By Austine Uche-Ejeke
Going by the feelers from government quarters and calculations of Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode, in the next couple of months yellow buses, otherwise known as Danfo buses will be outlawed from plying Lagos roads.
The reason for this is predicated on the fact that protagonist of this government policy hinged their argument that Lagos cannot pursue the status of mega city and still condone the menace of Danfo buses on Lagos roads. Another good reason according to a highly placed Lagos state government official is that the colour yellow is a threatening, intimidating and bad colour that has nothing to do with the official colour of Lagos state. According to him yellow is not the colour of Lagos rather the colour most appropriate for Lagos is either sky blue or white, a colour that is romantic and appealing.
So baring any last minute change of policy direction on this, Danfo buses will be a thing of the past before the end f this year. Granted that the activities of these yellow buses is nothing to write home about as they are unruly, drive recklessly, cause nuisance on the road and in extreme cases the operators collude with law enforcement agents and traffic regulators to make motoring on Lagos roads a terrible nightmare. But like is always said you don’t throw away the bath water with the baby.
Danfo buses have been of tremendous benefits to Lagosians. This genre mode of transportation has saved most commuters from many hassles as it has over these years acted as the surest means of getting them to and fro their work places, business points. So to think of discarding the buses off the road just like that will first deal a psychological blow on the commuters who may be thinking of how they will be getting to their destinations and on record time. Most importantly these Danfo buses commence operations as early as 4am and close as late as 12 midnight thereby catering for the needs of the greater number of people.
Like every other government policies many pundits are of the view that Lagos state government may not have done their home work very well before thinking of sending the buses off the road. They are quick to remember what happened few years ago when such attempt was muted by banning yellow painted buses from plying some sections of Lagos Island. This caused untold hardship until there was a policy reversal that made the government to accept painting of the Danfo buses that ply Lagos Island routes in other colour apart from the dreaded yellow. Even before that commuters have literarily passed through hell as most of them had to trek long distances before getting to their destinations. This time around it will be total elimination of yellow buses on the road and the experience is better imagined than practicalized.
The big question many people are asking is if government has done their home work very well before coming up with this policy. Feelers from inside government quarters indicate that the popular BRT and LAGBUSES will take over Lagos roads as the only official public means of transportation. Same source show that currently Lagos has about 800 of these buses. Empirical research has shown that Lagos metropolitan city need nothing less than 7000 of these buses to effectively commute people in the absence of the yellow buses. Experience has also shown that the services of these BRT buses are nothing to write home about. There are tales of commuters staying for long hours under rain and scorching sun waiting for the bus. In these 800 buses, most of them are decrepit, worn out, rickety and smoky that Lagosians now make a comic comparison of the buses with the outlawed molue buses. Those that fall under this category are the first phase of the BRT buses, the ones with red colours. Taking this into consideration it may not be out of place to advice Lagos state government to go for more comfortable buses with air conditioners in the mode of the extant Blue coloured buses that are currently plying some routes.
Again some attitude of the operators and handlers of the buses are very appalling, as they abuse and talk to commuters in most despicable gutter languages. The worst aspect of it is that some of the drivers drive recklessly on the road making most people to think that they are even worse than the Molue drivers.
Unlike what obtains in other climes where there are well built bus terminal and bus stations with functioning clock that show exact time a particular bus will arrive and depart. This is not the case in Lagos bus stops. In some cases commuters will stay minutes running into hours to wait for the bus to be filled up before the driver will take off unlike like Danfo buses that will match break, pick passenger and zoom off. Some of the bus terminals don’t have comfortable sheds that will protect the passengers from the elements pending when the buses will arrive at their waiting points. The pressing issue now is if Lagos state government has not gotten the required number of big buses to implement their desire why phase out the Danfo buses. Who is going to bear the brunt, is it not the poor people. The point must be maintained that if at the end of the day the government can provide good and air-conditioned buses, most people that bring out their cars on the road will be compelled to take jolly good ride on these buses thereby decongesting the road and making their lives easy.
This takes us to the next logical issue, if and when Danfo buses are outlawed on Lagos roads, how can these big buses cover all the nooks and crannies of Lagos streets and roads. It must be pointed out here that there some streets and roads that the big buses cannot enter. There are also routes that they are not covering, what happens to people living there. It will automatically mean them trekking long distances before they can get the bus and this may not be too good. For instance most streets in Isolo may not be assessed by the BRT buses, so what happens to thousands of people living there and other such places that the bus cannot reach or not covered in their operational routes. Closely related to this is that a policy that will phase out yellow buses on Lagos road will definitely frown at the operations of Okada and Keke Marwa. And as pointed out earlier if these means of transportation are outlawed, it is the commuters that will bear the brunt as they will definitely be finding it difficult to get to their destination. Also there is no guarantee that these BRT buses will be operating late in the night and if that is the case most people will suffer as they may not see any means of getting home if per adventure they have reason to close late. So if yellow Danfo buses must be phased out, Lagos state government must make alternative arrangement that is not only the big buses but other medium ranged buses that can assess inner roads and streets where the big buses cannot cover. Anything short of this will spell an unmitigated disaster to the already hassled and harassed Lagos commuters.
As if that is not enough many observers are just wondering if government will not be creating more problems in order to satiate the burning desire to key into the mega city big club. Their fears are rooted on the fate of the dislodged Danfo drivers and conductors which as at the last count are running into thousands providing employment to many. What will they do, will they be thrown into the already choked and saturated labour market. Many of these bus drivers and conductors have families and children they cater for from the proceeds of their trade, what happens to them. Wont this lead to escalation of crime and armed robbery, if these people are not properly resettled and absorbed to the society by providing them with other means of livelihood. All these the government suppose to have taken into consideration before thinking of coming out with this policy. The good thing is that government still has few months before implementation and it will not be out of place for them to have a serious brainstorming on some of the consequences of blanket ban of Danfo buses from Lagos roads.
In doing this the government should also take the issue of the proposed fare hike on the BRT buses effective March. It may be insensitive for a government that has not increased workers salary over the years to increase the fares on bus ride. For crying out loud, minimum wage is still N18000! And if you increase the fares by say fifty percent, an average worker that uses the bus to and fro work may be spending close to N15000 on transportation alone. How does he now survive the rest of the month with house rents, children’s school fees to pay, feeding and other sundry expenses? Even at the current fares been collected if government runs the programme effectively and efficiently it will break even and make profits without subjecting the already brutalized citizens to another spate of horror. Moreover people will see it as wickedness and despotism if after outlawing competition in form of sending the yellow buses off the road, only for government to increase the fares as the only monopoly.
Good as the idea of making Lagos key into the status of mega city may sound; the pursuit of it should be done with human face. While pursuing this, Lagos state government should also work on the roads as these big buses cannot ply most of the highly dilapidated Lagos roads. If this is not done the live span of the buses will be shortened and the commuters will be the ones that will be short-changed as they may not have any other means of commuting since their other source the Danfo yellow buses have been banned from plying Lagos roads.
*Austine Uche-Ejeke, Publisher/Editor-In-Chief Agenda Community Newspaper wrote vide firstname.lastname@example.org
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