Commercial drivers jittery over Ambode’s plan to take yellow buses off Lagos roads
By Job Osazuwa
If there is one particular vehicle that most residents of Lagos can hardly do without, it is the yellow-painted minibus, commonly referred to as danfo.
From Ikeja to Ipaja, from Ikosi to Ikotun, from Surulere to CMS, danfo buses dot the roads and streets of Lagos, desperately competing for the souls of commuters.
For as long as many could remember, danfo buses have been a part of Lagos, as the city, over the years, transited from one stage of development to another. Over many decades, the buses have served as the major means of public transportation in the sprawling metropolis. Whether for good or for bad, the vehicles have always added colour to the bustling, bubbling city of Lagos.
But right now, the days of danfo on Lagos roads might be numbered. The state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has informed Nigerians that the danfo as well as other yellow-painted commercial buses, would be phased out of Lagos roads before the end of the year.
The danfo, like other yellow commercial buses, no doubt, pose environmental and health dangers to the people. Many of the buses have no functional doors, and they spew noxious clouds of exhaust fumes into the air with impunity. The drivers stop anywhere and everywhere to pick passengers. They have little regard for the laws of the land, and they have absolutely no respect for other road users. Most commercial bus drivers in Lagos are obviously ignorant of the existing highway codes, even as they speed like desperate men running late on a date with death, with gruff, rough-looking conductors, hanging by the side of the buses.
Though the vehicles might not be nice-looking, being a relatively cheap form of transportation,danfo buses are the preference of many workers and traders, who need to get to their destinations as quickly as possible.
On Monday, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode reaffirmed his plans to ban the buses from Lagos roads by the end of this year. He said the buses were not acceptable and befitting in a megacity like Lagos.
With this development, the danfo and other yellow buses will soon become history in Lagos if the governor’s plan pulls through. He revealed that it was part of his agenda for the state to undergo a major restructuring that would, in the end, change the outlook of Lagos.
Many residents see Ambode’s latest drive as part of a seemingly unending campaign to tame the wild roads of Lagos, renowned for their nerve-wracking gridlocks. To such residents, especially motorists, it is a right step in the right direction.
Lagos is home to more than 20 million people. The city has seen its population boom, thereby increasing the demand for other means of fast movement around the city.
Daily Sun gathered that the governor’s goal is to replace the buses, as well as tricycles, with a modern public transportation system that is more efficient and well-structured.
Said the governor: “When I wake up in the morning and see all these yellow buses and see okadas (motorcycles) and all kinds of tricycles and then we claim we are a megacity – that is not true and we must acknowledge that it is a faulty connectivity that we are running.”
He vowed to address the issue of connectivity that makes people to move round with ease, emphasising that seamless mass transit system was a critical element needed for Lagos to work better in all ramifications.
He explained that with the continuous presence of the old buses, his dream of ensuring that Lagos soon becomes a true mega city and making it one of the most vibrant cities in the world, would not be actualised. He pointed out that cities were the most attractive destinations for people who want to realise their dreams.
Many have canvassed, on several platforms, the need for government to be proactive in providing and expanding infrastructure, connectivity, and other services needed to accommodate the thousands of people, who troop into Lagos on daily basis.
“This ever-increasing population of the state, however, means that we have to be on our toes to provide facilities for the more than 23 million people in Lagos. l tell you what, I want to banish yellow buses from Lagos this year,” Ambode announced.
Drivers jittery, angry
Timothy Kings Otega, a danfo driver, who plies the Abule-Egba-Oshodi route, told the reporter that the development would throw many of his colleagues, including himself, to the unemployment market. He, therefore, pleaded with Ambode to carry drivers of danfo buses along in his plans and consider them to handle the proposed buses. He said he had been driving his 14-seater bus since 2007, and had no other means of livelihood.
“I can only beg the government to carry us along. I don’t have any other job but driving a commercial bus. I can’t ask government to stop it if the proposal is to benefit everybody. But those of us doing commercial driving and we have been in the business for long must not be left alone to suffer the consequences.
“We all know that there is no job in Nigeria. Despite the fact that I have Ordinary National Diploma from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ogun State, l couldn’t get a job in the last 12 years. I resorted to driving out of frustration, but it has been paying my family bills. l spent two years applying for jobs, but none of them worked out for me.
“I am ready to undergo any training that the government is to introduce, if that would secure my place in the new scheme. We don’t know our fate when the time comes; that is why everybody is somehow worried. Even if the drivers of those new buses would be screened, let it be transparent and whoever passes should be taken,” he pleaded.
Omolola Adepoju, who plies the Oshodi to Mile Two route, told the reporter that government was taking the wrong step. He said the reported plan to phase out the yellow buses and replace them with modern ones was a joke.
He said: “I don’t believe Governor Ambode. And meanwhile, this is not the first time we are being told of such a thing. My friend told me two days ago that the governor would soon stop us from using our buses.
“There are more than 100, 000 danfo and LT buses in Lagos. Oga journalist, please, go and ask the governor how many buses he is importing to replace our own. The Ministry of Transportation cannot control these drivers; it is only the agbero (motor park touts) that can effectively handle the business of transport in Lagos. The other time, they said we would be putting on uniforms, but how many conductors or drivers did you see complying with the directive?”
Mr. Chinedu Okey, a danfo driver, advised the state government to change the colour of the buses and set new guidelines for the bus drivers. He expressed the fear that phasing out all the buses within 10 months would lead to massive job losses. He warned that once the drivers and conductors were disengaged, it would lead to an increase in the crime rate in the state.
“Some people have been in this driving line for 30 years. It is not possible for you to stop them without providing an alternative for them. Well, there is still time. Maybe the government will later announce how to bring us into the new plan.
“Each bus you see on the road provides direct employment for the driver and his conductor, while additional ten or more family members might depend on them. I am using my bus to train my three children in school at the moment. If the government stops me from using it, what will l be doing for a living?”
Why Lagos seeks to retire yellow buses
Not a few would consider the ban on the danfo to be a major event that will have a long-term impact on the lives of Lagosians, especially the average worker. But the governor is bent on implementing the plan, insisting that it was in the overall interest of the high and low-income earners.
Governor Ambode explained that once the world-class transport system ws achieved in Lagos, it would pave the way for a more efficient and well-structured movement of people and goods, which would rub off on the economy. It is calculated that more time would be saved on the road, as commuting would be smooth while sanity would be returned to the roads.
An official of the state government, who pleaded not to be named, said keeping the danfo and other yellow buses on the road might muddle up government’s arrangement and functionality of the mass-transport system that would be launched before the year runs out.
Ambode stated categorically that the transport system operating in Lagos now was faulty and totally unacceptable, adding that a well-structured transportation mode that would soon emerge would address the challenge.
Ambode was optimistic that the plans were quite realistic and feasible, citing the transformation going on around the Ikorodu-CMS route as an example of what he plans to achieve across every part of the state.
His words: “The people going from Ikorodu to CMS have started leaving their cars at home because the buses are convenient. So, why can’t we do that for other places? Yes, we don’t have the money to do that now, but we can go to the capital market and then improve on the technology of collection of fares. That will encourage investors.”
Foundation kicks off ‘Operation Restore Apapa’ campaign
Donates drugs, food, tools to youths, indigent residents
By Zika Bobby
Apapa, a sprawling commercial hub in Lagos, houses two of Nigeria’s major seaports. This melting pot of maritime services in Nigeria and by extension, Africa, is in a state of wanton disarray and requires an urgent intervention in order to restore its lost glory as the gateway of commerce in Nigeria.
Created in 1979, Apapa, otherwise known as the Golden Council, is home to many economic powerhouses ranging from maritime, manufacturing, oil and gas and allied services, among others. Ironically, Apapa has not lived up to its billing as a major channel of Nigeria’s import and export trade. It is bereft of its superstar status and has been continually bedevilled by the perennial problems of traffic logjam and a near total absence of social services.
This is why the Mike Egbayelo Foundation (MEF) has vowed to reposition the area for good. Founder, Mike Egbayelo, a politician with massive grassroots followers, said his foundation was poised to bring sanity to Apapa.
Indeed, Egbayelo has wormed his way into the hearts of the downtrodden and socially disadvantaged in Apapa and its environs by his numerous people-oriented initiatives. Over 3000 people recently benefited from the free health programme organised by his foundation. The one week event afforded residents of Apapa to get free blood pressure test, blood sugar test, free cancer screening, free eye test and glasses, free drugs and treatments.
In a bid to keep the teeming youtsh of Apapa free from crime, the foundation instituted an annual under-20 football championship where six teams from five wards vied for honours. Winning teams were rewarded with cash prizes, trophies and medals.
Indigent students and women were not left out. The foundation donated economic empowerment materials ranging from popcorn machines, sewing machines, hair dryers, pepper grinding machines. It also initiated a community care programme for widows and the elderly. This initiative, Egbayelo said, was designed to cater to the widows and the elderly, who he said were relegated to the background.
“Over 100 senior citizens, comprising widows and very aged persons,were provided with foodstuff like wheat, tin tomatoes, pasta, rice and cooked foods. Free medical care was also put in place to cater for their medical needs. The beneficiaries were drawn from different social and religious groups such as the Police Officers Wives Association (POWA), the Nigerian Army Wives Association (NAOWA), the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Muslim Community in Apapa, the Arewa Community, Apapa, and the Ohaneze Ndigbo in Apapa,” he said.
With a passion for training and development, Egbayelo’s foundation organised an Employability/Digital Marketing Training workshop which had in attendance over 200 youths. They were engaged in vocational training, including photography, video recording and editing, catering, shoe and bag making.
“The employability training module covered resume training, interview skills, etiquette and effective communication skills to improve their capacity and give them an edge when competing for career opportunities,” he said.
In a bid to bring pragmatism to bear on governance, the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain commissioned a study aimed at providing a blueprint for sustainable development and effective grassroots governance.
“The study, supervised by Dr Ayotunde Adebayo of the Department of Arts and Social Science Education of the University of Lagos, examined the activities and projects of the local government between the year 2008 and 2014 and the developmental challenge confronting Apapa. It took a cursory look at eight indices of governance which include environment, infrastructure, health, social services, security, education, youth empowerment and traffic management and presents the government’s response and interventions in these areas. It went further to present the perception and impact of these efforts on the people and identified areas that are critical to them and the needed attention for future intervention.
“Consequent upon this, a new road map for Apapa was proposed. This road map is hinged on good governance, development and job creation being the driving force of government projects and programmes, having been identified as the main area that needed most attention. The plan will provide 12,000 jobs in the first four years of the next local government administration.
Consultations were made with key stakeholders as well as professional institutions to get their inputs for a broad-based empirical study that is evidence-based. Corporate organisations in Apapa also pledged their commitments for partnerships in actualising a new roadmap for Apapa,” he said.