How high transport fares in Lagos fuel inflation, reducing living standard
In Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, moving around the city has become like a nightmare for many commuters as both high transport fares and traffic logjam are contributing to stress and reduction in the standard of living.
Many residents of the state are also facing health implications as a result of man-hours wasted on the road due to poor road networks, impediments caused by broken down vehicles and indisciplines by many road users.
After the government lifted the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the state, transport fare has shut up across the state and commuters are not finding that funny as the situation continues to erode their financial positions.
Equally, debilitating is the increasing traffic jam in the state, compounded by the closure of two major bridges in the city, the third mainland bridge and the Carter bridge for repairs.
Aside the closure of the two bridges, poor road network and potholes across the state roads further contributed to the slow movement of vehicles on the road, causing logjam across the city and leading to longer manhours spent on the road by commuters.
Together with other factors that have contributed to the increase in transport fares, many commuters are groaning as a result of the implications on their health, finances and families.
The increase in transportation fares has also translated to an increase in the cost of goods and services in the state with consumers reeking under the yoke as they daily experiencing high cost of consumer goods in the markets.
To further worsen the situation, the government increase of fuel pump price in September from N145 to the present N159 per liter has emboldened transport operators to increase their fare arbitrarily.
As if the woes of the commuters are not over yet, the crisis that engulfed the state after the #endsars protesters were shot by men in military uniform on October 20, at the Lekki Toll Plaza, led to the destruction of many state-owned BRT buses and further depleted the fleet available for public transport.
The destruction of the BRT buses has caused major shortage of vehicles in some routes, pushing up further the cost of transportation in the state.
The ‘agbero’ factor remains a major issue in the transport industry in the state as their increased presence on major bus stops further contributed to high transport fare. Some of the ‘agbero’, are employees of the road transport union, and some security agencies who deployed them to collect illegal taxes from transport owners and drivers.
The consequence of this is that commercial transport drivers and owners have to pass the taxes to commuters who have no choice but to pay otherwise they will be stranded at the bus stops.
In an interview conducted by Guardian Newspaper, commuters expressed their anger over the high transport fare in the state and how it affecting their resources.
According to the interview, many residents lamented that commuting around the state has become too expensive and almost unbearable. They appealed to the state government to address the situation.
Friday Apeh said he has been paying through the nose to go to work every day.
“Before COVID-19, commercial buses were collecting N300 from Iyana Oworo to Ajah while private vehicles collected between N200 and N250. Buses carried four passengers while private cars carried three passengers. But now the price for commercial buses is two times the normal price and they are carrying full load. It is so annoying,” he said.
Uzooma Ukaonu, who resides in Oshodi area of the state, also said he has been finding it difficult to commute to different destinations within Lagos because of high transport fare.
“From my area in Oshodi to Ikeja Along which was for N50 before is now N150. The fare was increased due to the COVID-19 directive to transporters to carry two passengers per seat. My displeasure about this whole situation is that it is now tough for a common man to move to his/her place of business.
I would like it to go back to the normal price to make things easy for the citizens and enable them to meet up their daily schedule.”
“From Egbeda to Ikeja was N200 before COVID-19 with full passenger load. We paid N300 at the peak of COVID-19, with two passengers per seat. Now that COVID-19 has subsided, transporters carry full load and still mandate us to pay N300,” Rejoice Chinahuzo also explained.
Ifeoma okafor, a trader in Lagos, lamented that transport fare has been taking the larger part of her profit.
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“The cost of commodities are high in the market. When I buy at high prices, I still pay high transport fare to convey my goods to the shop. For me to make a profit I have to increase the prices of my commodities. My customers complain a lot but there is nothing I can do because it is not my fault as I will not carry the goods on my head from the market to the shop,” she said.
Many transporters blamed the situation on the increase in the pump price of petrol and the multiple ‘settlement’ they do on the road.
Lawal Hameed, who drives a minibus on the Idi-Araba- Yaba route said: “It is not my fault; we pay huge ‘agbero’ tax. Also, the high cost of petrol makes it difficult for us to go back to the old price of N100 per passenger. So we still collect the N150 COVID-19 social distancing price per passenger and still carry full load.”
A transporter that plies Yaba to Bariga, Kenneth Sunday, however, said they were yet to start carrying full load. He said: “During COVID-19 restrictions, we moved from N100 for full load to N200 for two passengers in a seat. Now that COVID-19 has subsided, we carry three passengers per seat for same N200, which was the COVID-19 social distancing price.
“You won’t blame us because ‘agbero’ collects their own from us; the high price of fuel is there and most importantly the road in my route is very bad. We have to run between different streets that are motorable and this prolongs our trip. We keep visiting mechanics for repairs because of the bad roads and that takes a lot of money.”
The question being asked by commuters and many residents in the state is that, can government intervene in bringing down the high transport fare in the state?
However, according to an official of the Lagos State, it will take huge resources for the government to replace those BRT buses destroyed in the course of the riots by hoodlums who hijacked the #endsars protest and that may not be immediate because of the budgetary constraints.
The official who does not want his name mentioned said the objective of the government was to consistently increase the fleet in the BRT to ease the transport pressure in the state but the destruction of the buses during the #endsars protest have further set back the plan.
What this means is that commuters will continue to endure the hardship brought about by high transport fare and long man-hours being wasted on the road as a result of the gridlock.