Mass, cheap transportation as palliative for fuel subsidy removal

Sir: Following the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government, petrol prices have gone from N195/liter to N617/liter. This has resulted in hikes in transport fares, which is placing a major strain on the disposable income of the people in the country.

The situation is further compounded by the absence of a metro line or functional bus mass transit system in the country; so public transportation is essentially undertaken using petrol-powered mini buses, taxis, and auto rickshaws or what Nigerians call Keke.

It would be great if the government can acquire large numbers of affordable Indian-made mass transit buses with the assistance of the Indian Exim Bank, for which payment could be spread over four years.

The government should give them out on installment payment plans to civil society and religious organizations to run on a “not for profit basis” along designated routes within cities and between cities, charging “not for profit” fares – i.e. fares that would just enable them to keep the buses running in top condition and have money left over to repay the cost of the buses over a five-year period.

Considering that petrol-powered minibusses and taxis are the most expensive mode of mass transit, the use of diesel-powered buses could help bring fares down to levels far below the expensive pre-subsidies removal fares charged by the minibusses and taxis.

Public transportation has larger implications than most people realize. These effects are across a spectrum of issues, from the world of finance to global warming. Public transit significantly increases fuel efficiency, reduces traffic congestion, ensures safety, and reduces emissions per person compared to other forms of transportation.

State governments in Nigeria should encourage all auto rickshaws operating in the country to install LPG conversion kits to enable them to benefit from the significant cost savings of switching from petrol to LPG. Operators will be encouraged to pass that benefit on to commuters by maintaining fares at their pre-fuel subsidy removal level.

The Federal Government should promptly introduce the Bus Rapid Transit system in major cities, electrify and expand of public bus transport fleets which will enjoy a free lane on the highway in order to avoid traffic and delays.

Toyin Oyewole is a management consultant in Lagos.

Source: The Guardian

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