By Theodore Opara
COMMUTERS in Lagos State are lamenting the hike in fares which have gone up by 200 percent across the state since the introduction of curfew by the Federal Government.
Investigation by Vanguard revealed that most commuters now trek several kilometres to their places of work and residences since the lockdown and curfew introduced by the Federal Government. The increase in fares could go as high as 300 percent in the evenings.
Most of the commuters blame the incessant increase in fare on greed by the transporters who take advantage of the curfew to inflict more hardship on the citizens. But the transport operators are arguing that there is no way the fare could be the same with the social distancing in place across the state.
The fare increase which cuts across all parts of the state started from the lockdown and got worse with the introduction of the curfew few weeks ago. For instance, a journey from Mile Two to Oshodi which used to cost N150 is now about N400 and could get higher as people try to avoid being caught up by the curfew.
A middle aged man who spoke to Vanguard but did not want his name in print said he spends about N1,000 from Abule Egba to Mile Two and much more back on a journey that usually cost less than N500 before the COVID-19 lockdown.
He wondered why Nigerians so hated themselves and would like to make money from any possible opportunity.
To this end he said he treks several kilometres and uses the little amount he could save to buy things for his family at home. “These days, there is hardly food at home and the fear of watching the children crying because of hunger at home is the worst thing to happen to a man,” he said.
Also a young man Mr. Uche Okonkwo who works in a factory in one of the companies in Ikeja described the transportation issue in the state since the COVID-19 pandemic as “terrible and unimaginable.”
According to the young man, who is a graduate, transporters are capitalising on the COVID-19 pandemic to punish the masses even when the Federal Government had reduced fuel pump prices in the country.
He described the transporters as greedy and heartless bunch who are making money from peoples’ blood.
“Imagine a situation that people can no longer afford take lunch in their places of work because theyh do not have enough to pay for transportation back home. This is happening at a time most employers are either owing salaries or bad cut down salaries by about 50 percent,” he argued.
Meanwhile, drivers and transporters are complaining that they have been forced to charge more because of the social distancing which is taking its own toll on them too.
Mr. Adewale Idris, a bus driver in an interview with Vanguard said it was impossible for any bus driver to charge the old fare under the current dispensation for various reasons.
Apart from the reduction in number of passengers that they are allowed to carry, the vehicle owners need to maintain the buses, fuel them and settle the area boys on the road.
“We have families too. Sometimes after settling the various bills on the road, one gets home with little or nothing,” he said.
He appealed to the state government to tackle the harassment of drivers on the road by the area boys who make more money than the vehicle owners and drivers without any investment in this direction.
“Most times, the drivers are beaten up for refusing to part with their money without anyone coming to their rescue even in the presence of security agents. So how do you want us to recover all the money we spend on daily bases. The only source of getting back our investment is the passengers or we would have to park the vehicles at home” he explained.
Efforts to reach the chairman of Lagos State branch of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, yesterday, proved abortive as neither his phone neither nor those of his personal assistants could be reached.