• Opposition parties vow to protest against decision
• Government sues for calm
Except the Lagos State government reverses its decision, commuters in the state, will from tomorrow, start paying higher fares for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that was put in place in 2008, to cushion the challenges of transportation in the state.
The price hike, which was approved by the managing director, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Mr. Abiodun Dabiri however attracted outright condemnation by the opposition parties, who accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration of insensitivity, wickedness and anti-masses policies.
The parties condemned the APC for reneging on the promises it made to the people before it assumed power. The state chairman of Labour Party, Pastor Biodun Popoola yesterday said that the proposed increase from between 20 per cent to 50 per cent as it applies to different routes plied by BRT buses in Lagos Metropolis, is anti-masses.
He said, “The new price increase announced by LAMATA indicated that commuters travelling from Ikorodu to CMS will now pay N300 from tomorrow as opposed to the current rate of N195 and Ikorodu to Fadeyi N200 instead of N120 while similar increases will apply on all other routes.
“The increase to say the least clearly negates the APC’s promise of change especially in view of the current plight of the masses particularly workers in the formal and informal economy.”
He argued that it is horrendous that at this point of economic recession, the government is increasing bus fares used predominantly by the vulnerable, poor and the needy instead of measures to cushion the effects of economic downturn.
He added: “We in Labour Party emphatically say no as it is unfair and would further compound the deteriorating economic situation of Nigerians and workers in Lagos particularly at a time wages are stagnated even in Lagos State.
“We therefore say in all emphasis that this fare hike is clearly unwarranted and except the Lagos state government drops the idea, we will have no choice but join hands with the workers and align with other social forces to resist the new fares.”
Similarly, the national secretary of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Mr. Ayodele Akele frowned at the decision and called on the ruling party to reverse itself.
The former gubernatorial candidate of NCP alerted indigenes of the state that some APC stalwarts are working towards monopolizing the transportation system, which he claimed informed the decisions that have been taken by Ambode’s administration in the last few months.
According to him, “How can any sensitive government wants to increase BRT prices at this point in time when things are out of hands. They are increasing BRT prices without increasing workers salaries. Tell me what has the ruling APC done to cushion the hardships facing the people?”
Akele cautioned that failure to reverse the decision might lead to organised protest against the government “which has gone all out to further impoverished Nigerians. We are worse off than where APC met us that is just the truth.
“For instance, the APC government, through the Vehicles Inspection Officers (VIO) arrests vehicle for road worthiness but the roads are not worthy. The so-called VIO officers usually stationed at the worst spots of the roads to carry out their duties.”
In another reaction, the state council of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) described the government decision as anti-people. The state chairman of TUC, Akeem Kazeem said the action was barbaric given the economy situations in the country.
To him, the move has further exposed the state government as being out of touch with the realities of the suffering of the masses of the state,” stressing that the unilateral nature of the increment without due consultation with stakeholders including the TUC, to examine all the issues related to the increment, is not acceptable.
Consequently, he called on Ambode to withdraw the approval immediately. The spokesman of People Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Mr. Taofik Gani said the BRT project should not have been done with the aim of making profit in the first instance.
Also, he asserted that the government is getting enough from the internally generated revenue (IGR) and should be able to subsidize the BRT, adding: “The party should explain to us who the real owners of the BRT scheme are.”
However, Dabiri explained that current financial crunch which has shut up the cost of operations by 110 per cent necessitated the increment. He said the government recognises the current financial difficulties currently endured by Lagosians and assured public commuters of the commitment of government to guard against arbitrary increases in fares.