Comrade Shehu Shugaba Yar’Adua is the chairman, Painted Abuja Taxis (PAT). In this interview with DAVID ADUGE-ANI, he speaks on the recent guidelines about operations of commercial vehicles in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
What is your take on the guidelines for commercial vehicles released by the FCTA ?
Well, we have the copy of that guidelines and I know that the secretary, FCTA Transport Secretariat, Comrade Kayode Opeifa took that decision after a meeting with us. The guidelines are meant to improve the transport system in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It is a laudable scheme.
On our side, we will try as much as possible, to meet up with those guidelines, as much as we can, while the ones we cannot meet up, we will liase with the secretariat to see how we can make adjustments.
Specifically, what is your opinion on the issue of fixing air conditioner in taxis?
It is both sides. For instance when I buy a car which has an air conditioner, at the cost of about N3m, you should not expect me to carry passenger for N50.00 or N100.00, the way it is being done now. You should expect that each drop I carry should be around N500 or N700.
And you will discover that most workers in Abuja don’t earn up to N30,000 in a month, and you know that such people cannot afford to pay for N500 or even N300 as drop every day, because of the hardship. So I believe that the increase will still go back to the commuters. Because by upgrading our cars, the transport fares in FCT will definitely rise. So the administration should equally look at the cost implications of the guidelines.
But if the administration, on its own, can discharge it own obligations, which involves removing the unpainted taxis on Abuja streets, allowing registered taxis to enter government ministries, hotels and estates, then we will have no problems with the new guidelines.
So, we are waiting for these guidelines, which will take off in October1, 2018, to see if the administration will succeed in removing these unregistered and unpainted taxis on Abuja roads. And also to see whether our taxis will be allowed to enter estates, hotels and government establishments and everywhere in FCT, without discrimination. I think we will comply with the guidelines, because they must have taken care of most of our challenges.
We also believe that if that is done, we will partner with banks and then recapitalise and bring in new vehicles. But the issue is whether Abuja commuters can pay N500 for each drop.
We want the secretary to use his office to introduce financiers so that they can partner with us to give us vehicles that we can drive at a subsidized price, which will be of an advantage to Abuja commuters.
This is because as it stands today, investors are afraid to invest in transport business in the FCT, because the illegal operators are too many.
In fact unregistered taxis are more in number than registered taxis and government has refused to arrest them. But if the FCTA starts arresting them, the business will be good, which is what the secretary wants to do. The administration should make it in such a way that not every dick and harry is allowed to operate as taxis in the FCT. It is all about security. The secretary should sanitise the transport sector in the territory to give room for investors to invest, so that people will have confidence in the operations.
Apart from the menace of unpainted taxis, we also have the challenge of multiple taxations in the FCT. For instance, if a company pays tax to government, there is no need to ask individual drivers, who are part of that company, to pay another tax. To me it does not make any sense. Painted Abuja Taxi (PAT), as a company, pays tax to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), but our individual drivers are being asked, by even the area councils, to pay levies and taxes.
This, I believe amounts to double taxation. And even after paying these taxis in FCT, by the time you visit other parts of the country, you will also be made to pay another tax. These have been our problems and we believe that if government removes these challenges, we will be ok.
What about the plate number issue?
Well, we have appealed to the transport secretary on this issue, because he said that every commercial taxi in the FCT must carry Abuja plate number. But some drivers have registered their vehicles before now. That is why we are saying that those that have registered their vehicles with their data and biometrics should be allowed to operate.
Alternatively, the secretariat should subsidise the cost of acquiring the new plate numbers, at least, N5, 000.00, so that the secretariat can collect the old plate numbers and give the new ones to them at that rate. These are people, who for sometime have complied with government policies and directives in the FCT. So, they should be given some preferential treatments. Then those ones, who are coming to register their vehicles new, must have Abuja plate number.
How many of your members are registered ?
We in PAT have our own data base and data capturing for all our drivers and we have sent the same to the secretariat. So we don’t have the problem of biometrics. In our data base, we have about 8,000 drivers, as at last December. The number has reduced to about 4,000 because some vehicles were broken down. So as at now, we have to do our verifications to know the number of vehicles on our fleet.
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