Published On: Wed, Oct 8th, 2014

Post Sallah: Commuters want rapid shift in Abuja’s public transportation system

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AUMTCO AbujaBy Stanley Onyekwere

As workers resumed work yesterday, after this year’s Eid-el Kabir break, some commuters in Abuja, the nation’s capital, have stressed the need for the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to intensify its efforts towards improving the public transportation system in the Territory.

This, they said would free the FCT residents from untold hardships due to transportation problems, especially thousands of workers living in the satellite towns and suburbs of Abuja.

Peoples Daily reports that the Eid-el Kabir is believed by Muslims to celebrate the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim, who offered to sacrifice his only son in obedience to Allah’s command. And for Islamic faithful, this act is not just a symbol of love; it stresses the need for individuals to make sacrifices for the growth of their immediate society.

However, it would be recalled that to tackle the problem head on, the FCTA promulgated a new transport policy in 2013, which led to the ban of commercial buses otherwise known as ‘araba’ in Abuja metropolis.

Also, the development brought about shortage in the number of commercial vehicles available for commuters.

To this end, the FCTA embarked on immediate procurement and deployment of high-capacity buses to ply some designated routes in and out of the Territory. According to the FCT Administration, the buses in addition to moving commuters in large numbers would also reduce time spent in traffic gridlock and increase the economy of the FCT.

But, a cross section of the commuters, who spoke with Peoples Daily in separate interviews, decried that since the enforcement of the new transport policy, the situation has even become harder for the common man.

They argued that instead of the much anticipated succor, the city swiftly appears over populated with people becoming stranded at every major bus stops and road interjections, thereby causing obstructing other road users from driving freely.

While some said the menace has given room for many commercial transport operators to charge arbitrary fares knowing fully well that most commuters don’t have any other alternative, others were of the opinion that it has exposed people to a lot of avoidable risks from the influx of private car owners joining the fray.

A commuter, Ngozi Ibeh, who described the unending nightmarish experiences of residents as unfortunate, says it required urgent and consistent intervention of government.

She said beyond policy formulation and enforcement, the FCT administration must ensure intensified opening of the sector, to alleviate plight of residents and visitors in the Territory.

 “Considering that FCT roads are as busy as before, if not even worse; then I would say there has been no change at all, hence the need for the government to have a re-think about the whole process,”  Ibeh said.

Another commuter in Utako District, Musa Abu, complained bitterly about how people suffered to move in and out of the FCT, through the public transport sector.

According to him, years after the introduction of the new transport policy in the Territory, resulting in restriction of the operation of the popular green commercial mini buses to the satellite towns of the Territory.

“For me, the government has made a lot of blunders in its effort towards providing solutions to the problems; therefore I would advise that they suspend the process, if it would continue causing more hardship and stress for the people.

“The FCT minister or any other top FCTA official does not depend on public transport to travel round the city, hence there is no idea what people, especially those without cars are going through every day,” he said.

“I wonder why our leaders in this part of the world, are always bent on pursuing programmes that they claimed are meant for the benefit of the people, even if it’s obviously not heading to the expected end.

“I don’t why the government wouldn’t discontinue with the lingering implementation of this kind of ‘laudable policy’, if the people are not enjoying it, because at the end of the day, the objective would definitely be defeated.

“If the government cannot procure all the vehicles needed for efficient and affordable public transportation in the FCT, then more private stakeholders should be encouraged to come in and bridge the gap,” a commuter, seen waiting to board a cab at Berger Bus stop, Omale John, stressed.

Similarly, one Kingsley Olu, said what the people needed was improved public transport system, but it appears that agents of the government are only interested in harassing and extorting many of the commercial operators, under the disguise of non-registration with the government.

“In spite of solving the problem on ground, the government through its agents is seen chasing some unregistered commercial transport operators, for doing so without duly identifying with their licensed operators.

“From all indications, it’s obvious that the government is only after revenue generation, and nothing more or less, while the people keep crying for elusive help,” he noted.

On her part, Sandra Oche, observed that even in the middle of the seemingly unending menace, there are some progress been made, but blaming the snail pace of the reform of the sector on the pervasive insecurity in the country.

“However, we should ensure that beyond wanting a quick fix to the problem; and as a Muslim, we are encouraged to imbibe the teachings of the essence of the just concluded Sallah, which is premised on sacrifice, in order for us to contribute our quota to the achieving the ultimate goal.

 “Therefore, I’m urging my brothers and sisters of Islamic faith, including non-Muslims to join the government to overcome this lingering problem, causing a lot of hardship to people,” he urged.

Similarly, one Ibrahim James opines that: “To solve the problem,  people must endeavour to be law abiding residents,  working with one another, and join hands together to help the government to make life easy for commuters in the FCT.”

Also, for one Ike Uche, after the celebration of Eid-el Kabir, it should therefore remind all and sundry in the FCT,  to rise up to the urgent need to intensified effort at reducing or even eradicating the many hardship commuters face on a daily basis, while moving in and out of the Territory.

“It is known fact that 90 per cent of transportation of goods, services and people in the FCT and the country at large, they take place on roads via public transportation; hence it is a critical factor to the socio-economic development of the society.

Peoples Daily reports that the FCTA has so far granted licenses to seven companies under its Operators License Scheme like Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited (AUMTCO), FABREM, AUTOSTAR, NURTW, RTEIN, SECDA, TUC, while PAT and PRINTFIELD are yet to be licensed.

According to a recent statement by the Chief Press Secretary to FCT minister, Muhammad Sule, these companies under the Operator’s License Scheme on daily basis deploy an average of 216 high capacity buses and 4,250 taxis.

The statement said that the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, made this disclosure, after meeting with some senior officials of the FCT Transportation Secretariat, in his office.

Also, the minister reiterated the commitment of his Administration to provide sufficient number of High Capacity Buses for scheduled bus transit services in and around the 8,000 square kilometers of the FCT.

“Due to Biometric data capture of drivers earlier embarked upon by his Administration, issues of identification, safety and security is today better addressed,” he said.

Furthermore, the statement revealed that the FCT Administration has commenced the installation of Control Room project, aimed at enhancing traffic management and security of commuters in the Territory.

The Minister said that the project, which is in tune with the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan and the Transportation Master Plan of the Federal Capital Territory, is 65 percent completed.

However, Mohammed revealed that the FCT A has upgraded a total of 28 out of the 74 existing traffic light installations from the old technology of incandescent light to Light Emitting Diode (LED) with Solar back-up to drastically reduce traffic light problems associated with those powered by conventional electricity supply.

He added that twenty additional new intersections have been earmarked for traffic light installation before the end of the year 2014; while 1,200 additional road traffic signs have been installed of various types and sizes.

He disclosed that more roads have been marked in the city and they include Tafawa Balewa Way; Lome Crescent Street; F.O.Williams Street; Babangida Aliyu Street; Nouchott Street; Kashim Ibrahim Way; Sabo Ago Way; Deji Omotade Street; Wada Aliyu Street as well as Ahmadu Bello Way.

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