Abuja commuters spend 60% on transportation


Abuja residents said they now spend over half of their salaries on transportation as commercial transporters have hiked fares on the back of the increase in the pump price of petrol.

This has not only worsened the high cost of living in the town but has also heightened the call for the return of the Abuja mass transit system, popularly called ‘El-rufai’ buses, which comfortably conveyed at least 40 persons per trip at affordable rates.

Currently, the majority of Abuja population, which according to the United Nations grew to 3,464,000 in 2021, rely on commercial taxis to move around even for long distances.

Some residents who spoke to BusinessDay expressed displeasure over the unavailability of government-owned vehicles, which according to them, would have ameliorated their transportation pains, in terms of costs, safety and security.

Speaking with our correspondent at the Area 1 bus stop, a young man who identified himself as Mr John said: “I really wish we could have those buses back on the road. At least we will not be paying this much on transportation.

“As it is now, I spend N2,500 daily on transportation. This vehicle from Dutse to Area 1 is N800, and I will take another taxi to my office. The money I am spending on transportation is getting too much.”

For him, transport fares have become a major part of his monthly expenses, accounting for about 60 percent of his salary.

He said: “Sometimes I get scared of going out because of the spread of criminals that carry passengers and rob them, some are even killed. But if we have the big buses, everyone will be more safe.

“The El-rufai buses are better in every way; they are spacious, unlike the small taxis where four passengers are squeezed at the back seat, and 2 passengers in the front seat, which was made for a person. Also, the private taxi drivers may be forced to reduce the prices they charge if they no longer have so many customers.”

Sitting behind her bowl of snacks at Apo bridge, another popular spot in Abuja, Madam Lateef said the increase in transportation has reduced her earnings.

She said transport fare from Mararaba to Area 1 was increased to N400 from N200. “This money that was added is affecting my business; the cost of items that I use in making these egg rolls and doughnuts have increased. After selling my goods, the profit is now very small.

“For that transport fare, if there is anything the government can do to help, they should do it. We were using those big buses and the fares were usually cheap but they stopped a long time ago. At least if they resume, we are sure that we will not be paying so much on transportation.”

“These buses would have been the government’s way of reducing the impact of fuel subsidy removal on FCT residents but they are nowhere now, and private taxi drivers are charging so much for transportation.”

Another resident, Madam Rose, a civil servant, spoke to Businessday at the federal secretariat.

She said: “Those buses were a great relief to residents in Abuja, especially those living in the suburbs like me. I come to this place everyday from Kuje, paying up to N1,000 per drop. Just imagine how much I pay on transportation in a month. If these buses were available it would not be this high.

“It is unfortunate, those buses have been packed up for a long time. If you go towards Kubwa expressway, you will see them there; many of them are in bad conditions, which shows lack of proper maintenance.

BusinessDay’s inquiry into the state of the Abuja Urban Mass Transit System found that neglect, lack of maintenance, poor funding and staff welfare left dozens of these buses that ought to provide affordable transport to citizens grounded for many years.

It was gathered that at least 37 of these buses have been idle for many years, and staff were owed salaries, which grossly affected the operations of the mass transit.

As a consequence, commuters especially those in the outskirts and suburbs were left to scramble for the few available buses.

According to the Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited, only about 30 of these buses were operating on the road, but at least 100 is required to effectively cater for transportation of commuters in the Abuja and environs.

Hajeeb Abdussalam, director general of the Abuja Urban Mass Transit Company Limited, who acknowledged that the buses are currently inadequate for passengers, cited funding and capacity of personnel as major challenges.

Abdulssalam, who assumed office two months ago, told BusinessDay that the company is working to be more efficient to generate more revenue and reduce reliance on government, while also training the current workforce.

Speaking on the plans to revive and revamp the transport system, he said the company aims to deploy 100 buses by the end of August. He noted that when he assumed office, only about 30 buses were in operation; hence, the company kicked off efforts to revive grounded buses and maintain the ones in operation to increase the number of buses serving the city.

According to him, 50 buses now operate daily since he assumed office and the number will keep increasing as the company is set to revive 37 grounded buses.

He further disclosed that by the end of the year, the company will deploy more buses to operate not only in the outskirts but in the city centre, the metropolitan and districts with the aim of ensuring that all parts of Abuja and its environs will have access to efficient, affordable and safe mass transport system.

He said: “We will keep on upping the number until we get to the point that we will be able to satisfy all the commuters in all the routes.

“We are currently carrying out maintenance and reviving buses. Our vision is to provide an effective, efficient, safe and reliable and affordable public transport system for the capital city of the most populous black nation in the world.

“We want to deploy buses that will service the city, will operate intercity, the metropolitan city and even the districts. We are very ambitious; by the end of this year, we should have some of these being put in place.”

He also disclosed plans by the company to also migrate to auto-gas to ensure cost-effective operating cost, while maintaining affordable fares.

While reassuring of his readiness to rebrand the mass transit, the DG said his administration has cleared all outstanding salaries owed staff

“It is now standard and mandatory practice that every staff member must be paid by the 22nd of every month,” he added.

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