BY Bose Adelaja
•As commuters bemoan Fashola’s free ride at Sallah
When will this lingering transportation problem come to an end in Lagos State? Kindly assist us to plead with Governor Fashola to ameliorate our sufferings as the State-owned transport service (BRT/LAGBUS) cannot solve all transportation problems in the State”. This plea was chorused by some stranded commuters at Ogba, a suburb of Lagos.
Many of them had trekked for a couple of hours and were exhausted when Vanguard Metro, VM, met them. It was evident that the restriction order slammed on tricycles popularlly called Keke Marwa is already taking its toll on many Lagosians.
Before now, the government had restricted tricycle operations in some Government Reserved Areas, GRAs, like Ikeja and Victoria Island but a few days ago, the restriction order was also extended to places like Surulere and Ogba-Ijaye where residents depend solely on this means of transportation. The restriction has forced many commuters to either trek long distances or remain stranded at the various bus stops.
Although the State government through the Commissioner for Transportation explained that the restriction was necessitated by the security problems in the State, some of the operators who decried the order, told VM that the situation has forced them out of business.
A former motorcyclist who used to ply the Opebi- Allen axis in Ikeja, Mr. Christopher Nzeribe, told VM that he sold his motorcycle in August 2012 to buy a tricycle on a hire purchase arrangement. Nzeribe who is yet to complete the payment for the keke, was devasted when the new order was rolled out.
A couple of days back, commercial activities were almost paralysed in some parts of the State when some Keke Marwa operators took to the streets to protest the high handedness of government. They alleged that the restriction order has forced them out of business.
Some of those who spoke about the development said the State Government had during one of its empowerment programmes in 2011, distributed some tricycles and motorcycles to them. They wondered why the same government will now turn around to place a restriction order on motorcycles in 2012 and on tricycles in 2013.
VM’s checks in the affected areas revealed that apart from the operators, the situation is also taking its toll on residents who now report late for work while the aged ones have been finding it difficult to cope with the situation.
At Ifako-Ijaye, a female tricyclist popularlly called ‘’Mama” said the business is not only a means of transportation but a means of livelihood for the operators. “It is from this business that I feed my five children. They may be forced out of school unless the restriction order is reversed,’’ she said.
Meanwhile, as part of the efforts to curb various crises among the Keke Marwa operators in the State, the government also came up with the amalgamation of the two associations controlling Keke Marwa operations in the State. By this development, the Keke Owners and Riders Association, KORA and Three Wheelers Beneficiaries and Operations Association of Nigeria, TWBOAN, are now under the umbrella of Tricycle Workers Association of Nigeria, TWAN. The group is led by Comrades Joseph Odusanya, Buhari Moses and Paul Oginni as Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary, respectively.
As part of measures to curb the lingering transportation problem caused by the restriction order, the executive members who recently addressed journalists in their Abule-Egba office, said they prefer dialogue to protests. According to them, the protesters did not inform the House before embarking on the recent protests as reported by some publications.
Comrade Odusanya said members of the public were misinformed that the operators have been banned. ‘’Based on some recent publications that the tricycles have been banned in Lagos State, this unguarded statement has created serious fear and threat within the rank and file of members of the tricycles workers in Lagos State and we have since been receiving telephone calls and complaints from members.
“We are complementing government efforts on the massive transportation schemes aimed at reducing challenges of transporting the masses and also reducing the mass unemployment within the State. We are using this occasion to state categorically that the State Government did not ban us; therefore, you should be resolute and go on your business not allowing anybody to mislead or deceive you,’’ he said.
Commuters bemoan Fashola’s free ride at Sallah
Commuters in Lagos State, have bemoaned the introduction of BRT/LAGBUS free ride system, meant to cushion transportation effects in the State, especially during festive periods like Sallah. A cross section of the commuters told Vanguard last Friday that the buses were not enough to meet the transportation challenges during the last Id-El-Fitr break, especially at a time when commercial drivers inflated their fares by 100 per cent.
Also, they complained about the lackadaisical attitude of the operators during festive periods which they said is becoming unbearable in the State. According to them, the officials behave rudely to the commuters coupled with the fact that there is usually an endless wait for the buses, many of which were completely withdrawn from operating during the festive period.
Some of the commuters expressed dissatisfaction with the development, saying government must curb the excesses of the operators before the situation gets out of hand.
During VM’s tour of some of the bus-stops, there was a long queue with very few of the buses in operation.
Also, some of the officials were unfriendly to the commuters as the situation almost resulted into fisticuffs at the bus-stops. Investigations revealed that some officials seized the occasion to engage in brisk business a constraint to the bus scarcity at Yuletide.
A LAGBUS source which pleaded anonymity said the LAGBUS franchise scheme, were totally withdrawn from the free ride system as they were supposed to be subsidised by the State government but this never come into being. Sources also hinted that LAGBUS officials also send the buses on hire without remitting the money to government coffers.