By Elizabeth Adegbesan
THE sight of haggard-looking rough-dressed young men hanging on the doors of commercial busses in metropolitan cities like Lagos is common.
There is hardly any bus in the city without this set of people known as the bus conductor.
On a daily basis, this set of people display various characteristics and their mood determines the order of the day for passengers.
It’s either they’re fighting passengers, the drivers or their fellow urchins who collect illegal tolls on the road.
Lagosians are sometimes used to such a mannerless and abusive nature that they ignore whatever the conductors are saying.
But, it is not all about fighting for them. They also provide entertainment inside the busses, with hilarious jokes, street slang and well-groomed stories of what is happening in the society.
This aspect keeps commuters lively until they get to their destinations.
However, such hilarious dramas may not be rampant as most commercial bus drivers are dumping their services due to the country’s harsh economic situation.
Speaking to Economy&Lifestyle, Mr. Jimoh Sholanke, a bus driver who plies between Iyana Ipaja and Iyana Iba said he stopped having a conductor due to the increase in fuel pump price.
He said: “Since the increase in fuel pump price, I stopped having conductors. Before, I paid my conductor a service fee of N5,000 daily apart from the money he will steal, which is common among conductors.
“Then I would pay levies at various bus stops. Now, I can’t afford such expenses.
“Before the fuel subsidy removal, I used to run all trips with N5,000. I made at least N20,000 to N30,000 on daily basis.
“Now I don’t make such money. That N5,000 fuel now serves me for two trips a day and I make less than N10,000 from the two trips.
“If I had given my bus to someone to deliver a daily delivery for me, I would think the person is cheating me because he won’t be able to meet up with the new deliver as most bus owners, who give out their buses to drivers have increased the amount of their returns since the subsidy removal. I had to make do without a conductor.”
For Mr. Obinna Chukwuma, a bus driver who shuttles between Orile and CMS, he conducts his bus himself to be able to pay the increased daily delivery amount.
He said: “Having a conductor is helpful in this business. If you don’t have a conductor, some passengers will run away with your money; but with the state of the economy, I can’t afford to have a conductor now.
“What I do is to collect my money immediately I load at the park and settle the agberos (levy collectors).
“Having a conductor now requires paying from the little profit I earn from the increased price of the small quantity of fuel I buy. This fuel price is not sustainable.
“Before that, you would see a bus driver and say he is successful. There is no such statement now because fuel price is consuming our earnings.
“I deliver N15,000 daily to the owner of this bus now. Before it was N9,000. Imagine I pay a conductor N5,000 and buy fuel of over N10,000 and reduce transport fare price for passengers who are now very few at bus stops. As everyone is now cutting costs and the movement of people has drastically reduced, what is left to deliver?
“Many drivers are just leaving home to stop thinking. Some don’t even get home with N5,000 daily.”
Mr. Moses Shodipe, a bus driver who plies between Ikotun and Cele Express, said: “I do share a bus with a friend who is also a driver.
“The bus I drive is not mine or my friend’s. I work from 2 p.m to 8 p.m while my friend works from 5 a.m to 1.50 p.m. I deliver N9,000 daily..
“Before, I had a conductor who assisted me during this period. I paid him N2,500 because it is a half-day job and what he would steal would be more than that N2,500 from those passengers picked from the road when others alight.
“Then I did not have a problem meeting up with the delivery. But things have changed now. Life is very difficult with the increase in prices of goods and services, especially in my business.
“I just had to forgo having a conductor. I pay boys who shadow at the bus stops N100 instead of paying conductor N2,500.
“I also increased the price of transport fare during rush hours and reduced it in the afternoons to be able to meet up with my daily target and foot other expenses.”
Mr. Olumide Adesanya, a former bus conductor, said he was relieved of his job after the fuel subsidy removal because his boss sold his vehicle.
“I was a conductor before but the man sold his bus after the fuel subsidy removal. I started looking for another bus. Many drivers said they don’t want a conductor. While others wanted to pay me ridiculous amount.
“Some drivers cited an increase in conductor theft, while some cited increase in fuel pump price and personal expenses as reasons for not wanting a conductor.
“I just thought that I am a graduate. Let me look for a decent job since I know many people who can help me during my time in the conductor business.
“It was a good passenger friend of mine that found me my current job as a clerk in a police station.
“Persons like me who lost their conductor jobs are now shadowing and collecting N100 per bus while some are doing odd jobs. How does one sustain his family in this present condition of this country? God help us. “