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Travellers lament hike in fares despite fuel surplus

By Emeka Nwachukwu
24 December 2018   |   4:23 am
Tomorrow is Christmas, but two things are unusual about the season this time – the absence of fuel scarcity and chaotic gridlock hours to Christmas Day.

Tomorrow is Christmas, but two things are unusual about the season this time – the absence of fuel scarcity and chaotic gridlock hours to Christmas Day. The yuletide is associated with lots of travel as it is the longest holiday season, with many having extended holidays till the few week of the new year.

For the first, the Federal Government takes the credit for ensuring the demons of fuel scarcity didn’t rear its head as customary this season. For the second, it is puzzling. Reason is the city of Lagos is always almost emptied of its citizens who relish traveling to their hometowns and whose yuletide is never complete without the exodus out of Lagos.

Even at biting periods, especially when petrol scarcity is at its peak, most southeasterners would brave the odds to make that trip. Exactly this time last year, one will be considered lucky to buy a litre of petrol for between N200 and N250 as against the pump price of N145, while the same product was sold at the black market for N400.

But with the fairly crisis-free yuletide across the country, many home-goers are skipping the trip this year, The Guardian checks has discovered. Christmas travellers have decried the hike in transport fares to various parts of the country despite the availability of fuel and unchanged pump price.

Despite this positive development, transporters have continued in their habit of arbitrarily increasing fares against the plans and budgets of travellers who come to the parks disappointed and several others left in anguish over the situation.

A visit to the major transport companies in Cele, Ejigbo, Ikotun, Oshodi, Jibowu, Maza Maza, and Iyana Ipaja revealed a uniform price of over 70 per cent increase to various locations out of Lagos.

Buses moving from Lagos to Onitsha were charging as much as N12,200; Owerri N12,700; Port Harcourt N13,700; Enugu N13,400; Warri N13,800; Abuja N15,800; Umuahia N13,200 while Uyo which seemed a little scarce was charged at N14,500 where available.

Some travellers who spoke to The Guardian said it was merely an exhibition of greed on the part of transporters who use the rush of the festive season to exploit and rip commuters of their hard earned resources.

Mrs. Paulina Amadi, a mother of four from Imo State, said she travels bi-annually with her family to celebrate the yuletide with the entire family in the East but was disappointed on getting to the park yesterday to realize she would need to pay close to N70,000 to get to the village despite the availability of fuel.

She said: “In the past, we were complaining at N10,000 when there was scarcity of fuel and when a litre was bought for as much as N300, but today, every filling station has fuel and is selling at a normal price. So why the increase? We are supposed to spend two weeks in the village, what are we suppose to eat during this period if we use all on transport, what are we going to spend in the village?

“This is wickedness from transporters who are only interested in enriching their own pockets. This way our country cannot grow, if all we care for is to use every opportunity we have to get richer at the expense of others,” she added.

Calling for the regularisation of inter-state transport companies, Mr. Iwu Collins, a trader, described the situation as unfortunate. “It is unfortunate that while everyone is pointing accusing fingers at those at the helm of affairs over corruption and looting, we forget the harm we are doing to ourselves as ordinary citizens.

“This increase sometimes happens according to the discretion of the park manager who decides the price depending on turnout of the day. We need these people monitored against exploitation of common Nigerians who use the yearly opportunity to visit their loved ones.”

But taking to her Facebook page, Elochukwu Chisom Ifeoma, said its economics, not wickedness, attributing the hike to “forces of demand and supply as well as market structure of the transport industry.

“During this period, there is a more than proportionate influx of people towards the East of the country. Anywhere in the world, a sudden hike in the demand of a product will result to a hike in its price, as long as the supply is fairly constant. All airfares to most destinations in the world all had marginal increases during holiday periods,” she added

Ifeoma said the market structure of the transport industry is consisted mainly of Oligopolies. “Oligopolies are small number of companies not large enough to be monopolies but big enough to control the market.

“They collude to fix prices, hence becoming one giant monopoly especially during the Christmas season. That’s why God is Good charges N11,800 to Onitsha from Lagos while ABC Transport charges N11,400 for a route that used to be N7,000 barely two weeks ago.

“This is where the government comes in. The government can either monitor these companies and slap fines on them for collusion, or implement policies that will break them up into smaller pieces, or outrightly out-compete them in the market by entering it fully.”

A manager of one of the transport companies, Chukwuma Onyekwere, said apart from the high cost of new vehicles and effect on the season, it has become a standard practice to increase fares during the yuletide because people do not travel from the East to Lagos.

“The hike is in the spirit of the season. Do you also ask why rice, tomatoes, meat, shoes, clothes also increase in price? The cost of buying new vehicles is another issue responsible for the hike, because every year we ensure acquisition of new vehicles for comfortable safe journey for our customers. Also because any motor that leaves Lagos to the East return empty, drivers travel with money meant for double road expenses,” he said.

Notwithstanding, while some travellers have resolved to stay back in the cities to celebrate quietly, others are determined to travel home no matter the cost and means of transport. Some have however deferred their traveling to new year eve.

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