The Lagos State Government has approved the increment of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) fares effective Friday May 29. This was announced by the operator of the BRT services on Thursday.
The Managing Director, Primero Transport Services, the operators of the BRT, Mr. Fola Tinubu said the fares have been increased as a result of COVID-19 exigencies. It could be recalled that the transit service company had on Monday, stopped operation owing to financial loss it has been incurring as a result of skeletal operation and reduced the number of passengers recommended for the sake of social distancing.
Mr. Tinubu told the press: “We are going to increase our pricing effective tomorrow Friday, May 29. We agreed on this after our talk with the Lagos State Government.”
The transport firm got on the negotiation table with the state government in the morning of Thursday, and in the afternoon, the parties have agreed on increment of fares.
“Everywhere commuters are paying N200 for a trip, it is going to be N300 and everywhere commuters are paying N300 per trip, it is going to be N500. We are increasing our fares. We have secured the permission of the regulator, Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA),” Tinubu said.
He said the development has become a bitter pill commuters have to swallow to keep the buses on the roads, though it appears insensitive due to economic hardship emanating from the health crisis.
“We are doing this not to punish anybody or to victimize anybody but because the circumstances we found ourselves forced us to do it. We need to make sure the company is on a sound financial footing, and if we don’t do this, the buses will not be available in the long run and there will be no way for us to fix buses and bring new buses.”
The Lagos State Government had earlier ordered the BRT services to cut the number of passengers from its capacity of 70 persons per a bus to 20 persons, in order to ensure that commuters observe social distancing.
However, the directive made the sustainability of the BRT services difficult according to Tinubu. He said if these steps are not taken, the BRT will be out of business in no time, and that will bring more hardship on Lagosians.
“The business must be on a solid financial footing. Without this, the company cannot survive, and if the company does not survive, it will even cost commuters more in the long run.
“We understand that this is going to put some hardship on people, but if we don’t do this and the company goes under, it will even cost the people more,” he said.
He added that the number of passengers will also be increased from 20 to 42, but assured that the company will offer world class services. He said with the approved pricing, the era of long queues as a result of bus scarcity is gone, as the firm will be rolling out 320 buses to effect rapid transit.
While the reasons for the hike seem justifiable, it brings questions on the government’s concern about the plight of Nigerians in the face of a health crisis that has crippled economic activities and increased people’s hardship.
Lagos is foremost among the three states in Nigeria that were placed on total lockdown by the federal government. The impact was unbearable on businesses that many workers have been laid off.
Upon lifting the lockdown, those who still have their job are struggling to cope with the high cost of living instigated by the disruption in the supply chain. And the cost of transportation has also skyrocketed due to the application of social distancing that limited the number of passengers commercial vehicles can take, forcing transport operators to hike the fees.
In the wake of this development, many see the BRT as the cheap alternative. Unfortunately, their hope has been dashed by the government’s decision to increase the BRT fares, as it will bring further financial burden upon them.
During the lockdown, the Lagos State Government failed to live up to people’s expectation in distribution of palliatives. Majority of the households in the state were left to fend for themselves in the face of scarcity. In view of this, many believe that the Lagos State Government should have compensated Lagosians by subsidizing BRT transportation in the state.