Residents of Lagos have cried out over the decision of the Lagos Bus Service Ltd. to hike the fares on all its routes by 46 per cent.
Some residents of the state, who spoke with SaharaReporters, said it was unfair for the service to increase prices and operate at full capacity simultaneously.
The Managing Director of Lagos Bus Service Ltd, Idowu Oguntona, said in a statement on Monday that it had received approval from the Lagos state government to increase the price of its services by an average of 46 per cent, transport passengers to full capacity and ply the Bus Rapid Transit corridor.
Oguntona said the incentives it obtained would come into effect on August 1 2020.
Isaiah Oluwatobi, a media practitioner, described the Lagos State government’s incentives to LBSL as insensitive.
He said the state government should reverse its decision to allow the operator to operate at full capacity because they would be putting the health of Lagosians at risk.
“Lagos State government has chosen to be insensitive to the plight of residents at this Coronavirus period. While other countries are giving their people palliatives, our government are extorting and exploiting us.
“The decision to increase the bus fare is not only ridiculous but also inhumane, considering that they also permitted the bus operator to operate at full capacity. It shows they don’t care about the health of Lagosians.
“I hope they immediately reverse the decision of the buses carrying full passengers as it goes against the safety precautions of COVID-19,” he said.
Mr Oguntona said in the statement that the permission to run at the maximum was timely, as the company made a 72 per cent loss when it was mandated to carry just 20 passengers.
Unlike the Primero operated blue buses which have the sole right to the BRT corridor till August 1 and commercial bus operators, LBSL chose to maintain its pre-COVID-19 induced lockdown fare. Before the pandemic struck, its prices were below that of commercial bus operators.
An entrepreneur, Cornelius Itepu, however, said it is fair for the LBSL to now decide that it wants to function at the prevailing market rate.
“Their prices were lower than that of commercial bus operators before COVID-19,” Itepu said. “I’m guessing they were getting some form of subvention from the Lagos state government. It is fair that they now want to run at fair market value. If they choose to go higher than the market, people will stop using their services,” he said.
Oguntona said that LBSL had been permitted to increase its capacity from 20 to 42.
Itepu said that although he had not counted the number of seats in any of the vehicles, he believes LBSL should be able to maintain the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC) ‘s guidelines on the containment of COVID-19.
Anike Bamise, a web developer, said LBSL operated vehicles that run the Ikeja to Berger route had been carrying full capacity since the lockdown was lifted.
She says even though passengers are mandated to wear face masks before boarding, she does not feel the trips she made on those journeys were safe.
“They have been operating full capacity since. Even though they make sure everyone entering puts on face masks — which they remove when they enter, and they use perforators to tear tickets, not their hands, it is still unsafe.”
Ms Bamise said the price increase was general and she had already prepared for the hike. “The price increase is general. I already expected it. They did not raise fares when others were doing so,” she said.
Another resident, Habeeb Olalekan, said it was unfair for the state government to give LBSL the concession to operate at full capacity and still increase its fare.
“The Lagos State government is helping LBSL to cheat us,” he said. “Now is not a time to be increasing prices, it would worsen the inflation Nigerians are enduring. We are suffering an increased tax burden; every morsel of help we receive from our weak government institutions is thinning out.”
SaharaReporters, New York