Sunday, 24th September 2023

Insecurity spikes fares, hobbles rail, road travels

By Benjamin Alade
07 January 2022   |   3:10 am
Land travel recorded one of its bumpiest rides last year. Besides the poor infrastructure that afflicted both road and rail paths nationwide, worsening insecurity made safe travel

Land travel recorded one of its bumpiest rides last year. Besides the poor infrastructure that afflicted both road and rail paths nationwide, worsening insecurity made safe travel a luxury that only a few could afford.

Travellers at at motor park

The free rein of daredevil ‘bandits’, killer herders, kidnappers, and armed robbers literally stifled inter-state travel and emerging rail options. Where the service is available and the drivers daring, the fares spiked by over 50 per cent.

The seeming beneficiary has been the air transport sector. But for an increase in airfares – as high as N100,000 for less than an hour trip amid poor schedule reliability – the travellers have been much more in a dilemma, as they were often stranded.

Stakeholders are unanimous that the disruption in transport is a fall-out of general insecurity. They, however, called for responsive and responsible policing nationwide, to stem the tide in the New Year.

Famished road
In the last year, kidnappings have become endemic on highways nationwide, with motorists getting abducted even in the daytime.

According to a report by SBM Intelligence, an average of 13 persons were abducted daily in Nigeria in the first half of 2021, thereby underscoring how common and daring the criminals have become.

The findings, which covered Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, South-West, South -East, South-South, North-Central, North-East and North-West, and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, represent the reported cases.

For instance, Abuja–Kaduna expressway is one of the most notorious in the north, with attacks occurring almost on daily basis.

Others are Birnin Gwari-Kaduna Road; Kaduna- Saminaka-Jos road; Kaduna-Kachia road; Kagarko-Jere road; Birinin Gwari-Kagara-Tegina road; Sarkin Power-Birnin Gwari route; and Minna-Lambata-Diko-Kaduna axis.

The famished roads also have the Nassarawa Shendam road; Obi/Keana/Awe road; Akwanga/Keffi road; Keffi/Nasarawa/Toto road; Gudi-Keffi road; Gudi Garaku road; Nasarawa-Toto-Gadabuke road and Akwanga/Abuja road.

In addition are the Niger Suleja – Lambata, Bida road and roads in Kushaka, Kurebe, Pandogari, Gidigori, Kusherki, Koregi, Alawa, Kwaki, Bataro, Chikuba, Shafa, Kauri, Zazzaga in Rafi Local Government Areas of Niger State.

A rail respite that failed
An affordable alternative to road travel is rail transport, where more citizens can expect to be moved in terms of space and capacity. Indeed, the rail sub-sector recorded major milestones in the outgoing year. The Muhammadu Buhari administration delivered within the first quarter of the year, a legacy project – the $1.7 billion Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge.

Daily, Nigerians thronged train stations to have a taste of the new Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge train system with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) promising to roll out more lines.

The delivery of the new rail project, which made the third standard rail system in the country after Abuja-Kaduna and Itakpe-Warri standard gauges, has given a boost to the government’s projection to connect all states capitals by rail before 2023.

But in October, the NRC suspended service on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line following attacks on its rail tracks. The train, packed with travellers, broke down after running over an explosive.

Prior to the attack, the rail tracks had recorded vandalisation and technical glitches that further discouraged rail rides among commuters.

Yuletide spike in fares
The cost of travelling inter-city has risen by 18.02 per cent year-on-year in November 2021 to an average of N2,644, according to a transportation report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

This increase is coming at a time when inter-state travelling is in high demand as Nigerians are travelling from one city to another to visit their families and relatives for the yuletide. The highest increase was recorded in the south-south region of the country.

According to the report, the average cost of bus journey intercity in the South-south region of Nigeria increased by 22.94 per cent year-on-year compared to the corresponding period of 2020. Specifically, the average cost increased from N1,769 recorded in November 2020 to N2,175 in the period under review.

Meanwhile, intercity bus fare is highest in the Northcentral region of the country at N3,075, followed by the Southwest area at N2,881.

The average fare paid by commuters for bus journeys within the city per drop increased by 1.46 per cent on a month-on-month basis from N440.09 in October to N 446.50 in November 2021.

On the other hand, on a year-on-year basis, the fare rose by 33.74 per cent from N333.86 in November 2020 to N446.5 in November 2021.

Also, the average fare paid by commuters for bus journey intercity stood at N2,644.50 in November 2021, indicating an increase of 0.38 per cent on a month-on-month basis when compared to the value of N2,634.46 in October 2021.

Also, the November fare also rose by 18.02 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N2,240.66 in the corresponding month of the previous year to N2,644.5 in November 2021.

The average fare paid by air passengers for specified routes single journey increased by 0.25 per cent on a month-on-month basis from N36,932 in October to N37,022 in November 2021. On a year-on-year basis, the fare rose marginally by 1.99 per cent from N36,301 in November 2020 to N37,022 in November 2021.

Meanwhile, at the state level for intercity bus travel (state route charged per person fare), the highest fares were recorded in Abuja, Lagos and Sokoto State at N4,826, N3,558 and N3,500 respectively. The least fares were recorded in Bayelsa, Bauchi and Akwa Ibom State with N1,893, N1,945, and N1,991 respectively.

A visit by The Guardian to parks at Iyana Ipaja, showed that despite the increase in demand for buses out of Lagos, there were concerns about the turnaround time experienced by drivers.

Call for responsible policing, security
A driver with GIGM, identified as Michael, said road travels have always been stressful, especially given the multiple police checkpoints around Ondo and Edo States.

He said: “They always block the road, causing traffic. At the end of the day, you spend more hours on the road. For instance, a journey of five hours becomes seven hours.”

Speaking on security measures, he said: “Well, we can’t be carrying security all around. The major thing the company tells us is to be cautious. The company always tells us to be mindful of the traffic, especially entering bush paths.”

Speaking on what the government can do, he said: “Those policemen should reduce the number of minutes they spend in engaging a bus. Imagine a policeman engaging a bus at a narrow road for up to four minutes when you have over 200 vehicles behind? How do you expect people to be comfortable with that?

Another driver from Iyare Motors, Obasi, said: “2021 was tough with insecurity in the country. But the only thing I observed now is that there are more vehicles on the road. Instead of people following travellers’ vehicles, they drive in their own cars. Most of these cars cause more accidents on the road.

“In terms of security, the personnel are trying, especially in Ondo and Edo states. There are roadblocks everywhere, there is nothing like robbery or kidnapping. But when you talk of delays, they can do that for pleasure. The time the policemen spend on each vehicle is much.”