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Inter-state fare to increase as government eases travel ban

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•FRSC pledges support to combat COVID-19

With the easing of the interstate travel ban, travellers and passengers should be prepared for increment in fares, experts have cautioned. Recall that the Federal Government, on Monday, announced the lifting of the ban imposed since May 4, five weeks after total lockdown in some states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Besides, Members of Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA), had lamented the loss of about N200 billion following the 12-week ban on inter-state travels.

Indeed, the Association also decried the additional loss of about 400 human lives, and another 35 per cent recorded cases of now collapsed businesses due to the ban, which made its President, Isaac Uhunmwagho, to plead for the lifting of the ban at a news conference in Lagos.

Meanwhile, latest report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), shows that average fare paid by commuters for bus journey within the cities increased by 8.21 per cent month-on-month, and by 23.43 per cent year-on-year to N223.71 in April from N206.73 in March.

The report titled, ‘Transport fare Watch for April,’ indicates that average fare paid by commuters for bus journey intercity also increased by 5.22 per cent month-on-month, and by 10.92 per cent year-on-year to N1,779.51 in April from N1,691.23 in March.

Also, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Lagos Sector Commander, Olusegun Ogungbemide, has called on the motoring public to obey all the laid down guidelines by the Government to contain the spread of the virus.

Ogungbemide made this known on Tuesday, while speaking during the Command’s Management meeting at FRSC Headquarters, Ojodu, Lagos. He also warned that there will be an upsurge in traffic volume as the interstate lockdown has been lifted; hence traffic gridlocks would be inevitable during this period. He emphasized the need to embrace the 50% loading capacity for all vehicles, as overloading with either passengers or goods will not be overlooked by the personnel across the State.

“While travelling from one state to another, it’s important that we do not increase the risk of transmission of the virus. The public must continue to follow social distancing guidelines, and compulsory use of face masks to keep Coronavirus under control,” he said. He therefore advised drivers to plan their journey daily, and set out early to avoid rushing, which can cause excessive speed and eventual fatal crashes.

He also assured that FRSC will continue to work with sister agencies to help increase the awareness on COVID-19 and enforcement of all road traffic regulations.

However, experts say passengers travelling by road should brace up to pay higher fares following the lifting of the ban on interstate travels. Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said the interstate lockdown was executed more in the breach, as it became a source for toll collection by law enforcement agents. Odewumi noted that the lifting of the ban therefore became a fait-accompli, because the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) will not mount road blocks to enforce the order.

He added that the easing of the interstate lockdown was not based on the trajectory of the curve, which is on an upward swing, but acceptance of its ineffectiveness.

He said: “Governor El-Rufai expressed his frustration and admitted that there is no point in giving an order that cannot or will not be enforced. He almost turned himself to agbero at the (touts) check points, but all in vain.

“Hence my submission is that everyone is on for himself; God for us all. It is now high diffusion time, the horse has finally escaped from the stable, and the statistics of the affected, infected and the diseased will keep rising for a long time to come.

“Transport is a super spreader, and with the interstate lockdown eased, mingling will escalate, and I believe only strong immunity will slow it down much later. That is, when most people become infected, the weak ones die, and the strong survive. Being alive is ultimately an individual responsibility not that of the government. Since our mortality rate of COVID-19 is less than five per cent, the unlucky, the careless and the weak become expendable for nature’s weeding season.”

A lecturer at the University of Greenwich, London, Dr Emmanuel Mogaji, said the easing of the interstate travels does not mean the spread of the pandemic has ended.

“Therefore we should not let our guards down. More than ever, we should be vigilant. I would expect more influx of people to the commercial hubs/states, Lagos in particular. Therefore, more people, more traffic, and more exposure to the pandemic,” he noted. Mogaji also cautioned that unnecessary travels should be avoided, as the easing is more for economic activities, noting that transport fees will increase, and measures need to be in place for social distancing.

“I won’t be surprised if these measures are not observed by transport owners, therefore individuals have the responsibility to protect themselves. Avoid travelling if possible, and if you have to travel, buy your hand sanitizer; don’t expect any transport company to provide it. Transport companies have to be responsible as well, and communicate with stakeholders, especially the customers.”

He said transport workers need to be aware of the health implications of their exposure, as some states may not be safe to visit because of the prevalence of the pandemic.

“In all this, it further highlights the need to explore other travel options. Fast trains that can economically be suitable for social distancing (unlike buses) would have been worthwhile. Operators need to reschedule time and be ready for the loss of income, and this is where I think the government may come in,” he added.


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