From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
For luxury bus owners operating from Onitsha to Kano, these are not the best of times. Their forced eviction from the popular motor park in Sabon Gari area of Kano State is affecting their business in a very negative way, they noted.
The operators said the action carried out by the Kano State Government has adversely affected their business to the extent that their transport business spanning over a period of 40 years is at the verge of total collapse unless government rescinds its decision.
With insecurity getting worse in the North and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the present economic recession in the country, the luxury bus owners are crying out that such action was not good for their business at a time that citizens were in need of government support.
Unable to bear the pain anymore, the affected operators under the aegis of Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria (ALBON) has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari, seeking his intervention.
They also petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and copied the Nigerian Governor’s Forum and members of the Council of State.
In the SOS to President Buhari, ALBON described the eviction of its members from the Sabon Gari Park as not only unjust but an action that amounts to “national economic sabotage and against national unity and security.”
They noted that their present place of operation located in a makeshift structure at Kano-Maiduguri Bypass is not only environmentally harsh and unfriendly for business but has exposed them to serious security threat.
The petition to the president was by signed by the ALBON Chairman, National Taskforce, Chief Joseph Ejiofor (God’s Time Motors Ltd), Alhaji Haruna Babanyara, Chairman, Sokoto Central Motor park and Malam Yosuf Mohammed, Jabutu Luxury Park, Yola, Adamawa state.
The petition partly reads: “We wish to avail ourselves of this opportunity to petition you over actions by certain state governments, especially Kano State to destroy our luxury bus road transport businesses.
“Recently, members of our enterprising association were thrown out of Sabon Gari Luxury Park, Kano, where we have operated, loaded and offloaded passengers, goods and services for over 40 years. The expulsion was done without any warning, notifications, negotiation, or consultation or the consent of our association.
“This executive impunity has almost collapsed our businesses and thrown thousands of our staffs and ancillary workers into the unemployment market, at this dangerous time of COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant worldwide economic recession! Our drivers were levied all sorts of bad allegations just to justify the illegitimate eviction.
“Worst of all, it is an obvious let down to your administration and the integrity you stand for that Kano State Government has imposed on us an unnecessary third Party/Contractor instead of dealing with us directly. At a makeshift park at Kano-Maiduguri Bypass where our luxury buses were forced to relocate, the third party/contractor has added insult to our injury by imposing an astronomical N10 million tax per company per annum and N600 (Six Hundred Naira) per passenger who boarded our luxury bus.
“Now, if every 36 states of the federation and Abuja would equally impose such vexatious taxation in their respective states, it would be the final death sentence to the luxury bus transportation business as we know it in Nigeria today.
“But right now in Kano State, luxury buses are forced to operate from an isolated and undeveloped space of land at Kano-Maiduguri Bypass which is about 60 kilometres from Kano city with grave security threats to staff, passengers, goods and vehicles alike. To worsen the already excruciating conditions that ALBON members are facing operating at this makeshift park, the government of Kano State had imposed the stringent conditions on us, including illegal arrests and unlawful detention of managers and staffs of luxury bus companies.
“The government equally levies tax on goods being loaded and offloaded in the vehicles. When accounts are taken of bank interests on lease buses, staff salaries and allowances, cost of gas and other operational costs, including insurance and settlement of security agents on road blocks, we can hardly make N600 per passenger, per trip as profit.
“We appeal for our immediate restoration to our Sabon Gari Luxury Bus Park where we have invested millions of naira, developed and established ancillary commercial businesses in and around the park which are beneficial to Kano State citizens. We have contributed to the economic development of Kano State and Nigeria in general. We should not be treated like foreigners in our own country. Yet our luxury bus companies are daily harassed and extorted by the Kano state road and traffic agency (Karota)
“We request adequate compensation for our investment on our Luxury Bus Park Kano and loss of business as provided for in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In the meantime, adequate security, facilities and improvement should be made in the new Kano, Maiduguri Bypass Park for exclusive use of our members’ luxury buses. We cannot be lumped together with trucks, trailers, tippers and other articulated vehicles as the government officials are now doing at the said Kano-Maiduguri Road Bypass.
“He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. Most of our members are running out of business as they are yet to recover from COVID-19 nationwide lockdown and the ENDSARS youth protest and the global economic downturns that have unfortunately landed the nation in economic recession, which requires stimulus packages to rejuvenate the economy of the nation.
“Our ALBON bus operations should be seen and embraced by the governments and their agencies as partners in progress in economic development; not to run out businesses and destroy them as is presently being done by the Kano State Government, her officials and her contractors.
“The landed property on which our Kano Luxury Bus Park was built originally was acquired by St. Stephen Anglican Church Kano before the Nigerian Civil war. Our Association and the Fegge Local Government Council, with the approval of Kano State Government negotiated for the use of the landed property for our Luxury Bus Park.
“Our association has been paying about N1.5million to the State Government and other dues and fees to the local governments without any let or hindrance before the state government decided to sack us from the park overnight. This brazen act of expropriation of our association’s property and/or investments on Kano Park and the continuing incessant intimidation of our luxury bus company staffs and managers by the state officials using the police and other security agencies are worse than what Nigerians are facing in foreign lands like Ghana and South Africa. We appeal for your intervention as the father of the nation,” they prayed.
At the Onitsha Upper Iweka Luxury Bus Park, most of the passengers and transport workers who spoke with the reporter expressed their displeasure over the eviction from Sabon Gari Kano Park.
A Kano bound traveller, Isioma Okeke said he has always been scared anytime he is travelling, since the park was relocated from Sabon Gari. He said the present location where buses offload passengers in Kano is like a desert, a place cut off from the people. He said passengers were always at the mercy of criminal elements while coming out from the park.
An accountant attached to one of the transport companies that travel the Kano route, Eugene Okafor said most companies have been counting their losses since the Sabon Gari eviction. He said companies struggle with deficit balance for any vehicle that loads to Kano, noting that the heavy levies paid to the new company handling the new loading spot takes away all the money the bus operators might have made. He urged the Kano State Government to reconsider its position and see that those businesses affected by its actions are reorganised again.
Chinedu Iloanya, a Kano resident who spoke to the reporter on phone, said most residents of Sabon Gari have been suffering in silence for long even before the luxury bus owners issue came on board.
“The place they relocated the luxury bus drivers is very risky for all of us in terms of security, because one of the things we consider here seriously is our safety. What we are seeing here is like a military decree. They don’t care about our welfare. The relocation is another attempt to kill the businesses of people from some sections of this country so as to empower another section, and it is not fair.
“Let the government listen to the yearnings of our people who have been doing business and contributing immensely to the development of this state,” he said.