THE high-capacity buses in the now-viral video shot by a yet-to-be-identified man at Eagle Square car park in Abuja is said to have gotten the nod of the FCT government to be used in mass transportation, says an official of 360TFA.
The man in the video had claimed the buses are second-hand as they are in a dilapidated state.
A staff of 360 TFA (360 Transport for Abuja), Akindele Ibukun, who introduced her position as a compliance and legal adviser for the organisation, noted that they have gotten the approval to commence operations and will most likely launch this November.
She also confirmed that the buses are second-hand and are currently undergoing refurbishment and branding at Eagle Square, where the buses are parked.
The video gained traction because of President Bola Tinubu’s promises on June 12 and October 1, Democracy Day and Independence Day, respectively, that his government would procure and deploy high-capacity buses across Nigeria to alleviate Nigerians’ pains due to his government’s removal of fuel subsidy.
Since the subsidy removal, millions of Nigerians have found getting vehicles to and from work difficult, especially in cities like Abuja and others.
Sources noted that the buses were brought to Eagle square after October 1.
Currently, along the Kubwa expressway and other areas of the FCT, there are scores of buses meant for mass transportation which are out of service and have been parked for a while.
ICIR’s news editor’s verification mission at Eagle Square
On Monday, December 4, The ICIR news editor went on a fact-checking mission to Eagle Square car park to verify claims in the viral video.
There were two sets of buses at the park. The first were 20 high-capacity CNG buses donated to the Federal Government by the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria.
The buses are new and manufactured in Nigeria by Innoson. They were parked close to Eagle Square, behind the offices of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the FCT Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS), also known as the Vehicle Inspection Officer (VIO), at the car park.
The others comprise 14 high-capacity buses parked near the eateries within the premises. These were the buses in the viral videos, and there were signs that they were undergoing repairs.
Findings by The ICIR show that a private firm, 360TFA (360 Transport for Abuja), owns the buses, which it will use for commercial transportation services in the nation’s capital.
Interestingly, the company which claims it has gotten its operation licenses and approval was registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on August 29, 2023, with the registration number 7116298.
It has its address at Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent in Abuja.
The ICIR could not independently verify if a firm registered in late August can process and already have its operation licenses. However, Akindele, the legal adviser, says they do and was willing to show the police while adding that she actively participated in the process.
The ICIR findings also show that the company has a link with a fintech firm, Kwankol. Kwankol has Akindele listed as the legal and compliance officer, it also has Luqman Atolagbe listed as corporate service and compliance staff. Akindele had introduced him as her colleague at 360TFA.
How The ICIR journalist was detained for hours
While snapping the buses, some private security guards at the park approached the journalist and challenged him, demanding to know why he took the pictures.
They immediately called on the officers in charge of the buses to arrest him while also calling on one of the Police officers at the Federal Secretariat’s Police station to arrest the reporter.
The Police officers and the private security guards working for the Property Development Company (APDC), which manages the park, detained the journalist at the guards’ office for four hours saying they couldn’t let him go without the approval of the management of 360TFA which they explained have been notified and were on their way.
Akindele, who later identified as the company’s legal adviser, came with Kwakol’s corporate service and compliance officer, Luqman Atolagbe, who she introduced as her colleague at 360TFA.
Akindele, insisted on the reporters identification, which was provided, The ICIR also independently confirmed to her that he is their reporter but she insisted he must provide a written letter which will be a determination for his release. In addition, the management of the park (Property Development Company, APDC) insisted that the reporter’s phone be seized and he should give his password and also give them access to his google cloud services. As such the issue was taken to the Federal Secretariat Police station.
Police lecture lawyer on journalists’ operations
Police officers at the station, including the divisional Police officer (DPO) Hassan Abdullahi, made it clear to the lawyer that the journalist did not need her company’s permission to take pictures or make video of any property kept in a public place, in which the public has an interest.
Avvering with the DPO, The ICIR reports that Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution empowers the media to do its work without hindrance.
After spending about three hours at the station, the DPO resolved the matter and asked both parties to go.
360TFA accused of parking buses without paying
Meanwhile, a source at the Eagle Square car park says the vehicles were parked without the on-ground management knowledge while adding that the 14 buses took up spaces that should generate money for the organisation daily, whereas 360TFA wasn’t paying a dime for the spaces.
Responding, Akindele said her firm secured permission from the FCT Transport Secretariat, which allocated the space to support the business.
What operator could lose to spaces occupied by buses
The ICIR calculated what the operator could lose to the spaces in a year, should the company have them permanently or temporarily.
The operators charge N100 per parking space. It is most likely that more than one vehicle owner parks in each space daily, meaning that the operators could generate revenue as many times as possible for a space, depending on how long motorists leave their vehicles at the park in a day.
Given this explanation, since there are 14 high-capacity buses, taking about three spaces smaller vehicles would occupy, the operators are likely to lose N1.092,000 yearly (being five working days weekly x 52 weeks a year = 260 x 14 vehicles x 3 spaces occupied by each bus x N100 charged per space).
Meanwhile, fees are paid on the 20 buses donated to the Federal Government by fuel marketers and parked on the premises.
Public transport system remains a challenge in FCT
Means of public transportation have been a major challenge for Abuja residents, making the ‘one-chance’ criminal activity thrive.
One chance is a criminal group disguised as commercial drivers and commuters. They usually move around cabs in groups of two, three, or four, armed with weapons such as guns, knives, hammers, and other harmful objects.
They dispossess passengers of their belongings, including laptops, money, phones, and other valuables. Many of them conduct their illicit business using point of sale (PoS) machines to empty victims’ bank accounts, using force.
Among the recent victims of one-chance in Abuja was Greatness Olorunfemi, a young lady who was reportedly denied treatment by the Maitama General Hospital because the sympathisers who brought her could not produce a police report.
On November 16, this organisation reported how the FCT Police impounded 52 vehicles and arrested the suspects using them for one-chance activities.
Abuja had been with high-capacity buses, but they have virtually vanished. In December 2021, the ICIR reported how poor planning led to the failure of the Abuja Urban Mass Transport scheme, managed by the Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited (AUMTCO). The AUMTCO had scores of buses in its fleet.
Public transport crises have taken a worse turn in Abuja since the AUMTCO buses were grounded and kept at a facility along the Kubwa Expressway,
We need buses in viral video, but we fear they may pack up soon – Residents
Many residents who reacted to The ICIR’s journalist arrest at the park said Nigerians, especially FCT residents, needed vehicles to ease transportation challenges in the nation’s capital.
They expressed reservations about the buses’ durability. They referred to similar initiatives in the FCT, which are now moribund.
One of such residents, wondered why the FCTA would allow a firm to bring fairly used vehicles to a public place such as Eagle Square car park, refurbish them at the park and put those vehicles on the FCT roads.
FCT Transport Secretariat declines comment
While the Police DPO was mediating between the lawyer and The ICIR, a senior official at the Transport Secretariat, Farouk Aliyu, walked in with his team. He confirmed his office approved the buses to operate.
The DPO challenged him on why used buses would be packaged for the FCT residents and brought to Eagle Square car park for the government to commission.
Efforts by the ICIR to interview the official when he stepped out of the DPO’s office proved abortive.
He requested that The ICIR meet his public relations officer to book an appointment for an interview in his office.
He also gave another option: his office would do a media briefing on the buses soon.