The idea of introducing the Bus Rapid Transit system BRT was to improve the quality of commuting for Lagos residents without stress. It has always been hectic and appalling. However, commuters now worry over the falling standards in this once comfortable means of transportation.
Before the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was introduced in Lagos, there was the use of the 18-seater mini buses and the Molues, which are the big buses converted from trucks that were designed to accommodate from 44 to 50 passengers per trip. The molue buses, though designed to convey 50 passangers, are known to convey close to 100 passengers many of who are squashed together and those without seats are packed into the aisle or hang on the doorway. Commuting on these tightly-seated buses was an experience one would not want to have twice because they were always crowded and filthy.
More than anything else, the drivers of the molue buses and their conductors were notoriously known to be unrepentantly overbearing. The buses themselves usually have loud horns which these drivers use at will to discourage and annoy other road users with their trademark rough driving.
Inside the Molue you find an existence that is interesting and shocking at the same time. All forms of items are sold inside these buses such as drugs that is claimed to solve any problem from stomach upset, headaches, malaria to curing HIV, and even preachers who claim to know when Jesus Christ is returning.
“One thing I hate about taking the molue is that everyone is laden together whether you are smartly dressed and on your way to the office, or you are a market woman on your way to the market you will be packed together like sardines, at the end of the day before one gets to the office you end up dirty and smelly,” said Sijuade Adesunkanmi, a commuter.
Because of the way persangers are packed like sardines amid the unbearable Lagos heat, investigations show that the Molue can be very discomforting when inside. Travelling on these molue buses can be a nightmare for Lagos commuters, it is like taking a ride on a roller coaster headed for hell.
However, this disgusting molue experience is fast becoming the case of the BRT buses as commuters criticise the spate of how fast it is becoming uncomfortable to move around with. Reports show in its effort to alleviate these sufferings of Lagosians, the Lagos State government introduced the decent mass transit buses courtesy of the Bus Rapid Transit scheme, which took off in March 2008. BRT was introduced as a way of easing the stress Lagos residents were facing in their everyday lives commuting on Lagos commercial buses; it was quite frustrating for most commuters.
The purpose was to gradually phase out the molues, which have become inadequate, old-fashioned and inappropriate for the status of Lagos if it is to be seen as a mega city. Having been on the streets of Lagos for the past five years, investigations reveal the questions on the lips of many Lagos commuters are; has the BRT system eased the discomfort of commuting on Lagos roads? While a majority believe to an extent it has, yet they reckon that if the issues are not quickly addressed, BRT buses are fast becoming the molues the state government is trying to phase out of Lagos roads.
Some Lagos residents are of the opinion that the BRT system is fast becoming a glorified molue since most commuters still have to face the suffering and squashing being endured in the molue buses. “Just last Friday, I boarded a BRT bus that was headed for CMS and I did this just to avoid the tightness and discomfort of travelling with other buses. However, to my surprise when we got to Oshodi Isale, the driver packed and started loading more passengers unto the already filled-up bus,” Bolade Adeshugba, a student told THISDAY.
He added: “Despite our protest, he simply turned deaf ears to us and took in over 15 more passengers. That journey that day was very uncomfortable and annoying for me because I felt I was in a molue bus”.
When it was introduced, the BRT system was seen as a blessing to Lagos residents, commuting from the mainland to the Island had never been so affordable and significant amount of time was being saved for commerce. But today, many still fear this is fast becoming history.
Another passenger had this to say: “The feeling I had when I boarded the bus was terrible, it is sad that on the edge of collapse is a bus system that was introduced less than six years ago to make traveling stress-free for us, Lagosians. Look at its state now, it is fast becoming like the Danfo buses we were running away from”.
Investigations still show when the BRT system started years back, they were brand new buses so boarding on one was very comfortable and you get to ride in air-conditioned comfort from one destination to another. It is sad to say that they are already falling apart, as investigation has shown most of these buses are not being properly maintained.
Along the Iyana Ipaja axis to CMS, one hardly finds an air-conditioned bus plying that route. When asked why this is so, one of the ticket sellers who begged to remain anonymous said: “Most of them are spoilt but they are not being repaired because most people do not like to buy the tickets. They prefer the N160.00 tickets,” she said. When asked how much the AC tickets are sold for she disclosed they are sold for N220.00. “In Nigeria, it is rather a sad situation whereby you find the government or private entrepreneurs setting up multi-billion naira projects and allow them going down after a brief period of time as a result of lack of maintenance of equipment,” Mr. Hilary Ewerem, a Lagos-based businessman said, adding: “It is so discouraging that we spend enormous sums of money building and developing infrastructure in the country only for us to look back after a few years to find such lovely projects left unattended to. “If someone could come up with such beautiful ideas for the growth and development of our country, and was able to implement it, then why is it such a difficult task for us to see to it that these facilities are being maintained? Instead, because of our selfishness someone prefers to damage the system so they can have the opportunity to make money out of the failing system,” he added. According to Mr. Matthew Elege, a commuter, if Nigerians could learn to develop a maintenance culture, “we will realise it is economical to take care of what we have than to acquire new ones that we still will leave to deteriorate. We must understand that if we keep acquiring instead of maintaining already owned facilities, it will have tremendous negative impact on Nigeria’s economy,” he said.
Commuters are calling on the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola to ensure that these buses are put back in proper order and their use well defined as they were when they first started since they are fast becoming uncomfortable. Also, they called on the governor to address the issues of the rudeness of the BRT bus drivers as this is fast becoming a trend as well as their rough handling of the vehicles.
In his reaction to the issues raised, Public Relations Officer, Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority (LAMATA), Mr. Kola Ojelabi disclosed that the body has been intimated on the complaints of commuters and the issues are being addressed.
“We have had series of complaints by the public and we have gone back to the drawing board to address these issues and we want to assure the public the matter will be solved. Notwithstanding, I would like to say on the issue of the buses being over crowded, we have also gotten complaints from our drivers of commuters being the ones insisting on not being left behind, they see that the buses are filled up but they still insist on being carried,” he said.
On the maintenance of the buses, Ojelabi said: “It may seem that we are not doing anything about the buses that are having problems, but we are, if you look around, most of these buses have been called off the road for repairs. We cannot remove all the buses at once so we call them in batches.” He said during off-peak periods buses also return to their parks before returning to the road during peak hours.
Addressing the complaints of commuters of the rudeness of most of the bus drivers, he said: “We have had complaints about our bus drivers being rude, I for one, travel on these buses and I have not experienced any of such behaviour from the drivers.
His advice to commuters: “I would like to advice the public that if a driver is rude it is very simple, these buses have code numbers, just take down the number of the bus in question and forward your complaints with the number to our office, then leave the rest to us. For us to be able to address and prosecute these offending drivers we must know them”.