EXORBITANT fares charged by transporters has been identified as one of the reasons for the low key celebrations recorded during the recent Sallah festivities.
However, drivers who spoke to The ICIR have explained the reasons behind the ‘excessive’ fares they charged during the Sallah festivities, noting that it was not a case of extortion.
The Secretary of the Abuja-Kwara State Express in Jabi, Alfa Hamzat, explained that the increase in fuel pump price and high demand for buses were few of the contributing factors to the ‘excessive’ transport prices.
Hamzat disclosed that his park used to charge N9,000 before the removal of fuel subsidy for a seven seater Sienna bus for a journey to Ilorin but later increased it to N14,000 till a week before the Sallah.
“Fuel subsidy removal affected us systematically in such a way that the cost of maintaining the vehicles has somehow increased. This is aside from the fuel price. People mostly forget that cars use beyond fuel. Take for instance, if a car goes to Ilorin and comes back to Abuja, it can’t do that two times in a row without requiring some maintenance.
“Before the fuel subsidy removal, we spent N14,000 on fuel for the whole journey, but we now spend N49,000 since the development.”
Muslims in Nigeria joined their colleagues across the world to mark the Eid-al-Adha festival, on Wednesday, June 26, which involved the slaughtering of ram to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s readiness to sacrifice his son to God.
Eid-il-Adha (Eid-il Kabir) is the second Islamic festival in the Hijrah calendar and is believed among locals to be the ‘big’ Sallah, and most people travel down to their hometown to celebrate.
However, there were indications that most people couldn’t travel home, or even partake in the celebrations due to the ‘excessive’ hike in transport fare, which drivers have tied to the removal of fuel subsidy.
The ICIR reported that the removal of fuel subsidy led to an astronomical hike in the cost of basic goods and services.
On May 29, President Bola Tinubu, in his inaugural address, declared that subsidy has been removed. Few days later, the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCLtd) officially increased the pump price of petrol by about 200 per cent.
The hike in fuel pump price, and the attendant rise in transport fares, resulted in many people giving up the hope of travelling to their hometown for Sallah celebrations.
In addition, Hamzat, the secretary of Kwara Express, disclosed that in the pre-Sallah period, the park charged N18,100, reflecting a significant increase of approximately N4,000 from the initial amount charged following the fuel price hike.
Transport fares increased during the Sallah period because most buses come down to Abuja with no, or few, passengers, according to Hamzat.
He added that the cost of fueling vehicles had risen by about 300 per cent since the removal of subsidy.
“There’s what we call the festive period, during that time, just like a week, we usually increase our prices. We are charging N14,000, but since a week ago we have started charging (N18,000). This is how they charged it everywhere, even Royal Riders on a normal day charged N17,000 and Kubwa charged N16,000.
“We increased the price not just because of the fuel price increase. On a normal day it’s two flows, meaning that they will bring passengers from Ilorin to Abuja and take passengers back to Ilorin but this time around many people are going back to Ilorin, so passengers are more than buses. And already most buses were in Ilorin, and would now come with empty buses.
“Like these buses (pointing to some of the vehicles), I was the one that sent N50,000 to them before they had to come to Abuja. And we will have to recover this money somewhere. Our commission is not different from how it was before, it’s just the fuel price and the cases of empty buses coming down to Abuja just to pack people home.”
Hamzat also revealed that number of passengers travelling for Sallah in his park reduced by almost 70 per cent when compared to the previous year.
Also speaking with The ICIR, a driver who simply gave his name as Shehu, blamed the exorbitant cost of transportation on the hike in fuel pump price.
“We are charging N5,500 per passenger for the 18-seater bus going to Kano. Before it used to be N3,000 but we don’t have options due to the amount we pay to purchase fuel now.
“For Jos, we are charging N6,000 now, and anybody going to Yola will pay N16,000. This is the price even before Sallah came.”
A driver of an 18-seater bus that plies the Oyo-Abuja route claimed that before he used budget N20,000 for fuel but now spends N61,000 on fuel for every trip.
The ICIR checked the transport fare to some states in Jabi Park, Abuja.
Passengers going to Jos and Yola were charged N6,000 and N16,000, respectively, on an eight-seater vehicle.
For Gombe, most drivers said they charge N12,000 as transport fare, noting that it used to be N8,000 before the removal of fuel subsidy.
Also, passengers moving to Oyo State were charged N14,000 for an 18-seater bus and N18,000 for an seven-seater car.
Passengers groan over hike in transport fare
Abdullah Musa looked pale and frustrated after visiting several parks in Abuja in search of a vehicle that would travel to Yola.
Musa, a youth corps member serving in the Federal Capital City, knew the cost of transport fare had surged but couldn’t believe it would cost him far more than his N10,000 budget. Before he used to journey down to his hometown at the rate of N7,000, that was before the earlier fuel price increase in 2022.
But now, he had to pay N16,000 to travel down to Yola to celebrate the Eid-Al-Adha with his family. The Muslim festival period was a big deal for him as his religion preached and he also saw it as an opportunity to be with his family members after being away from home for a while.
According to him, the round trip transport fare is now N32,000, about 96.9 per cent of his monthly NYSC salary. This is aside other expenses he would make throughout the period.
“I am going home to celebrate with my family. My family is in Yola and they all want me home. Besides, I have a wife and a daughter waiting for me,” he told The ICIR’s reporter at Jabi Park.
Just like Musa, Abdul Maruf was in Jabi park on June 24, to board a vehicle going to Kwara when he was told the transport fare was N18,000 for a seven-seater bus.
He explained that the price was different the previous week when he came to confirm the price for the journey.
“When I came here last week, they told me it was N14,000. I was even questioning them because it used to be either N9,000 or N10,000 before the removal of subsidy.”
We need urgent intervention from government — Drivers, passengers
Passengers and drivers who spoke to The ICIR urged the President Bola Tinubu administration to implement appropriate measures to alleviate the financial difficulties that followed the removal of fuel subsidy, especially the attendant hike in the cost of transportation.
Obama, a driver that operates the Kwara-Abuja route, called on the government to find urgent solutions to the problem as he now loses profits trying to pity some passengers.
“Anytime I tell passengers my price, they beg and price it down to their satisfaction. I don’t usually load in the garage where they have fixed prices. So it is easy for them to negotiate the price with me. And most times I suffered the brunt because if I don’t take them I may not see passengers again till I get to my destination.”
“I really hope this present administration will look into it as soon as possible and try to solve it. Some people said the removal will favour us, but we’re not yet seeing the positive result,” he added.
Abdulsamad Jenyo, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member serving in Abuja, also appealed to the government and other employers to increase wages.