With an ever growing population of people in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, transportation and housing which remain the main concern of individuals in such a developing and evolving society continue to be over-stretched as the Federal Capital Development Authority continues to grapple with the effects of the influx.
Most workers and residents of Abuja who live as far as some other area councils like Gwagwalada, Bwari (which includes Kubwa) and adjourning states like Niger State (Suleja, Madalla) and Nasarawa State (Karu – Mararaba, Masaka) have had no other option but to manage the available form of housing at their disposal. However, the issue of transportation remains almost an insurmountable problem.
At present, Abuja drivers are not having the best of times as they continue to be extorted through multiple taxations by regulated and unregulated ‘ticket issuers’ who in most cases do not remit to the appropriate authorities.
As a result of the inability of some residents to afford housing space within the Abuja city centre, some residents have had to resort to the hinterlands where housing seems affordable. Unfortunately, having to move from one point to the other has been an issue the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) has had challenges dealing with.
Previous administrations of the FCTA, in a bid to alleviate the challenge of transportation from the cities and towns around the FCT, had resulted in the launching of high capacity buses popularly known as Urban Mass, currently managed by the Abuja Urban Mass Transportation system and some branded 18-seater buses managed by Abuja Leasing Company (ALC).
Prior to this and in a way to rid the FCT of any form of criminality, the FCTA had placed a ban on activities of painted taxis, a decision that did not go down well with some residents who had been used to this form of unregulated transport system at the expense of the government regulated transport facilities, which was obviously incapable of solving the challenges of transporting the multitude of residents.
After several years and the massive influx of people into the city, law enforcement agents and the FCTA had to turn a partial blind eye to the activities unregulated taxis in Abuja as a result of the incapabilities of the public transportation system made available.
It is worthy of note that aside the incoming of unpainted and unregulated taxis in the nation’s capital city, the ban on 18-seater buses popularly referred to as “Araba” gave way for the introduction of semi high capacity buses, meant to convey people within the city centre and from such areas like Nyanya and the environs.
As it became obvious that the FCTA was not going to be expending anymore on developing the road transport system as a result of the intercity railway which has just been recently completed, some of the transport workers under the auspices of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) had to organize the road transport workers, particularly the unpainted cabs.
However, some transport operators within the FCT in a chat with The News Chronicle decried the inordinate ways some of the union representatives have continued to extort money from them through multiple-ticketing, which they said often leave them with very meagre profit to go home with.
One particular taxi driver who shared his experience with our reporter said the issue of multiple-ticketing by some members and representatives of the drivers’ union has been the ban by the transportation sector, as some drivers decide to avoid taking some routes.
The driver said: “Why I did not take that route is because, if I decide to park there and load another turn from there, they would ask me to collect another ticket, and this is after I just collected one from our Nyanya Park. So, how do you expect me to pay two tickets just within 30 minutes?”
Similarly, another driver who spoke with our reporter revealed that why most unpainted taxi owners often decide not to use the designated pick-up points is because of the same issue of ticket. According to him, the money they pay for a ticket is almost half of the fare they will collect before their destination. As such, some drivers prefer picking up passengers away from the bus stops.
Also, the RTEAN and NURTW have a particular taskforce that ‘arrest’ vehicles/drivers who are not their members or who pick people at non designated bus stops, but further checks by The News Chronicle revealed that most of the proceeds of these arrests do not even go to the appropriate authority.
Our reporter was privy to a particular encounter where one Malik’s vehicle was violently arrested at the popular Area 3 Junction, Garki and towed into the NURTW office/park with an insistence on him to pay the sum of N10,000 before the vehicle which tires had been deflated could be released to him. This was on a Sunday afternoon.
Malik had no option than to call a relative to come to his aid. According to him, he was just coming from home and was trying to lift his first set of passengers that day so that he could have something to feed his family with, but he was held by representatives of the drivers’ union who were ‘looking nothing less than hooligans.’
At the end of the day, the sum of N5,000 was paid for the release of the vehicle, but when our reporter covertly tried to know if the money was going to be remitted, the ‘officials’ simply shared the money amongst themselves, something our reporter eventually gathered was usual and normal practice among them.
A representative of the RTEAN at the Lugbe branch who spoke with our reporter on the condition anonymity informed that the union had to organize itself in order to be able to monitor the activities of drivers and see to the betterment of the trade.
However, when one of the NURTW officials at Area 3 was asked how they remit returns from the ticket sales, he simply said “most of the proceeds usually go into our own pockets depending on where and the area one is being stationed. In fact, in most cases, we do not even give them tickets but just collect the money and share it within those of us that are on duty at the hour.”