Hardship. Pain. Agony Long faces. Curses. These, are the fallouts of the new transport policy recently introduced in Abuja by the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA.
The Minister of the FCT, Bala Mohammed, had promised that the new policy would ease transportation and movement in and out of Nigeria’s capital city, but since June 3 when it took effect, the impact on social and economic life, including schooling and civil service work, has been substantially negative.
Speaking through his senior special assistant on political matters and National Assembly, Usman Jibril Wowo, the minister promised that that “will make people move from the satellite towns to the city with ease and at a cheaper rate as the highest fare is N150 for people from Gwagwalada, Kuje and Zuba and as low as N50 for movements within the business district.”
But the experience of residents has been different. Rather, not only have transportation costs increased, movement for students, civil servants, traders and all other residents has become a problem so much so that schooling and academic life in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, faces a major setback.
A teacher at the Pilot Science Primary School, Wuse Zone 5, S Truman, is among those who come into town from Kubwa, a satellite town, every working day. Before now, by 7.30am she would have gotten to school, ready for the day’s business. But not anymore.
Since early June when the new transport system commenced she has been coming late to school because getting a bus to town has become such a hassle.
But even more worrying is the impact students. According to her, many of them get to school late, sometimes past 10.00 am, and thus miss part of the morning classes.
Even for those who come early, because many of them have to wake up much earlier now and also face a hell of a time getting to school, a great number of them sleep for the most part of the morning classes.
“In the past we used to punish students for late-coming but we find out now that if we are to punish them they may not be able to attend more than three lessons before the day is over and this will definitely affect performance,” she said.
The policy is also taking its toll on the parents as workers who have to commute from outside the city now report very late at work while some who cannot put up with the stress just stay at home.
For usually laid back civil servants, many have chosen to report at work only on specific days, sometimes only on Mondays or twice a week.
By 3:30pm-4:00pm in the afternoon, offices are nearly almost deserted as workers migrate to the parks to secure a good position on the queue and also to beat traffic, leaving their jobs to suffer.
The situation at designated terminals where the big buses are meant to move commuters in and out of the city is most pitiful during peak hours, usually early in the morning and between 3.00 pm and 4:00pm and is marked by long queues of commuters who are eager to secure a space in the limited buses provided by the government.
Commuters spend between 45 minutes and as much as two hours waiting at designated bus stop for these buses.
In spite of the queues which are meant to make the process of entering a bus orderly, there is still occasional pushing and struggling by the impatient or unruly, making the place rowdy and conducive for pickpockets.
Also, because of the huge numbers of passengers, the buses are overloaded with many standing in the aisles, thus leaving the journey prone to accidents. Some commuters have to stand all the way to their destinations.
At the Nyanyan Park, designated as terminus for moving commuters from the Karu/Nyanyan/Mararaba axis, passengers sometimes have to wait for two hours to get a bus. The scene is pitifully chaotic as thousands of commuters gather as early as 6.00 am in a bid to get a bus to town.
And the people are full of tales of woe and wonder how a representative government can foist such hardship on citizens.
Stanley Chukwu, a self – employee man, condemned the new system and believed that it is aimed at “punishing the masses”. He added that the cost implication of the policy is high as what he spends now on transportation has doubled.
He complained that the buses are restricted to particular routes and compelled to leave at a particular time.
Michael Chinonso, a civil servant and Mararaba resident lamented that the earliest time he has reached office since the commencement of the new policy is 9.00am. He noted that government has a lot to lose with the new policy as it has greatly affected productivity because workers resume to the office late and leave early.
Tony Oga, another civil servant who lives in Nyanyan said the policy is anti-people and complained of the high cost on commuters. For example, like many others, he now has to take two to three buses/cabs to work instead of one which means that he has to pay more.
He lamented that as things are now his salary would only be sufficient to pay for his transportation leaving him with nothing to cater for his other needs.
These are some of the realities of the two weeks old transportation policy in Abuja that has outlawed mini-buses from the city’s centre and inflicted greater hardship on residents.
Commuters are yet to adjust to the transportation plan and many do not see the plan working because it is defective and ill timed. The major criticism against the policy is that the FCT government has not provided enough big buses to move the huge population of workers who come into town daily from satellite towns that surround the capital city.
Abdullahi Baguda, a tailor who lives in Dutse Alhaji but who has a shop in Wuse area said that it was irresponsible of the government to rush into such a policy that would impact on many lives without adequately providing for alternatives.
“If you look at the queues and the number of the buses available, then you will see that this government is not serious. I do not think they planned the whole thing well or had the interest of commuters at hear when they came up with the idea,” he lamented.
Odiachi Josephine, a civil servant said the policy would have been a good policy if government had test ran its effectiveness and efficiency before its formal launch. This was a position amplified by Chinonso who suggested that government should have taken a cue from system in Lagos where privately owned buses are allowed to operate along with BRT.
Odiachi suggested that government should have a rethink on the policy and increase the number of the buses with effective logistics.
She observed that it has increased traffic jams as some commuters manage to go to office with their old moribund cars. Truly, traffic in and out of Abuja has worsened since the policy took effect. The traffic prone Abuja/Mararaba/Keffi road is worse off as commuters now spend up to two hours on the road, particularly after office hours.
Some commuters who are positive about the new transportation policy say with more high capacity buses available and an extension of the routes and terminals, the plan would prove more effective than it is now