On Monday, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, commenced the implementation of a directive banning commercial buses popularly known as Araba from plying routes within the main city centre.
The FCT administration promised to deploy 300 high capacity buses but by early morning only a few of the buses were on location. This worsened the early morning rush, leaving commuters stranded for hours and subsequently reporting to office or places of business late
The Secretary of the Transport Secretariat of the FCTA, Jonathan Ivoke, said that, henceforth, only licensed high capacity buses would be allowed to provide mass transit services in Abuja; while mini buses would operate at the satellite towns and other area councils. The purpose of the policy is to move people en-mass, reduce the time wasted in the traffic and improve the economy. However, on Monday and Tuesday, there were long queues at bus stops as the number of high capacity buses provided were low compared to the number of commuters. Also, there were traffic jams on some major roads as proper parking slots were not provided for the buses at the regulated bus stops.
I heard that Nigerians were completely dissatisfied with the buses but I wanted to have the experience to help me understand the situation.
On Tuesday morning, I headed for the Berger bus stop as early as 6am. I waited for almost one hour for the bus to be ‘full’. Full in this context is an understatement. The conductors kept calling and waiting for customers. The seats were all taken. The standing positions in the bus was filled, yet the conductors kept calling for passengers. At a point, people began to complain because whether you are sitting or standing doesn’t really matter as everyone felt very uncomfortable. People were literary falling and stepping on each other. There was no space to get money to pay, we had to wait to alight before paying the conductor.
A particular baby was crying hysterically but her mother was unable to feed her for lack of sufficient space. Generally, the experience was shocking. I couldn’t wait to get down. I’m was pretty sure that travellers that left home at the same time I did had gone past Lokoja.
By the time we started moving, passengers were stopping at every mile. From Berger to Area 11 junction, I recorded more than 31 stops. The journey which should not be more than 30 minutes took about 1hr 30minutes. Right there and then I decided never to enter the ‘so called’ high capacity buses.
I tried to have the experience but it wasn’t worth it.
I believe that the government did the right thing but the only challenge was how it was implemented. The Nigerian government comes up with good innovations but they are poorly implemented.
My point is why did they have to throw out the minibuses all at the same time. The best thing to do was to do it gradually. For example, the government should have experimented the ban on only Nyanya-Mararaba axis or one of the following satellite towns like Kubwa, Kuje, or Kurudu. If this had been done, there would be little or no challenge because the government should have discovered if the policy would be beneficial or not.
The Federal government said it would introduce more buses because those allocated were too few to reach the teeming population. But, no adequate plan was made for the provision of more buses by the administration before the ban of Araba. More buses should have been introduced before this ban. Why put people into untold hardship?
The truth is that we are trying to copy the western world without thoroughly studying our country to see if it would work well. In China, US and UK, these massive buses are very well organised and managed. They have time slots which is made available on paper and online. Drivers do not have to wait for passengers, instead passengers go ahead of time to wait bearing in mind that once it is time, the buses take the available people to their destinations. But, as illustrated earlier, Nigeria always have a way of cutting corners. Passengers heading to work spend unhealthy amount of time in transit, knowing fully well that this form of the delay can be avoided.
What value are the big buses creating? The only glaring advantage in Nigeria is that the buses carry a good number of people compared to the minibuses and the road is no more as cramped as it used to be.
The disadvantages however, outweighs the advantages. First, one must not enter the bus if they are in a hurry. No time specification whatsoever. People are crammed together like a piece of meat. The drivers do not know when to stop or say the bus is full as passengers are taken no matter what. The buses are few to cater for the population.
The main duty of any government of a democracy is to the people. It must fulfil its end of the social contract. The central purpose of government in a democracy is to be the role model for, and protector of, equality and freedom and associated human rights. Government leaders are social servants, since through completing their specific responsibilities they serve society and the people. But above and beyond, they must set an ethical standard, for the people to emulate.
The central idea or onus of the government should be the citizens but this is not the case in Nigeria. Most Abuja commuters are concerned and badly affected by the minibus ban and the government is only concerned with cleaning up Abuja. Who does that?
Nigerian government lacks focus, always in a hurry to implement policies without considering the pros and cons to the ordinary man on the street. One major problem we have in this country is that many of our government agencies and officials jump to hasty decisions without taking time to simulate several alternatives possible to ensure things are done properly. The FCT government should have ensure that palliatives are put in place before marshalling the order on the ban of green buses within the city centre. When decisions are taken in the manner they just did, it is the masses that suffer it.
There are other pressing issues that needs more attention in the country than cleaning up the city. Why are you concerned with cleaning up the city when more than half the population can hardly afford three meals daily. We are still battling with security in Nigeria, health care is low, unemployment is on the increase.
The most important thing to copy from the western world is the “people culture”. The heart of the government is completely in the interest of the people in all ramification. Not just lip service. The government of Nigeria should look into the National Health Service (NHS) system in Britain and see how it can be applied in Nigeria. The NHS services provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use for residents of the United Kingdom.
Truth be told, the mass transit buses are too few at the moment to cater for the population. I would suggest that the minibuses be called back until the government of Nigeria is ready to properly implement the policy of redistributing enough high capacity bus across Abuja.