The tradition of travelling home during Christmas and New Year festivities by easterners has always been a source of exploitation by avaricious Transporters. AGATHA EMEADI x-rays the cause of this year’s exceptional hike in fare that made it difficult for many families to travel for the celebration.
Mr. and Mrs.Ojiaku Chikwendu(not real names) a petty trader in Igando, a suburb of Lagos State with their four children arrived the Ejigbo Terminal of Libra Motors in high spirits to travel to their hometown in Imo State for the Christmas/New Year celebrations.
The Children were enthusiastic to change their environment as they remembered their past experiences especially how they ravaged the compound without permissions.
Chikwendu’s second son Chukwuebuka says out of excitement that 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 looking forward to that treat; Adaugo their first daughter remembers how her paternal grandmother would hold her little hand and take her round the village and announce to who cares to listen that this is Chikwendu’s first daughter, and again, Ada also looked forward to seeing her cousins she would meet and play with in the village.
All that expectations came to a halt the moment their father’s smile ceased and was replaced with squeezed faceout from the ticket sellers after hot exchange of words why transport fare skyrocketed to N10, 000.00 per person. When Chikwendu announced to his family disappointedly that the trip has been cancelled, the sharp bitter reaction from the children was very obvious. The reason was simply…Chikwendu who is a petty trader could not afford the transport fare for a family of six. The Children broke down in tears which 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 with dampened spirits. While parking their luggage back home reluctantly, the children would intermittently look back as if to ask their father…but these other people are still travelling, why are we not?
Ordinarily, why the sudden cut throat in transport fares when there was no increase in petroleum products prices?
The Chikwendu family was not alone in this situation; there are other families who are cut in this web. 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.
Speaking with the Director and Chief Executive Officer of Libra Motors…Mr.Eghosa Odoruyi,he blamed it on the present situation of the economy. ‘I think the major reason why this year became extraordinary is the economic situation that affected the transportation industry beyond expectation. For instance in the month of March, 2016; Toyota Hiace which we were purchasing for N8.3m, rose to N24m, this increase is within a space of six -8months and the transporters experienced this change. Again, a fairly used grade-one engine also known as(Tokumbo engine)we used to purchase for N550, 000.00 is now N1.3m. If someone gets the engine at N1.1m, it might be a fake one. The spare parts of these vehicles with skyrocketed prices are not easy to see in the market.”
Meanwhile Odoruyi informed that the effect of this price shift has not started yet, it will start from next year because within this yuletide season, no transporter paid for a new vehicle. Ordinarily, towards the ‘Ember months’ transporter usually bring in new vehicles to operate the season without hitches on the road. The new vehicles usually complement the rush period and still work through the year when the pressure would have reduced.Now, transporters are scared and wonder why it has become so and all fingers points at ‘exchange rate’
Odoruyi agreed that it has become a standard practice for transporters to hike fares during the yuletide because people do not travel from the East to Lagos, so any vehicle that loads from Lagos must go and come back with money meant for double road expenses. From Lagos to the East and back to Lagos. Any vehicle that loads from Lagos terminal to the East must collect N26, 000.00 as road expenses. That money must be doubled for the driver to go and come, so that is the reason why the hike in transportation fares during the yuletide. This year’s own became outrageous because of the cost of parts and vehicle itself. This year, Lagos to Onitsha, Owerri and Aba was up to N9, 500.00 to N10, 000.00 per person depending on the choice of vehicle the passenger wants to board.
And the poor masses would bear the consequences of all these. One then asks, where would this lead us to as a nation? ‘For me if the prices of these vehicles and its parts did 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.
Again he said the situation became terrible because when prices go up, the margin might not be abysmal, but from N8m to N24m is appalling.
That is the reason why some transporters are going for old ‘China products’ which has been in the store for some time now; though they are still been sold at the 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 have tried their buses myself and failed woefully. It almost collapsed my business that is why I stuck with Toyota products only.
One then begins to ask where the fate of the common man lies and Odoruyi says; it’s left for the government to answer.