By Olalekan Bilesanmi
One of the cheapest fares in transportation, especially in Lagos, comes from the Lagos State government operated Bus Rapid Transit, BRT.
That is why at its designated bus stops, there are always long queues of passengers waiting to board its buses.
It’s cheap, clean, no hold up as it has its dedicated lane.
However, in March, passengers got to bus stops to discover that the hitherto fares had gone up across all routes.
As expected, there was an outcry as to the validity of the hiked fares, after all, government-run enterprises are supposed to be cheaper as against those privately owned.
Days later, the government explained the reasons behind the hike and justifiably so.
According to the Managing Director, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, Mr Abiodun Dabiri, government was mindful of the financial difficulties passengers were going through, but it approved the fare increase to save the bus scheme from collapse as the operators’ expenses on fuel had gone up by 71%, oil by 64 % and tyre by 90 %.
Government, he explained, has the responsibility to avert a collapse of the franchise scheme which currently serves over 500, 000 commuters daily.
Nevertheless, the scheme’s fares remain the cheapest.
Objectively, the fares hike was expected.
There is no time the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) hikes petroleum products prices without a corresponding hike in everything associated with the economy, including transportation.
Fuel pump price was N123.5 until the PPPRA hiked the price to N143.5 without notice.
Motorists had bought the same fuel the previous night at the old price.
Hike in prices is not peculiar to transportation, it cuts across the board.
Staple foods, of recent, witnessed more than 90% increment owing to many factors.
Many traders explained that states’ boundaries closure, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, contributed to the hike in prices.
Highhandedness of security agencies was another factor prices went up and will continue to go further.
Retailers of preventive materials like face masks selling for N150 soared to N600, just as alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which was selling for N200, increased to N1, 000.
Manufacturers will easily give a reason, if asked, why they had to increase prices.
The building materials sector isn’t left out as the cost of materials has also increased.
The price of 40 tons of granite, for instance, went up from N65, 000 to N85, 000.
At their park in Sango-Ota, drivers conveying the item to end-users were of the opinion that the increase was overdue owing to the rising price of petroleum products and the activities of extortionist security officials.
“Whether vehicles’ papers are complete or not, it is a standard rule that you must give between N1, 000 and N2, 000 to security agents whenever you are supplying granite to a customer”, one of the drivers said.
“From Abeokuta to Iyana Ipaja, we have about five checkpoints. It is compulsory that you drop money at each point otherwise they will hold you and you may end up doing nothing for the whole day.
“That is why, if you noticed, we like to discharge products between 2 am and 5 am because security agents are few on road at that time”.
It is the same story in Alaba International Market where electrical products’ prices have all gone up because of several factors.
Three months back, satellite TV operator, StarTimes, increased the charges of bouquets in its platform.
The rates are up by about 40% increment.
With the increase, its basic bouquet spiralled to N1,700 from N1,300 monthly which now has close to 80 channels; classic bouquet now N2,500 from N1,900 with close to 100 channels; while the nova bouquet remains N900 with over 43 channels.
Nobody should be surprised if Multichoice, the more popular pay-TV operator, decides to follow suit.
While it may be difficult to stop the various increments, the government has a greater role to play in ensuring that inflation is brought to a single digit.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, recently pegged inflation rate at 12.40%. The Naira- Dollar exchange is N387 just as Naira continues to depreciate.
Then there is the issue of multiple taxes which deplete returns on investment, erodes the capital base of listed firms, and subsequently trigger businesses’ collapse.
Until the government provides the enabling environment where all the above nagging factors are brought under control, it will be extremely difficult to stop the escalating cost of doing business in Nigeria.