The issues lying at the heart of urban policy making in any city, old or new, developed or developing, include infrastructure, employment, population growth, economic sustainability and environmental viability.
In the current political dispensation in Nigeria, Lagos State is, no doubt, a reference point in terms of initiation and execution of strategic policies and programmes that are meant to uplift the living standard of the people. Presently, the State Government is steadily but surely building on foundation for the progress of the state with varied futuristic policy targeting development of state’s public infrastructure and utilities and at the same time focusing on putting an end to anything that could blight the development plan of the state.
It is against this backdrop the government is set to implement the Bus Reform Programme (BRP) which is in line with its policy of giving Lagos a world-class transportation system that supports its megacity status. The BRP which is the focus of this write-up is just one of the Strategic Transport Master Plan (STMP) of the State Government.
The idea is simply to create sanity on Lagos roads by raising the dignity of commuters and commercial vehicle drivers in the State through the introduction of new taxi scheme and higher capacity buses that are eco-friendly, comfortable and fully air conditioned. In addition to this, motor parks across the State would be restructured in a way that discourages sale of alcohol and other such illicit substances at motor parks.
Also, there are plans to introduce commuter protection number plates and body tags on buses to show their routes and enforce colour uniformity on all public transport systems in the state. Under the BRP, the government has a plan to introduce holistic ticketing system which people can download from the internet and use for any of the mode of transportation in the State without hitch.
Apparently, by the time all these reforms are perfected and executed, the state of transport system in the State would never remain the same again. This would certainly help in accelerating the pace of socio- economic growth in the State. The present system of public transport operations in the state as dominated by the yellow buses are full of issues that manifest symptoms of a deep-seated human development problem plaguing not just Lagos but most African cities .
The Bus Reform Programme will definitely pull the brakes on popular yellow commercial buses (Danfos) for good when the medium and high capacity buses replace them on the highways. The fate that befell the now rested bolekaja and molue will ultimately catch-up with Danfos.
Ordinarily, a city with over 20 million people like Lagos ought to have more reliable and efficient public transportation system. Already, the State’s Ministry of Transportation is working out the logistics of the new initiative with representatives of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN). This is in line with the all inclusive governance philosophy of the present administration.
In apparent preparation for the phasing out of Danfos, the State government is extending the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services to strategic corridors across the State. After launching the BRT Lite on the 22-kilometre Mile 12 – CMS route, the route has been extended by 13.5 kilometers from Mile 12 to Ikorodu roundabout.
The latest approval is the development of the Oshodi-Abule-Egba BRT corridor.
According to a project brief prepared by LAMATA on the Oshodi-Abule Egba BRT, Oshodi-Abule Egba corridor is unquestionably one of the busiest bus corridors in West Africa, with 5,500 buses moving passengers per day. It is a critical link for millions of people who live in Alimosho, Egbeda, Iyana Ipaja, Abule Egba, Ijaiye, up to Toll Gate into Sango Ota in Ogun.
It could be recalled that since the early 2000s the Lagos State Government has tried to reform or ban the Danfo system. For instance, the Bola Tinubu administration tried to ensure that Danfos were well maintained by requiring them to pass a Ministry of Transport (MOT) test, but Danfo drivers went on strike to protest the policy and the government had to cave in to their demands.
But this time around, the Akinwunmi Ambode administration has widely consulted and established mutual understanding with the road transporters in the state on the necessity of rebranding and professionalizing the State transport sector.
This explained why it is even the state Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Mr Tajudeen Agbede and the National President of the Bus Conductors Association of Nigeria (BCAN), Mr. Israel Adeshola that are advising their members not to panic over the planned restriction on operations of yellow buses. It is understood by them that the government plan would assist in professionalizing their jobs. In fact, public awareness on how the government has planned to achieve a public transportation system that will support its megacity status has been on since last year.
There already exists an understanding between the government and transport stakeholders that, there would still be education, sensitisation and refreshers courses for those who would operate the high-capacity buses when they arrive. Cynics should understand that the government is not importing drivers. But according to the State the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the ‘Spirit of Lagos’ will, however, be at the fore in whatever the government is coming up with in the new dispensation.
Assuredly, there is nothing to fear over the Bus Reform Programme (BRP) being introduced by the government. Contrary to fear of job lost in this time of economic recession, the reform will create jobs rather than throw the drivers into the unemployment market. Drivers will work there, bus assistants will work there, so what it means is that the government won’t just be able to employ erstwhile drivers of yellow buses but will also be able to employ bus assistant that read tickets, sign and issue tickets and operate computers. Who says they can’t even be graduates? So far they are adequately remunerated.
In essence, the reform will have multiplier effects of enhanced infrastructure, employment opportunities, economic sustainability and environmental viability.
Governance across the world is about creativity and innovation. Societies that disregard innovations will certainly lag behind in the current world order. With the BRP, Lagos State Government is, no doubt, working in the right direction and the people and society at large would be the better for it.