Transport Fares Soar As Nigerians Travel For Yuletide

Amidst stable fuel supply, transporters have jacked up fares in all the major routes across the country. The development is attributed to the mass turnout of passengers travelling from different parts of Nigeria to their country homes for the Christmas and New Year celebrations. The fare increase, which ranges from 20 per cent to 40 per cent in some states and up to 400 per cent in others have inflicted financial pains on the citizens.

A nationwide investigation by LEADERSHIP Weekend at the various motor parks in the major cities and towns revealed that the high fares had induced more vehicles on different routes, especially on the eastern and southern parts as well as Abuja, the nation's capital. In some states, the increase in transportation fares is blamed by transporters on the fewer vehicles in their motor parks as against the influx of passengers and touting. So far, two things appear unusual about the incoming Yuletide - the absence of fuel scarcity and chaotic gridlock- but as Christmas Day approaches, there are fears that the situation may get worse.

If the current trend continues, just like the previous year, the federal government will take credit for ensuring that the demons of fuel scarcity did not resurface as customary during the season. Two years ago, the increase in transportation fares was over 100 per cent to many destinations in the country. It was a period, motorists were 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.

Despite this positive development this year, 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. For most commercial cities like Lagos and Abuja, it is always almost emptied of its residents who relish travelling to their hometowns and whose Yuletide is never complete without the exodus from these cities. Some travellers told LEADERSHIP Weekend yesterday that they were prepared for the hike in transportation fares during the season while others described it as merely an exhibition of greed on the part of transporters who use the rush period to exploit commuters.

Fares Rise By 40 % In Lagos In Lagos State, some civil servants who fixed their annual vacations to coincide with the Christmas period have already left for their villages while others hoped to travel during this weekend. The transport fares charged by commercial vehicle operators have increased by 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

For instance, transport fares within the Lagos metropolis have been jacked up. A trip from Yaba to Agege now attracts N400 instead of N300 and Oshodi to Sango Otta costs N500 as against N300 hitherto paid. Also, the fare from Lagos to Kaduna have increased from N10,000 to N13,000 while Lagos to Zaria and Kano, jumped from N11,000 and N12,500 to N14,000 and N15,000 respectively.

However, transport fares to Abuja, the nation's capital from Lagos have remained between N7,000 and N10,000 depending on the nature of the commercial vehicle. Transport fares from Ishaga area of Lagos to Ibadan increased from N700 to N1,000 while Ishaga to Ife and Akure/Ado stood at N2,750 and N3,000 respectively. A survey carried out by our correspondent showed that as at the time of filing this report, transport fares to the eastern part had increased by over 400 per cent.

At Okeyson Motors in Iyana-Ipaja area of Lagos, travellers paid N8,850 from Lagos to Owerri and N9,000 from Lagos to Port Harcourt as against N4,850 and N5,000 before now. Similarly, Famous Motors charged N8,000 from Lagos to Owerri and N9,000 from Lagos to Port Harcourt while the fare from Lagos to Asaba, Delta State was N10,300 instead of the usual N5,300. Passengers travelling to Umuahia and Benin paid N11,300 and N7,200 as against N5,000 and N4,200 respectively paid in the past while others on the Ughelli and Port-Harcourt route from Lagos through Famous Motors paid N9,700 and N11,300 as against the normal N5,000 and N6,300 respectively.

One of the terminal operators, who spoke under anonymity, declared that it is their tradition to increase fares during the Christmas season, adding that in the last two weeks, transport fares to the eastern part of the country had been increased twice. He stated further that passengers who book online enjoy a discount of N1,000 each while those who come to the terminal stand the risk of not finding seats as the buses might be fully booked. According to him, the cost of transportation out of Lagos to the South East is bound to go higher as Christmas and New Year approach.

A commercial vehicle driver who operates from Lagos to Abuja, Mr. John Atulu, stated that more people travelled out of Abuja than those that entered it by road. He said that the trend was understandable considering the fact that Abuja is the Federal Capital City and the seat of government, adding that many civil servants and politicians prefer to travel to their states of origin to celebrate with their families and friends.

A trader who travelled frequently from Lagos to Kaduna, Abu Danladi, said that the increase in fares by commercial vehicle drivers was astronomical, adding that this period was not the best time for traders to travel. A passenger who waited at one of the terminals to board a night bus, Mr. Uche Usim, decried the attitude of transporters, saying that the government should intervene and rescue the masses from extortion by the operators

According to him, transportation is one of the sectors of the economy that is not regulated which make all manners of people to be involved in it. He averred that the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) have a lot of work to do in checking the condition of vehicles plying the roads, especially during the Yuletide. 'Fare Increase In Abuja Caused By Passengers' Influx'

Transporters in Abuja have blamed the increase in fare on the influx of passengers to the parks and the unavailability of vehicles. Some commuters however wondered why the increase when there was no hike in the official price of fuel or scarcity of the product in the area. A commuter, Mrs Aisha Ibrahim, described the increase in fares as a deliberate effort by the transport companies to exploit commuters and maximise profit.

According to her, ''their actions are deliberate. They are just desperate to make fortunes during this season. They are exploiting us because I see no reason for the hike.

For most of us here, we have made up our minds to travel home due to various engagements. "The price of fuel did not increase. If you ask them questions, they will reply 'Sai Baba.'  But Baba (President Muhammadu Buhari) has done his best to ensure that there is fuel in the country.

So, it is just sheer wickedness against their fellow human beings. How do you explain this huge increase in the fare?'' Another commuter who was Asaba-bound said that before yesterday she travelled to Asaba for N6,000 but on getting to the park she was told N7,500.

At Delta Line Park, Jabi there was an increase in the fare due to high demand from Abuja across various states in the country. The transport company increased the fare by 20 to 30 per cent depending on the location. For instance, Abuja to Asaba which was N6,000 is now N7,500; Abuja to Lagos formerly N5,500 is now N7,000; Abuja to Nasarawa, which was N500 is now N700; Abuja to Kaduna rose to N2,000 instead of N1,500 while Abuja to Kogi rose from N2,500 to N3,500.

At National Park, Utako there was no increase in fares as at yesterday. The fares from the park to the states were: Abuja to Zaria N1,700; Abuja to Sokoto N4,000; Abuja to Kaduna N1,500; Abuja to Kastina N3,000; Abuja to Lagos N5,500; Abuja to Lokoja N2,000, while Abuja to Ibadan was N5,000. Greed Responsible For Fare Hike In Sokoto - Passengers

Passengers in Sokoto, the Seat of the Caliphate, who travelled to other parts of the country, have attributed the hike in fares to greed. Some of them told LEADERSHIP Weekend at the Sokoto Central Motor Park that they could not comprehend the increase when there was no scarcity of fuel. They said that the ugly perennial scenario had almost become a norm, especially for the transporters.

Registering his displeasure at the "Ifeanyi Chukwu And Comm Nig Ltd", where there were only three luxury buses with numerous passengers waiting, a passenger said that he paid nearly double the usual fare from Sokoto to Onitsha and wondered why such insensitivity by the owners of the transport company who in his belief are Christians. He said: "You cannot imagine, from October they started increasing the fares gradually and now an all-time high. Instead of N7,000, we are paying almost N14,000 to Onitsha because it is Christmas season."

A businessman, Alhaji Mustapha Saidu, said that he wanted to travel to Onitsha to buy some goods but had no option than to change his mind because of the geometric rise in the transport fare. He appealed to those in the industry to always consider humanity and heavenly reward above material and earthly earnings. A corps member (name withheld) from the eastern part of the country, said, she had no option than to cancel her plan to spend the Christmas with her parents in Port Harcourt because she would spend her two months' stipends on fares.

A member of the NURTW at the park, Muhammad Illela, said that they have little or no control over the hike in the fares especially for vehicles that are owned by the southerners or easterners. At the popular ALU Motor Park, a few meters away from Usmanu Dandodiyo University's first gate, the fare remained relatively stable as most of the vehicles were going to states within the north. Fares Unchanged In Zamfara, Kebbi, Jigawa

Though residents of Zamfara State are travelling en masse to other states for the upcoming festivities, transport fares have remained unchanged. Trips from Gusau, the state capital to Kaduna and Abuja remained N1,050 and N2,500. But for those travelling to the south, they paid higher fares.

Transport fares also remained table in Kebbi State. Checks by LEADERSHIP Weekend at the Central Motor Park, Kebbi revealed that the fares from Kebbi to Sokoto was N900, Kebbi to Gusau N2,500, Kebbi to Lagos N8,000, Kebbi to Abuja N5,500, Kebbi to Kano, N3,000, Kebbi to Ibadan N7,000, Kebbi to Ilorin N6,000, and Kebbi to Katsina N4,000. In Jigawa State, commuters did not experience any hike in fares despite the approach of Christmas and New Year celebrations.

A commercial vehicle driver and member of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers, Hadejia branch, Ibrahim Musa, said that there was no reason for them to increase fares as fuel had remained available in the state. Transport Fare Remains Same In Rivers Transporters in Rivers State have continued to change the same fares despite the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

A visit to most transport offices in Port Harcourt on Friday night revealed that the transporters were yet to increase their fares. A manager of a local transport company told LEADERSHIP Weekend that they can only increase the fares if there was a rush by travellers. Transport fares from Kano to other states have risen astronomically leading to some prospective travellers postponing their trips.

At the Sabon Gari Motor Park and other major parks within the Kano City, passengers trooped to them to make their trips to their home states. However, the passengers who were mainly Christians met major increase in the fares from Kano to their respective destinations. In an interview with Malam Saleh Ahmad, a member of the NRTW, he said the rise was not as result of any increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) but due to the number of people travelling home as well as scarcity of vehicles on the routes of their choice.

At Unguwa Uku Motor Park, Naibawa, and Kano Line being the major routes to many places in the country, fares from Kano to Maiduguri and Damaturu in Yobe State rose to N2, 500 as against N2,000, likewise Kano to Taraba and Adamawa States which normally cost N3, 800 rose to N4,500. However, routes such as Kano to Lagos, which initially cost N7, 500 rose to N10,000 while from Kano to Kaduna rose fromN1,200 to N1,500. It was gathered that Kano to Port Harcourt and Onitsha in Anambra State peaked at N7,500 to N12, 000 respectively.

FRSC Deploys 39,450 Officers In Highways And as part of its commitment to safety on the highways during the Yuletide, FRSC has mobilised 39,450 personnel including special marshals, 806 patrol vehicles, 120 ambulances, 204 motorbikes, and 27 tow-trucks along designated routes to ensure sanity on the nation's roads. The corps public education officer, Bisi Kazeem, said that the special patrols which began from 15th December, 2019 till 19th January, 2020 entailed 24 hours enforcement along major highways, robust public enlightenment campaigns across the nation, prompt rescue/recovery services, stakeholders' collaboration, road safety observatory, uninterrupted motorised patrol, day time route lining, traffic control, and the operation of mobile courts.

Others are the activation of high alert on internal and external medical facilities, establishment of road camps and help areas, aerial surveillance, and purposeful synergy with other security agencies.

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