in public transport services through raising the level of cost recovery in the transport sector.
The taxi cabs which are in different colours of yellow, red, grey, mixed black and yellow are to operate from 289 taxi cabs across 17 local government areas (LGAs).
According to him, the fares for the cabs would be affordable, adding that some merits of the air-conditioned cabs are convenience, comfortability as wellÂ adequate security.Â His words: â€œWe are here to open new vistas and new sectors of Lagos economy.
Our strategic partnership with the private sector has yielded yet another positive result. This is evident in our waste management, security, road transportation and road infrastructural renewal and so many other sectors. This is yet another success story.
â€œThat partnership has allowed Lagos State taxi drivers association and other independent operators to join the Lagos taxi business. This partnership has brought about 1,255 cabs and by immediate consequence, has brought about 1,255 direct jobs.â€ He did not stop there.
.â€œFrom welfare of N10, 000 a month, it was undignifying for people to queue to get wealth and that was why we went for the Lagos Micro Finance Scheme in order to create real skills, and to create people who will not be only employed but employers of other people and this is evident today as we see owners of businesses.
â€œThe major investment made by Union Bank and our partners in Micro Finance business for us is a huge signature ofÂ their confidence in the Lagos economy. Its means capital has not taken flight from here ( Lagos ) but finding a way home of safe returns to Lagos . This means new hope is alive.â€Â Applauding the involvement of I-Trans Logistics and other taxi cabs operators as encouraging, Fashola said: â€œOnly the brave will invest in Lagos State.â€
Earlier, the Commissioner for Transportation, Prof Bamidele Badejo described the launch as another landmark in the public transportation industry in Lagos State .
His words: â€œToday marks yet another milestone in the journey towards achieving quality of lives of Lagosians. Lagos State as we all know is the commercial nerve-centre of Nigeria , faced with the challenges of high road congestions, road accidents and in sdome cases loss of lives and propertiesâ€.
He therefore urged the taxi cab operators to abide with the rules and regulations guiding taxi operations as well as traffic laws as applicable on Lagos State public roads. He warned them to steer clear of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes or face sanction.
Also in her remarks, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. (Mrs.) Joke Orelope-Adefulire , said the State Government, in partnership with some micro finance banks gave out loans of over a billion Naira last year to operators of small scale businesses disclosing that this year N2 billion would be disbursed to the same category of people.
Managing Director of I-Trans logistics, Adebayo Ajakaiye who disclosed that his company was the second to be licensed in the state took up the challenge to support the state governmentâ€™s developmental projects. â€œBecause we saw the genuine desire by the Governor and his team to move the state forward by laying the beautiful foundation for Lagosians now and those unborn.â€ He said the feat by I-Trans logistics, one of the many registered taxi operators and managers in the stateÂ would boost and repackage taxi operations in the state.
I-Transâ€™ 200 black I-Tec Honda cabs, the gathering was informed, were sponsored by the South African based GROFIN. The Executive Director Corporate Service, Segun Omoworare stated that the 200 cars in the taxi fleet cost about N500 million, adding: â€œThey were duly insured by the state Assurance Company [LASACO]â€.
Also the National President of the Taxi Drivers Association, Alhaji Lateef Oseni, in his remark, commended the Governor on the various programmes with which he has touched the life of Lagosians and the role he is playing in the emerging mega-city, saying that the launch of the modern taxis was a response to his plea to the Governor to assist the members of his Association in the State to invest in the scheme.
Alhaji Oseni, who spoke in Yoruba, prayed for long life and a successful tenure for Governor Fashola and urged the Federal Government to emulate the Lagos State Government in providing a life-line for taxi cab operators in the country.
Some of the drivers, dressed in their designer uniform, who spoke with Vanguard Metro, described the programme as â€œlaudableâ€ and coming up at an appropriate period when transport sector is facing its most challenging task as a result of ever increasing population in the state.
The therefore urged the state government to continue improving road infrastructure in the state in order t to ensure longevity of the vehicles.
They also called on other investors and corporate bodies to key into the programme in the general interest of Lagosians in particular and Nigeria at large.
NSCDC tasks security practitioners
Nigeria Security and Civil defence Corps (NSCDC) hasÂ said proper training of guards is one of the ways to reduce crime rates in Nigeria.
Addressing participants at a stakeholders forum in Lagos, outgoing State Commandant, Nathaniel Ubong posited that proper training of guards would encourage professionalism in the industry, just as he called on practitioners to avoid living the job in the hands of quacks.
According to him, doing this will ensure maximum protection of lives and property in the country, â€œSecurity guards should be well trained before they are sent to various organisations for employment. This job is not for quacks, if our people are well trained, the rate of crime will drastically reduce in the country,â€ he said.
Ubong called on stakeholders to ensure prompt payment of salaries. â€œWhen we talk of security, it is not a lazy manâ€™s job; therefore we must give maximum support as at when due . By doing this, tthe nation at large, will rest from crime, said the Commandant.
Continuing he said, â€œItâ€™s high time we contribute our quota for the betterment of the industry, by doing this, I want to assure you that things will take a new shape in the history of the profession,â€ he noted.
NGO protests assault on member
Women under the auspices of Women, Law and Development Centre Nigeria (WLDCN), aÂ non-governmental organisation(NGO) last Friday, besieged the Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja, protesting an alleged assault on one of them by a foreign national.
The foreigner, an Indian businessman identified as Keziah Sait, was alleged to have almost strangled hisÂ former employee, one Miss Irene Iheyen, last month, following the latterâ€™s presence in the office after her dismissal .
The protesting women who described the act as violence against women , therefore called on the Command boss, Mr Marvel Akpoyibo, to carry out a discreet investigation into the matter in order that the foreign national be brought to book, adding that they would do all within the ambits of the law to ensure that justice was done.
The victim in her account, toldÂ Vanguard Metro that she resigned from the company four moths ago and had gone to thereÂ last month, only to be referred to as bitch by her former employer who thereafter, raised his hand on her.
Youths urged to shun crime
Youth in the country have been advised to shun all forms of crime and unholy behaviours capable of jeopardising their future.
A teacher and youth counselor, Mrs. Esther Ozuah gave the charge in Lagos during the 9th interactive forum on the Youth AgainstÂ Crime Project, organized by Center for Law Enforcement and Education in Nigeria (CLEEN) foundation at Bola Ige Millenium Secondary School Agegunle.
In a paper entitled: â€œImportance of Patriotism in Nation Buildingâ€,Â Mrs. Ozuah said as every country is aspiring to develop, the youth, as tomorrowâ€™s leaders must be adequately beÂ prepared positioned to take over from the present leadership.
And to achieve this, she said tenets and culture of patriotism must be inculcated into the youth.
â€œDevelopment is the dream and wish of every country. And every country in the world today is striving to be recognised as a developed nation. This cannot be achieved if our youths are not well behaved and patriotic,â€ she said.