Time To Firm Up Public Transportation Systems For Affordable Commuting

Nigeria, according to data from the National Bureau for Statistics (NBS) has a total of 195,000 km of roads for an estimated 213.40 million inhabitants, while the Government’s Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, said about 60,000 km are paved as of 2019.

It is a country where over 80 percent of mobility of people, goods, and services is done on the roads, there is a need for governments at all levels to give diligent attention to road transportation development while developing other modes of transportation to augment it and a multi-modal means of commuting as in the case of Lagos State.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State in his address during the commissioning of the 14 kilometers Blue rail project from Mile Two – Okokomaiko, said his administration’s vision for an integrated transport system, as enunciated in the T.H.E.M.E.S agenda, was beginning to be a reality, stressing that the transportation plan of his government was a multimodal approach that would bring road, rail, and waterways together for seamless mobility.

The governor came up with the THEMES agenda at the inception of his administration and has been working assiduously to ensure he delivers on the target projects contained in the agenda, especially projects and programs designed to tackle commuting challenges in the State through a world-class multimodal transport system.

Mr. Fola Tinubu, MD/CEO, of Primero Transport Service Limited, operating the Ikorodu to TBS and Oshodi to Abule-Egba axis of the BRT corridor in Lagos, in an interview granted before the removal of the subsidy payment on PMS, said, “All over the world, people spend between 15 and 25 percent of their revenue or income for public transportation. In Nigeria, and particularly in Lagos, people are already spending up to 75 percent of their income on public transportation.

“So, there is no room for you to increase transport fares, in fact, every time we have an increase, we lose a lot of our people because they find alternatives; some of them travel from say, Ikorodu on Monday to hang out with their friends or family in their places of work on the Island returning only at the weekends to save costs on transportation.

“Let me say something to you. There is a reason why governments all over the world subsidize public transportation, it’s to make it affordable. I just told you that Nigerians are spending almost about 75 percent of their income on public transportation.

“I don’t know where we read our economics. All over the world government taxes petrol to discourage people from driving.

“In England, almost about 35 percent of what you pay for petrol is taxed. Even in America, about 25% of what you pay for fuel is also taxed. That’s what we are subsidizing.

“The whole world subsidizes public transportation to make it affordable so that people can leave their cars at home and get on public transport. That’s the one we’re not subsidizing. That’s what we want to make a profit from.

“It does not make sense because the whole world cannot be wrong. There must be a reason. Capitalists, communists, and socialists, all of them subsidize public transport.

“The irony is this. I read somewhere, that the top 5 percent of rich Nigerians, use about 60 to 70 percent of the petrol consumed in the country. They are the ones with three, four and five cars, who use generators all of the time, while the bottom 50 percent use less than 10 percent of petrol because many do not have cars of their own, using public transportation all the time. It’s only when they board public transportation that they use petrol.

“So. why should government subsidize me, while the ordinary masses out there that need help are not being helped? It does not make any political, economic, or social sense. If the whole world is doing something in a particular way, why are we different? That is the question we need to be asking ourselves.”

Afolabi Akanle, an Auditor with a large Auditing firm, explained that an employee earning the minimum monthly wage of N30,000 and living in the outer part of Lagos where accommodation is affordable would expectedly spend more than 50 percent of his earning on transport to work alone depending on where the work is located, mainly Ikeja, Lagos Island or Victoria Island.

“An average of N750 to N1000 spent per day in 20 working days a month will amount to N15,000-N20,000 monthly on transport. This will reduce the purchasing power of the citizens to access other social services and products and other opportunities.

“Hence, public transport remains relatively expensive for most of its population. It is estimated that about 65 percent of the city’s population are urban poor most of who rely on the public transport system for their daily commuting as 52 percent of households in Lagos own no cars, according to LAMATA.” He added.

“Even though it is difficult to determine if these subsidies have positively impacted the poor in different societies, demand-side subsidies have proven to perform better although they mostly do not improve income distribution.

“Besides encouraging a shift from supply-side subsidies to demand-side, the paper also advocated integrating transport social concerns into wider poverty alleviation efforts.”Orji pointed out.

Referring to Lagos State, Orji said, the Lagos Transport Policy suggests that the government’s subsidy is targeted only at the supply side as the emphasis is laid basically on encouraging and removing all barriers towards the private sector participation in the development, provision, maintenance, operation, and upgrading of transport infrastructure and services.

Orji elaborated further, “The Lagos policy seems to be based on the assumption that supporting and creating an enabling environment for the private sector to operate would bring about an efficient and affordable public transport in the state. This approach echoes through most of the government’s public transport initiatives which include the Bus Rapid Transport system and the First and Last Mile Transport Scheme.”

Experts say since mobility is an essential part of human life, especially in cities, the government has no option but to ensure that modern infrastructures are in place and subsequently must be accountable for the regulation of the industry.

Source: Daily Independent

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