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FUEL SUBSIDY: Transporters Record Low Patronage As Commuters Shun Interstate Trips.

Fuel station.

The escalating costs of living occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy and the subsequent rise in the pump price of petrol, and rising inflation have forced different categories of Nigerians to make adjustments to the way they live.

These are not the best of times in the road transport sector as commuters are now cutting down on interstate travels except for those that are absolutely necessary and essential, while commercial motorists who ply interstate roads have been recording low patronage and as a consequence are scaling down the number of trips they make and taking other measures, including to combine passengers going to different destinations along the same route.

Investigations revealed decreasing passenger traffic at popular bus terminals and motor parks in different cities across the country, while vehicles that usually get full within an hour now take over four hours in some cases.

Recall that President Bola Tinubu announced the removal of subsidy on petrol during his inauguration on May 29, 2023 and this was followed by a jump in the pump price of the commodity from N185 per litre to N500.

As Nigerians were battling with the effects of the subsidy removal and awaiting the palliatives promised by the Federal Government to alleviate their suffering, a new price regime kicked off on Tuesday and resulted in petrol selling for between N586 and N630 per litre.

Many transport operators, who spoke to our correspondents, said they had to raise the fares to reflect the new economic realities, as their services were solely dependent on petrol.

On Monday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited published a new price list which pegged petrol at between N586 and N630/litre.

This new price, according to the Group Chief Executive of the NNPCL, Mr Mele Kyari, is because of some market forces, including the exchange rate of the dollar to the naira, among other factors.

The country’s annual inflation rate rose to 22.41 per cent in May from 22.22 per cent in the previous month, almost matching an 18-year high, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The transport sector has been the worst hit by the fuel price increase as fares for interstate travels have increased by up to 250 and 300 per cent.

Before the fuel hike, travellers going from the Iyana-Ipaja park to Ibadan, Oyo State, were asked to pay between N1000 and N1500 for the trip.

An Oyo State-based content creator, Ibrahim Sadiq, said in an interview with one of our correspondents he was charged N2,500 from the old toll gate area in Lagos to Ibadan on Wednesday.

“When I got to the small park right after the toll gate along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the bus drivers asked that we pay N2,500. A Sienna even charged N3,000. When I travelled last month I paid N2,000 from Berger. The increment is just too much,” he said.

Another commuter, who works with an educational consulting firm in Abeokuta, Ogun State but has her family in Lagos, Mrs Aishat Ahmed, said she used to pay between N1,500 and N1,800 from Berger in April.

“Since May, I spend as much as N3,500 sometimes and Abeokuta is not even that far. I remember when I used to enter a bus from Berger to Abeokuta for about N800 around 2018 or 2019. I have decided to begin to divest from Lagos and move fully to Abeokuta. This time around, the buses take so long to fill up because there are no passengers,” she added.

The 'God is Good Motors’ park at Yaba, Lagos, at 10.41 am on Thursday, looked almost empty.

On enquiry, a worker who spoke on condition of anonymity said the day had been slow, adding that passengers now preferred to go with unregistered operators because of the increase in fares.

He added that the fare from Lagos to Bayelsa a few months ago was around N7,900 and N8,000, but had increased to over N23,000 now.

For Enugu, from Lagos, the fare was around N9,000 but is now N21,000. The fare for Edo (Auchi, Akpakpava, Uselu and Ekpoma) has also increased by almost 100 per cent, hitting N19,000.

The operator stated, “The major problem now is that the company is trying to review the fares because even the amounts do not reflect the current realities. This recent increase in fuel to about N630/litre has not even been considered.

“A lot of our customers are no longer coming to board our vehicles. The business has been slow. Now, for people going to Ughelli in Delta State and other places along that route, we put them on the same bus going to Bayelsa.

“Before, by 7am, the first bus would have moved. Now, even by 8.30am, we are still doing some kind of amendments to make sure that the bus does not leave any vacant seats. It (the fuel price hike) has really affected business.

“As I speak, I am scared that the company may begin to consider downsizing in order to stay afloat. With the current situation, I hope we don’t go under.”

A ticketing agent, who spoke to one of our correspondents at the terminal, said the rate of passengers booking trips online had also dropped.

She said, “Before this current palaver, we used to have about five or more first buses going to Jos, Plateau State; Port Harcourt, Rivers State; Yenagoa, Bayelsa State; Enugu, Enugu State; and even to the far North like Bauchi. But, now, we manage to fill the second buses going to these areas.

“As of yesterday (Wednesday), we got a report from our Jibowu office that as of 9.30 am, the second bus going to Port Harcourt had yet to move because it was half empty. We are really losing a lot of time, manpower and resources to the fuel palaver.”

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