The new scheme for public transport services introduced by the Federal Capital Territory Administration to cater for the daily influx of people into Abuja does not seem to have achieved the desired goals.
The scheme was designed to improve transportation in the city so as to enable commuters to get to their destinations safely and in good time. Also, it was meant to boost transportation on feeder roads and to check traffic jams on high capacity bus routes.
Needless to say that the policy led to the banning of commercial mini-buses, popularly known as Araba, from operating in Abuja and its environs.
Under the scheme, government has granted operating licenses to five mass transit operators who will ply designated routes in the capital city with high capacity buses. They are Shaanxi Auto Limited, ATCS Limited, City-Cab Limited, Print Field Enterprises Limited and Corporate Drivers Nigeria Limited.
Before the reintroduction of the policy, the FCTA promised to cater for the transport needs of concerned residents and workers coming from outside the city centre by introducing adequate, efficient and affordable high capacity buses.
The FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, who spoke on the policy in Abuja, also indicated that the administration had licensed some taxi cab operators with security gadgets for monitoring and evaluation to ply the routes where the high capacity buses would have difficulty operating.
The minister had said the ban on mini-buses was not meant to cause hardship to commuters. “We have over 700 high capacity buses in the FCT, the Abuja Urban Mass Transit Company has about 300, the NURTW has about 200, and other licensed operators have about 200.
“But the mini buses will not allow them to work seriously. You only work on the basis of profitability. You will see the high capacity buses burning their gas without any passenger because the mini bus people will not give them any breathing space. Besides, they are reckless and undisciplined.
“So, we want to get a minimal cavity of monopoly for the high capacity buses and routes have been designated for mini and high capacity buses. This will decongest the traffic gridlock being experienced in the city,” Mohammed said.
It seems that ever since the policy was re-introduced, workers in Abuja have continued to suffer inconveniences.
Reacting to this, a contractor resident in the Gwarimpa area, Esther Akpata, says, “It is really affecting everybody. There used to be buses conveying passengers from Gwarimpa to Wuse and other places, but now you have to take a cab. They did not provide enough buses. People are finding it difficult to cope with the situation.
“In the past, it took one minute to get a bus to Gwarimpa, unlike now that you can wait for hours before you can get a bus.
“In fact in Gwarimpa, there are no long buses. The people are suffering. They should have provided enough buses before banning the commercial buses from plying the road.”
The roads are now filled with rickety vehicles and reckless driving has become the order of the day. The most guilty are drivers employed by government for the high-capacity buses. They drive recklessly and do not obey traffic rules. Most times they intimidate and in some occasions, push smaller cars off the roads. There is hardly any day on Mararaba route that they are not engaged in one disagreement or another with other road users.