COVID-19: Interstate commuters decry fare hike, seek govt intervention

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Some interstate commuters on Monday decried the high cost of transport fare charged by commercial vehicle operators in Lagos State.

The commuters decried the hike in fare in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos and appealed for government intervention.

According to them, the increase will impact negatively on social lives, goods and services, and also rubbish the eased interstate movement as people will be restricted from going to other places.

One of the commuters, Mrs Janet Igbokwe, a Textile material distributor who frequents Aba in Abia from Maza Maza, Lagos, said the transporters are charging 100 percent increase in fare now.

”Passengers are meant to pay for the price of two seats against one seat.

”Normally, the fare to Aba is N6,500 but we are paying N12,000 because the buses were ordered to carry less than the number of people they used to carry in order to comply with the COVID-19 prevention 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.

”This is resources sapping,” she said.

Mr Ben Atuegbu, a Palm Oil Dealer, who distributes edible oil from Imo to Lagos, said 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 eased interstate embargo is going to be more meaningful if transport fare becomes normal.

Atuegbu, who boarded Owerri bound bus at the Young Shall Grow Bus Terminal FESTAC Gate, said government had done well in removing the order, adding that at least things are expected to flow economically.

”But, on the other hand, because of the protocols ordered by the same government, transport operators have given another restriction through increased fare, in the end, the whole thing falls on ordinary people.

“I came to Lagos on July 4 with three drums of oil to sell.

”That trip cost me N35,000 above the usual cost because of the COVID-19 protocol.

”Therefore, if the government wishes for the people is to feel its goodwill, there is a need for it to intervene and subsidise interstate transport for easy flow of goods and services,” he said.

Atuegbu said with the present fare, many people would be restricted from carrying out their endeavours, thereby making many things to be in short supply.

He said that this would induce scarcity in the system and hyperinflation that would further jeopardise the peoples’ welfare.

Mr. Jones Lawal, a Building Contractor, said because of the high cost of transport fare, he did not travel with his workers from Lagos to Enugu, where he had to execute a building construction contract.

Lawal, who relished the adherence to NCDC protocols by the transporters, said that he would co-opt workers from Enugu to execute the building project.

He said that working with unknown artisans in Enugu would be part of the sacrifice he would have to make for COVID-19.

Mrs Angela Opara, the Transport Manager, Sun Quick Motors Ltd, one of the interstate transport operators, said that the protocol had reduced the volume of prospective perssengers.

Opara said that for operators to maintain the protocol, especially the 50 per cent capacity perssenger carriage, the cost of the unoccupied seats had to be factored in.

She said this would enable operators remain in business and make profit also, adding that it is the reason for the fare increase.

NAN recalls that the Federal Government on July 2, eased the interstate movement restriction it imposed nationwide in the wake of the Coronavirus 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’s (WHO) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) recommended protocols to check the virus.

The protocol included 50 percent capacity passenger carriage, among others.

NAN

– Jul. 6, 2020 @ 16:39 GMT |

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