Sunday Sun sought explanations from the Chief Executive Officer of Libra Motors Limited, Mr Eghosa Odoruyi
Mr. and Mrs. Ojiaku Chikwendu petty trades who reside at Igando, a suburb of Alimosho Local Government Area, of Lagos state with their four children arrived the Ejigbo Terminal of Libra Motors in high spirits to travel to their hometown, Orlu, in Imo State for the Christmas/New Year celebrations. Chikwendu had left the children in the care of their mother and went over to purchase their travelling ticket while this reporter engaged them.
The children were already in Christmas mood with their neatly beaded decorated hair, singing, clapping and playing that early morning. One could just see the enthusiasm in the little ones who were eager to change their environment. They had remembered their past experiences four years ago when they travelled last. They remembered more especially how they ravaged the compound without permission. Chikwendu’s second son, Chukwuebuka, out of excitement expressed their freedom in the village. “We do not take permission to run outside and play unlike here in Lagos where mummy would lock us inside the house to avert dangers.” He was really looking forward to that treat. His elder sister, Adaugo, remembered how her paternal grandmother would hold her little hand and take her round the village and announce her to everyone as her son’s first daughter. Beyond this Ada also looked forward to her grandma’s local dishes of boiled yam and red oil, which she described as village food.
All those expectations and anticipation came to a halt when their father bolted out from the ticketing office with harsh angry voice, lamenting over the steep increase in fare which sky-rocketed to N12,700.00 per person. With disappointment written all over him, Chikwendu announced the cancellation of the trip. Spontaneously, the two little children started crying. The reason for the tears was simply that Chikwendu could not afford the transport fare for a family of six. As the children’s tears flowed freely, concerned passengers began to offer consolatory advice. ‘Don’t worry, you can go next year, pray that Daddy gets money to pay for all of you.’ The children were utterly disappointed and their spirits dampened. As they headed reluctantly out of the terminal with their luggage to return home, the children would intermittently look back as if to ask their father ‘but these other people are still travelling, why are we not?’
The Chikwendu family became one of the victims of the annual steep increase in fares during the Yuletide despite the fact that the price of petroleum products did not increase. The family was scarcely out of earshot when passengers and escorts gathered in circles and began to discuss reasons for the usual hike in transportation during the yuletide period. Some blamed it on the greed of the transport managers, state of the economy, poor governance and policies while others thought that the practice is as old as transportation itself.
Sunday Sun sought explanations from the Chief Executive Officer of Libra Motors Limited, Mr. Eghosa Odoruyi, who said that apart from the high cost of new vehicles, it has become a standard practice for transporters to hike fares during the yuletide because people do not travel from the East to Lagos. The pressure is from the cities to the rural communities especially from Lagos to the East. So any vehicle that loads from Lagos must go and come back with money meant for double road expenses.
“That driver will do Lagos to the East with full passenger load and come back to Lagos without passenger per se. Any vehicle that loads from Lagos terminal to the East must collect at least N30,000.00 or more as road expenses. That money must be doubled for the driver to go and come back, and that is the reason the hike in transportation fares occurs during the yuletide,” he said.
Last year and this year became outrageous because of the high cost of parts and of new vehicles. The fares from Lagos to Onitsha, Owerri and Aba went up to N12,700.00 to N15,000.00 per person depending on the choice of vehicle preferred by the passenger. Some of the vehicles are fully functional air-conditioning system that are put in use for the duration of the trip, hence making the vehicle to consume more fuel. Other long distance commuter buses do not have AC. The fare difference between the two categories of vehicles is often not more N2000.
Odoruyi also blamed the fare hike on the present situation of the economy, saying, “Another reason we hike transport fare is the present economic situation that has affected the transportation industry beyond expectation. For instance, in the month of March, 2016, the Toyota Hiace bus which we purchased for N8.3m rose to N28m before it was reduced slightly to N27.5m. Again, a fairly used grade 1 (one) engine also known as (tokunbo engine) which we used to purchase for N550,000.00 is now N1.3m. Even at N1.1m, it might be a fake one. The spare parts of these vehicles sky-rocketed badly and they are not easy to see in the market.”
Meanwhile Odoruyi informed that the effect of this price shift has not started yet. “Because of these, most transporters did not pay for new vehicles for the season. Ordinarily, towards the ‘Ember months’ transporters usually bring in new vehicles to operate the season without hitches on the road. The new vehicles normally compliment the rush period and still work through the year when the pressure would have reduced. Now, transporters are scared and all fingers point to harsh economic situation.
“For me if the prices of these vehicles and their parts do not come down the situation would get worse. For a transporter to raise N24m to purchase just one vehicle is outrageous. Under the current cost of ticketing, that vehicle cannot raise the money in three years.
“It is the same reason some transporters go for old ‘China products’ which have been in the store for some time, though some were sold at old rate, but by the time new Chinese Hiace products are introduced into the market, their price will still be high. Bringing in China products gives concern because of the way they are constructed. I tried their buses myself and failed woefully. It almost wrecked my business; that is why I decided to stick to Toyota products only.”
On what should be the fate of the common man, Odoruyi said: “I leave that question for the government to answer.”