Almost two months after the ban on the buses popularly known as araba, many people thought that the fervency with which the policy came at inception would be sustained but that is not the case as CHIBUNMA UKWU writes.
The beginning of the year 2013 was exciting as it was greeted with wild excitement. little did anyone know that there were to be challenges midway into the beginning of the second quarter. this is concerned with the transport challenges they had to contend with.
With most of the commuters coming from various satellite towns like Lugbe, Kubwa, Nyanya, Karu, Dutse, Zuba, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje, and Suleja, it is no wonder the extent which the directive from the FCT authorities banning araba buses will have on them.
As a result of this, many were subjected to unbearable conditions they least expected. Many resorted to hiring private cabs at exorbitant prices because they could afford but others could not.For those who could not afford the luxury of the services offered by private cabs, they resorted to trekking on long distances usually to their nearest bus stops.
In a bid to force bus drivers to comply with the FCT authoritires’ directive for ordeliness at the various bus stops, many were subjected to all forms of intimidation and harrassment from the law enforcements. There was also the challenge of staying under the scorching sun for quite a long time before getting a vehicles.
This was due to the fact that commuters coming from Nassarawa /Keffi road, Masaka, Mararaba in the mini bus town service vehicles were expected to drop off under Nyanya Bridge from where they are meant to pick up the long bus to town, while those coming from Kubwa would be forced to stop at Berger bus stop as the terminal point.
This caused thousands of people coming to work in the city from the satellite towns to trek for about two kilometers (from Berger bust top to Zone 3 of wuse district) before re- joining another vehicles. All these made the citizenry wonder if actually the decision of the minister in this regard was indeed in their interest.
Defending this assertion, The Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Muhammed, said the administration had approved designated points where commuters from the satellite towns would stop to join SURE-P buses that would take them to the city, noting that about 191 buses had been purchased to ease the plight of the residents.
Speaking also on this, the Chairman of Concerned Youths for Good Governance, Alhaji Mohammed Awwalu Ibro said that the ban of mini- buses was not an intent to cause hardship to the residents of Abuja but a way of adhering to the transport master plan for the city.
“The recent ban on mini buses on some routes in Abuja by the FCT administration was never intended to cause any hardship to the residents. The true situation is that the FCT minister intends a realistic delineation for mini and high capacity buses in the FCT, just like it occurs in all modern cities of the world. The policy is intended to reduce traffic accidents, improve security and restore sanity on major roads and interchanges in the nation’s capital”.
“This policy on the restriction of the operation of mini-buses on some routes in the city is similar to the ban on motorcycles by the former FCT administration which was greeted with resentment and public uproar but in the long run it was the same general public that is commending the efforts of government.
When the high capacity buses commence services in the city, it will no longer be a situation of everything goes as there will be designated bus stops and the high capacity buses will be compelled by virtue of the agreement entered into with the administration to strictly adhere to picking and dropping passengers at designated bus stops and ensuring they do not impede other road users as was the norm when mini-buses were operating in the city.”
However, the masses do not seem to share this view as many complain of the difficulty that they encounter on daily basis as it regards transportation system in the city especially as some of them observe that part of the reasons for banning mini- buses were yet to be achieved.
Identifying one of the reasons, a commuter and a media practitioner, Mr. Ejike Omeje pointed out saying, “I don’t think that banning buses will be the solution to the violence and whatever happens in the commercial transport sector. I believe there should be other ways of doing it, if you remove the buses, we still have private cars; we still have unpainted taxis that are still doing their businesses. Government should look for a better way of doing it. The FCT administration should create a park for the commercial buses where they can take pick and drop passengers either within or outside here.”
Lamenting on the effects on pregnant women and the weak, a commuter and a church worker, Apostle Patrick Obeka lamented the stress the policy subjects the female folk to.
“One of the issues that give me great concern about this is seeing pregnant women and ladies walking a great distance to board a bus. A man can bear that to an extent but not pregnant women; thus the government need to get back to the drawing board in making transportation system work for all and sundry in this FCT.”
Conversely, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY recently realized that the banned buses seem to be gaining operation in the township as they all make such bus- stops as Wuse, Berger and zone 3, their terminal points. This, however, stirred up reactions from some concerned stakeholders who seek to understand the reason for the re- appearance.
Blaming this on poor management of transport system in the FCT, National Coordinator, Delta Youths Development Assembly, Mr. Daniel Onyemaka stating that the managerial spread of transportation have all gone illusive.
“If you take a good look of the whole scenario, you will discover that both the private and commercials are all in same sphere of complete disorderliness. This is as a result of decency in road usage and obedience to traffic rules have all gone illusive. This honestly does not befit the acclaimed status of the federal capital territory.
Thereby, until the minister enacts rules on traffic usage, and if possible set up task force if possible, that will assist the Federal Road Safety Corporation in making sure commuters adhere to this simple mechanism of transportation management; I am afraid; we will remain static as the day goes by.”
Speaking more on the problems that set the effective execution of this policy back, a man who claims anonymity pointed out leniency on the part of the government as the cause. According to him, commercial taxis and buses are gradually finding their ways back.
He says, “The problem we were having initially was that of Abuja Environmental Protection Board ( AEPB), who most times looses the zeal with which they used to mount pressure on the drivers to comply with the policy. Thus, taxis are outside now because government has reduced the number of security personnel and law enforcement agents.”
Responding to these, the public Relations Officer of the transportation Secretariat, FCDA; Mrs. Stella Ojeme reiterated to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that a committee had been set up to look into the transport system of FCT. She further acknowledged that the committee has completed their study on the matter and have submitted a report to that effect to the Honourable minister.
However, she revealed that the minister is still under- going the report as he is yet to comment on it. She therefore declared that until the minister responds to the report, the project remains on hold.