COVID-19: Commuters lament hike in transport fares

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By Benprince Ezeh

SOME interstate commuters in various states of the country, especially those engaged in inter-state travels have decried the high cost of transport fares charged by commercial vehicle operators.

These commuters said the increase would impact negatively on goods and services as well as social life of the people.

Some of the commuters told Realnews in an interview in Lagos that the government should intervene on the hike in fares.

According to them, there’s no sign of restricting interstate movements as people are now going to places of choice.

One of the commuters, Kingsley Enenta, a Textile material distributor, who frequents Enugu from Cele area of Lagos, said that transporters had hiked the fares by about 100 percent.

“The passengers are required to pay for two seats as against one seat.

“Normally, the fare to Enugu is N5, 500, but we are paying N11, 000 because the buses were ordered to carry less than the number of people they are used to carrying in order to comply with the COVID-19 protocols.

“This is my seat and in order to give space to the next occupant of the other vacant seat in the bus, I have been surcharged for this empty seat in between me and the other person all in compliance with the protocol,” she said.

Kenechukwu Okwor, a natural honey dealer, who distributes honey from Ebonyi state to Lagos, said that the end-users of the products would pay for the high cost of transporting them unless government subsidises it to stabilise prices.

According to him, the resumption of interstate travels is going to be more meaningful if transport fares return to normal.

Okwor, who boarded Young Shall Grow Bus Terminal in Jibowu, said the government did well in removing the restriction order on interstate movement, but the fares are still high.

“But, on the other hand, because of the protocols ordered by the same government, transport operators have given another restriction through increase ib fares, in the end, the whole thing falls on the consumers. “I came to Lagos on August 14 with three 25liters of honey to supply, that trip costs me over N40, 000 above the usual cost because of the COVID-19 protocol.

“So if the government wishes that the people should feel the impact of its goodwill, there is a need for it to intervene and subsidise interstate transport fares for the movement of goods and services,” he said.

He said that with the present fare, many people would not be able to carry out their businesses and this would lead to shortages in supply of food and goods and higher prices.

In Enugu, many passengers complain of price increases which they said the government should look into. One of the commuters, Chike Nworah, a passenger at Holy-Ghost Park, said the transporters increased the fare by 100 percent.

“I came out this morning to board a bus going to Lagos only to find out that the transport fare has gone up by 100 percent. Before the lockdown, it was N5, 500 from Enugu to Lagos by luxury bus as against the current price of N10, 200.

“I know it is normal to increase transportation fare due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not as high as this,” he said.

Another passenger, who only wants to be identified as Chioma, said she could not afford to pay N10, 200 to Lagos because as a student, she was stranded in Enugu throughout the lockdown after the closing of schools.

“I am a student in Institute of Management and Technology, IMT Enugu, I could not travel back home, so I decided to remain until after the lockdown. Now that I want to travel to meet my people in Lagos, I cannot afford the fare due to the hike,” she said.

Babajide Ramon, a passenger boarding a  bus from Jibowu, Lagos to Kaduna state said that he didn’t believe the price he was told until he arrived at the park. “My friend told me I have to budget N12, 000 against my usual N7, 000 or more to get to Kaduna or risk being stranded.

I never believed it until I got here and its totally not good for the economy of the country,” he said.

Mariam Azeez, another passenger travelling to Kano, expressed worry over the amount she was asked to pay from Lagos to Kano. “It is not funny, we are now paying for two passengers because we want to embark on a journey. How can I pay N14, 000 as against N7, 000, just to travel to Kano, it is unfair,” Azeez said.

The managers of these companies explained that it was not their fault and that the increment was as a result of physical distancing, which was one of the rules to be kept to prevent passengers from contracting the virus.

Chigbo Onu, a manager of GUO Motors, said that passengers needed to pay higher than before because a bus that should carry 16 passengers now carry eight passengers in line with Covid-19 pandemic protocol.

Ifeanyichukwu Motors manager, Ifunanya Egwu, added that a luxury bus carries 30 passengers instead of 60 passengers so as to abide by the rules of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.

Realnews recalls that the federal government on July 2, eased the interstate movement restriction imposed nationwide in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in March to curtail the spread of the virus.

The federal government in easing the interstate embargo ordered both transporters and passengers to observe the World Health Organisation, WHO and NCDC recommended protocols to check the virus.

– Aug. 28, 2020 @ 18:15 GMT |

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