By Jude Njoku & Bose Adebayo
WITHÂ just a day to Christmas, unarguably,Â the most popular and widely celebrated Christian feast, the various bus terminals and markets in the city are now a beehive of activities as those intending to travel besiege the terminals to board vehicles to the hinterlands while those who intend to stay back, engage in last minute shopping to purchase what they need for the yuletide.
Indeed, the great excitement in the air coupled with the spending spree, downplay the crushing economic meltdown in the country.
Vanguard Metro visited some luxury bus terminals and the scene was that of joyous travellers who want to join their kith and kin in the villages to celebrate the Christmas and New Year. Mrs. Lois Idimo who travelled with her children ahead of her husband told Vanguard Metro that they paid N5,050 per seat because they were anxious to be in the village for the Christmas. Mrs. Idimo who hails from Imo State, said that besides the joy of re-uniting with loved ones whom she had not seen for some years now, there areÂ Â some important family matters to discuss.
A lot of measures were put in place at the major bus terminals to give them a new look befitting the mood of the season. Vanguard Metro observed that parks at Ketu/Ojota, Jibowu/Yaba, Oshodi, Ikotun, Obalende, Mile Two, Masa Masa, Ojodu Berger wore new looks.
Transporters like GUO, C N Okolie, E. Ekezon, ABC,Â New Tarzan, Young Shall Grow, Ekene Dili Chukwu, Ekwos, God is Good, Sun Quick, Ocheson, Trackers, Imo Transport Company (ITC) and the Anambra Integrated Development Strategies (ANIDS) among others tried to outdo one another by offering improved services to commuters. Unlike what obtained in previous years,Â transport fares this time around were not uniform.
WhileÂ Chisco and C N Okolie charged N5,050 per trip to the eastern part of the country on Tuesday, GUO charged its passengers N4,500. The small buses charged higher fares depending on whether the vehicle is air-conditioned or not. A trip to Benin from Mile Two cost N2,550 on Tuesday.
But despite the hike, most Lagosians who were determined to spend the holidays in their home towns, remained unperturbed. The luxury drivers justified the hike. According to them, they always come back to Lagos with their buses empty. â€œWhat we are doing is turn back,â€ one of them who did not disclose his name said.
The fares are expected to rise further today when most Lagosians, particularly civil servants would travel. Most companies have already closed for the year, thus giving their workers the leverage to travel for the festivities. Even the popular Auto Spare Parts Market (ASPMDA) located at the Lagos International Trade complex would be closed to customers from today. The market will only reopen in the first week of January.
While many have defied the spate of economic meltdown, fuel scarcity and bad the Benin -Ore Road to travel to the hinterlands, those who want to spend the Christmas in Lagos besieged the markets to make last minute purchases. A foodstuffs dealer at the Iddo market, Mr. Columbus AkujobiÂ noted that although sales cannot be compared with what obtained in the market by this time last year, business has not been bad at all. Mr. Akujobi who sells grains explained that the price of rice and similar commodities only increased marginally because importers, in anticipation of the season, flooded the market with the commodity.
â€œGreat Nigeria Houseâ€ located in the heart of the Lagos Central Business District (CBD) was a no-go-area due to the human traffic into the high-rise complex where people sell different grades of shoes. The same scenario applies to the nearby Balogun, Idumota, Mandillas, Oke-Arin, Oluwole and Ereko. A young man who sells menâ€™s wears near Mandillas, told Vanguard Metro that business was dull until the last one week when customers stormed the market to buy clothes for themselves and members of their family.
AÂ trader who gave his name as Tony said he does not intend to travel for the yuletide. â€œI am a native of Enugu State but I donâ€™t pray to travel on that bad Benin -OreÂ road for now â€™Thank God for cell phones and e-banking which have made it easier for us to contact our relations.
My business suffered a recession in the last two weeks and I ought to have travelled home for relaxation but when I considered the state of the road, I decided to stay back. I am convinced that a lot of people will sleep on the road and celebrate the Christmas along the highway,â€ he said.