A month after President Goodluck Jonathan launched 1,100 mass transit buses as palliatives to cushion the effect of the January 1 fuel price hike, the full complement of buses is yet t be supplied to transporters in the Federal Capital Territory.
The delay in delivering the buses to anxious transporters has worsened the plight of commuters, who have been subjected to high transport fares and long wait for the few available vehicles in the territory.
President Jonathan launched the buses, which he said the government acquired with the sum of N15 billion, at an elaborate ceremony at Eagle Square on January 8, 2012, and another N10 billion revolving loan through the Urban Development Bank.
But findings by our correspondents revealed that the full complement of the buses promised the transporters is yet to be supplied by the government.
Investigations revealed that the Abuja Urban Mass Transit Authority, AUMTA, which was promised 200 buses, is yet to receive any, a month after the promise by the government.
It was gathered that of the 400 palliative buses assigned to private transporters under the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, only 235 have so been given out to the union members for operation nationwide.
The National President of the NURTW, Alhaji Najeem Usman Yasim, told our correspondent that of the number of buses released to the union, 40 are servicing Abuja and its environs while another 40 buses have been given to members in Lagos.
However, AUMTA, which was promised 200 of the 1100 buses, is yet to take delivery of any of the buses from the UDB, which has the authority to supply them to the agency.
Findings revealed that although the UDB has taken 14 of the buses to the premises of the AUMTA, they were yet to hand over the keys and other vital items relating to the vehicles to the transport agency. AUMTA’s head of operation, Mr. Eddie Ajon, told our correspondent that the agency had however prepared itself for the utilization of the new buses to ease commuters’ mounting worries.
The operations director said that the agency’s fleet, which had dwindled from 290 to 50 vehicles, still charges N80 per passenger, saying that the amount could not sustain its operation in a competitive environment in which it had found itself.
Ajon said that the current passenger rate of N80 per bus ride was not viable, pointing out that, for the mass transit agency to break even, each of its passengers should part with at least N120 per drop.
He said the 50 buses still operating in the FCT do not operate beyond 6pm because of inadequate drivers and traffic problems, which do not allow the drivers to move fast.
Commuters in thenFCT have described the buses, which the government claimed to be brand new, as refurbished, saying that some of them had already broken down.