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‘How private sector participation can ease Lagos traffic’

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Traffic gridlock along Mile Two-Oshodi expressway by Toyota Bus Stop in Lagos… PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI


The World Bank categorises poverty into three levels: Those who live on less than $1.90 a day, those who live on less than $3.20 a day, and those who live on less than $5.50 a day. Many Nigerians fall within the $1.90 a day bracket.

The 2019 expenditure pattern report that measures Nigeria’s spending pattern in both food and non-food items, revealed that 56.6 per cent of the household expenditure in 2019 was spent on food, with the balance of about 43.35 spent on non-food items.

Similarly, a recent survey by FinMark Trust in partnership with EFInA, earlier in June, revealed that Nigerian households were beginning to experience reduced income, lower food consumption, and reduced access to financial and health services following the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic and related lockdowns. Consequently, the low purchasing power is now even lower.

Despite the weakened purchasing power, costs have continued to remain static and even higher, due to inflationary trends. The recent hike in cost of transportation, partly due to adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols and construction on major roads in the State, has further stressed the spending limit of many Nigerians, especially those living in Lagos.

For motorists and residents in Lagos, anytime there is an announcement bordering on road rehabilitation or construction plans, especially as regards fixing some sections of the roads, nightmares and palpable fears of horrendous days of traffic come to their minds.

While gridlocks and slow-paced movements characterise many road constructions, the situation with repairs in Lagos generally left road users, who equally experience the pace of activities in the metropolis to question the reputation of government’s effort in recent times.

To many road users who spoke with The Guardian, road repairs despite having a longer toll on motorists have continued to create unusual hardship and unnecessary gridlocks on the roads.

While some of the motorists lamented spending hours for journeys that should have lasted minutes, others said the gridlocks had also spiked fares.

Indeed, the logjam perpetually leaves road users stranded. Many struggled to hop on any available vehicle, some looked on dejectedly in a snail-moving traffic while others disembarked from buses after paying the fare to trek long distance.

Most of the commuters blamed transporters’ greed for the incessant increase in fare.

The spike, which cuts across all parts of the state, started from the lockdown and got worse with the closure of the Third Mainland Bridge. A journey that normally costs N200 went as high as N500, N700 or sometimes N1000.00.

An overview of increase shows that the fares are similar in all routes across the states including tricycle operations. For instance, a journey from Mile 2 to Oshodi, which usually costs between N150 and N200, is now about N400 and could get higher as people try to avoid being stranded in the curfew.

A distance from Oshodi to Egbeda before the lockdown was pegged at N200 while commuters now pay N500 or more when there is traffic on the route.

Also, from Berger in Ojodu to Oshodi, a distance that used to be between N200-N300 at most now goes for 500 and 700.00 respectively. Berger to Mile II that was at a rate of 400.00 is currently charged at the rate of N1, 200 or N1000 sometimes.

Similarly, a trip from Badagry to Iyana Iba, which cost N300, is now N800 or more. From Iyana Iba to Mile 2, cost N150 or N200 now N300.

From Oshodi to Obalende, which usually cost N200 is now N300 or more, while Oshodi to Ajah, which costs N500 is now N700.

A twitter user, Dr. Guendouzi, @fimiletoks, said the surest way out of these transportation issues in Lagos is a total liberalisation of the intra-city transport sector. The private sector can provide mass transit or luxurious buses.

According to him, the sector cannot continue to be at the mercy of Danfo drivers and NURTW as they have shown over the years that they are not willing to up their game and provide the needed mode of transportation.

He said most of the yellow bus drivers still engage in driving rickety buses which are not registered coupled with untrained personnel while inflicting arbitrary charges on commuters.

Already, operators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Lagos, Primero Transport Services Limited, says it is impossible for the company to break-even with the new transport guidelines published by the state government.

However, the Managing Director, Fola Tinubu, said no sacrifice was too big to make in the interest of the Nigerian society.

The BRT boss explained that the firm had scrapped N100 and N150 tickets for short distances in the meantime, asking commuters to be ready to pay for the N200, N250 or 300 tickets, depending on their routes.

The Lagos Bus Service Ltd (LBSL), operator of the Marcopolo high-capacity buses in Lagos, had announced that the state government had given approval for an average of 46 per cent hike in fares with effect from August 1.

Unlike the Primero operated blue buses, which have the sole right to the BRT corridor till August 1 and commercial bus operators, LBSL chose to maintain its pre-COVID-19 induced lockdown fare. Before the pandemic struck, its prices were below that of commercial bus operators.

However, stakeholders said there was a need for more coordinated private sector investment especially in achieving an integrated intermodal transportation system.

Speaking on alternatives to ease the burden of high cost of living, Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof Samuel Odewumi, said there was not much that could be done to significantly affect the burden. The providers of transport services are also in a terrible fix. The situation whereby they can only carry 60 per cent of capacity has already scrapped off their profit margin. The business of transportation has to be sustainable in order to be able to provide.

“My major suggestion is that we should go back to the days of Molue albeit in a more modern format. I have my serious reservations about the imported sophisticated high capacity vehicles we are using on BRT presently.

“All these small yellow buses are not suitable for mass movement of commuters in a densely populated metropolis like Lagos. Once the capacity is increased, fares will automatically drop because of economics of large scale.

“The main point is that we should brace up for a rough ride on our transportation system. If the journey is not productively critical, ignore it and save yourself and the society the wastage. If you can do it online virtually, do it.

Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Fideth Okhiria, said the corporation is open to private sector investments.

According to him, the rail industry is trying to open up to the public by giving them the necessary enabling environment. “Private sector can come in with infrastructure, once we have an understanding, we enter into an MOU and come up with a sort of win-win solution.”


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