Maintenance, according to Advanced Learners Dictionary can be defined as the process of protecting or preserving someone or something, or the process of keeping something in good condition. Culture on the other hand is defined as a way of life, a lifestyle, customs, traditions, habits that portray the attributes of person/people.
So, it can easily be deduced from the two different definitions above that maintenance culture connotes the degree in which one values a property or possession in his care.
Maintenance culture is an element that is greatly lacking in Nigeria. Both the government and the citizens are guilty of this and this monster which has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigeria is taking its toll on every public property in the country.
The general attitudes of people towards government property are worrisome due to the fact that these infrastructures they exhibit lack-luster attitude to, actually belong to them.
The issue is so serious that experts have observed that poor maintenance culture in Nigeria is greatly affecting the lifespan of government properties such as roads, public buses, government offices, bridges, public schools, airports, seaports and others.
The absence of routine maintenance has made many public properties moribund. Few examples are the four refineries which have gone downhill due to lack of adequate Turn Around Maintenance (TAM). The four refineries are now performing very badly in view of the problem of lack of maintenance culture. The popular Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos and other bridges in Nigeria are in terrible state. Many motor roads in Nigeria have become death traps where lives are lost daily because they are poorly maintained. Poor handling of public utilities is the order of the day in Nigerians’ way of life.
Bus Rapid Transit; ‘a new system’ of transportation which was unveiled on March 17th 2008 is one of the public utilities that have become the victim of poor maintenance culture. It was a vision of the former Governor, Bola Tinubu, but was implemented by his successor, Babatunde Fashola.
The BRT system provides a motorway that is dedicated to particular buses and gives priority to buses at intersections where they may interact with other traffic. Unlike the system of conventional buses, the system usually reduces delay caused by passengers boarding buses or purchasing fares. The system is designed to have the features of flexibility, affordability and simplicity of a bus system.
It should be noted that the BRT system did not begin in Lagos; it is a global transport system that was first introduced in Brazil in 1974 as Rede Intega de Transpore (Integrated Transport Network). The trail-blazing transport system in Brazil has since spread to other major cities in the world, Lagos inclusive.
In the United States, the BRT system came into being in 1977 with Pittisbugh’s South Busway, operating 6.9 kilometers of exclusive lanes. Its success led to the establishment of another called Martin Lurther King Jr. East Busway in 1983 with 14.6 kilometers.
It was introduced in Quitor, Equador, in 1995. It was introduced in Bogota, Colombia in the year 2000. As at March 2008, a total number of 166 cities in six continents have implemented the BRT systems.
When the system was unveiled in Lagos in 2008, Lagosians had some sigh of relief due to new innovations and some system of comfortability it entailed. However, the relief was short-lived as some of the buses, most especially the red ones belonging to Lagbus Asset Management have now become “the new molue”. Some of the buses are so dilapidated and poorly managed to the extent that many commuters now prefer the so called rickety yellow buses. Apart from gross poor management of the buses, all the features that bore the hallmark of the former molue are now the attributes of these red BRT buses. Merely looking at these buses, one will know that they are in dire straits.
The red BRT Lagbus system is being managed by LAGBUS Asset Management while the blue ones are being managed by a private transport company called Primero Nigeria limited. Both systems are under the regulation of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA.
Even the blue BRT buses managed by LAMATA are mired in all forms of logistic problems ranging from frequent lack of fuel, endless waiting of teeming passengers at the designated bus stops and intensive uproar that are always associated with it. It should be noted that this is how the red BRT bus started, until they suddenly became a “glorified molue”. Poor logistics largely signifies lack of knowledge of maintenance, most especially, as it concerns public properties.
In an interview with New Telegraph, many of the passengers expressed their displeasure in the manner in which the buses are being managed, leading to decay of public properties in Nigeria. A commuter, Biyi Akinsanya lamented that the dream of the BRT system had been greatly bastardised, adding that those buses are very dirty and in terrible states which show that they are not well taken care of. He equally decried the manner those “forceful tax collectors” known as “agberos” extort money from the BRT buses. He also complained that the way and manner the staff of the buses relate with the passengers and the public is extremely terrible (this is also common among the staff of the Primero-controlled blue BRT buses).
“The BRT buses have turned into modern molue. If you look at them properly, most especially the red buses, you will notice that they are poorly managed. Besides, the attitude of the operators are totally uncalled for,” Akinsanya said.
Another commuter called Eugenia, a local government nurse, complained that the two BRT systems are to some extent laced with the problems associated with the traditional buses.
“The mannerism of the bus operators can trigger physical confrontation between them and passengers. Again, the transport system is faced by other problems such as long delays at bus stops. However, passengers prefer the blue LAMATA buses to the LAGBUS (Red Bus),” she said.
Akinola, another commuter, said that although he prefers BRT buses as they are more convenient for him, however, he complained that the BRT system faces problems such as situations of people jumping the line, queuing at crowded stations, disorderliness of ticketers, problems of change in prices of tickets and other logjams that make mess of the system.
The former Commissioner of Transport in Lagos, Kayode Opeifa attributed scarcity of bus spare parts to the poor maintenance of the BRT buses.
“You know, we don’t manufacture buses and we don’t manufacture spares. The major problem is the issue of spare parts, which we don’t manufacture, but by and large, the operators can do better,” Opeifa said.
Even if the complaints of dearth of bus spare parts are true, why didn’t they put proper structure in place before embarking on such project because if fundamental structure had been put in place, they would have envisaged all the albatross and nipped them in the bud.
In the light of lack of maintenance culture that is causing major decay in the nation’s infrastructure, Makinde Ogunleye, a former Chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP) Lagos State Chapter, recently urged governments at all levels, including citizens, to prioritise infrastructure maintenance so as to avoid infrastructure decay the country is battling with.
Ogunleye told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that lack of maintenance and sustainability culture among Nigerians was the bane of infrastructure development.
He said that the infrastructure development in Nigeria should have developed better than its current stage, if the country made maintenance of existing infrastructure a priority, noting that lots of infrastructure and abandoned projects have been allowed to decay, due to lack of adequate maintenance.
Ogunleye suggested that the government and the citizens should make maintenance of existing infrastructure a priority, if the development of such facility was to be improved upon.
“It is when one learns to protect and sustain what he/she has, that he can be able to grow it. Until Nigerians imbibe the maintenance culture, the country may not be able to improve its infrastructure status,” he said.
According to him, the country has got diverse infrastructure and capital projects, but lacks the ability to monitor, maintain and sustain them.
“Generally, we believed in new projects, which is good, but what matters is their sustenance.The governments have performed well by developing the existing infrastructure and other capital projects, but it failed in their maintenance.
He even voiced out against the way and manner the BRT system is being managed, lack of adequate maintenance is fading the glory of this brilliant project.
“For instance, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) which was introduced in Lagos about 10 years ago, was not given adequate maintenance.
“And that is why we are unable to sustain it; today, large number of the transit buses are parked because they can no longer function well,” he said.
Speaking on the causes of lack of maintenance culture in Nigerian society, a public analyst, Timothy Bamidele said: “The causes of poor maintenance culture could be attributed to corruption, attitudinal problem, unfavourable government policies and diversion of funds meant for project implementation.
“Since maintenance culture is a panacea to the development of any nation. It is therefore imperative for relevant authorities to form national policy on continuous maintenance culture that would be effective at all the three tiers of government,” Bamidele said.