The plan by the Lagos State Government to phase out danfo buses from Lagos roads as part of its agenda to metamorphose the state into a megacity, has been trailed by divergent opinions since the intimation has been made.
Early this year, at the 14th annual lecture of the Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL), many lagosians were taken aback when Lagos Governor, Akinwumi Ambode first disclosed that plans were underway to systematically phase out the yellow buses from Lagos roads.
According to Ambode, what informed government’s decision to take the step was to create a new environment that would pave way for a more efficient, well structured mass transport system that befits a mega city and give Lagos a new outlook so as to attract more tourists and investors to it.
He said, “When I wake up in the morning and see all the yellow buses, okadas (motorcycles) and all kinds of tricycles, I feel that the claim that we are a megacity is not true. We must acknowledge that it is a faulty connectivity that we are running. We have to look for a solution and that is why we want to banish yellow buses this year. We must address the issue of connectivity that makes people to move around with ease and that is where we are going.
He went further.
“My dream of ensuring that Lagos becomes a true megacity will not be actualised with the presence of these yellow buses on Lagos roads. It is estimated that 86 immigrants enter Lagos every hour – the highest in any city in the world – and they have no plans to leave. This is because Lagos has remained over time, and most especially in the last decade, the most attractive destination for those who want to realise and live their Nigerian dream.”
The state government hinges on the premise that for Lagos to achieve the status of a megacity, some radical policies such as phasing out the rickety danfo buses need to be rolled out, adding that they would also pursue with zeal, the mission to springboard the state to the third largest economy in Africa from the present fifth largest economy on the continent.
As a replacement to danfo buses, the state government revealed that by early 2018, they would start rolling out 5,000 new buses of European standard to actually clean up the city because if the economy of Lagos wants to experience growth, transportation is key and it’s also a major infrastructure for tourism itself.
However, since the Lagos State Government has made this plan known, it has attracted diverse reactions from some stakeholders and members of the public.
While reacting to the proposed ban, The state Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Tajudeen Agbede was neither here, nor there as he could not say specifically whether he was in support of the move or not. While speaking with journalists, he said he had told his members not to panic over the matter.
Agbede said that the union was discussing the proposed ban with the government, adding that the union was ready to cooperate with the state government on its mega city project. He stated that there was no basis for them to panic over the proposed ban on operations of the yellow buses. However, he did not give the details on why they should not entertain any fear.
“We are still discussing with the government on the proposed ban on yellow buses, but we believe it is going to yield a positive result. The union is ready to comply with the conditions of making the state a mega city. We are ready to change the colour of our buses and also comply with the directive to follow the service lanes,” Agbede said.
Reacting to the matter, the Secretary of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Lagos chapter, Lekan Amusan gave props to the government on the proposed ban, saying that the union was ready to support the efforts of the state government to transform the transportation sector in order to attain a mega city status. He said that members of both transport unions were consulted before the decision to ban the buses was taken.
The union scribe said: “Let me give kudos to governor Ambode on the plan to scrap the use of yellow buses as commercial vehicles in Lagos because he invited members of both unions to a meeting in respect of the development and we accepted it. At the meeting, we were adopted as operators of the scheme because the government did not want to bring in new people and we submitted our names as interested groups.”
However, many Nigerians have been deeply concerned that it could backfire as it might have ripple effects in terms of creating more economic hardships for Lagosians. They based their observations on the fact that thousands of people are using the ‘danfo’ buses as their sole means of livelihood, lamenting that taking this means of livelihood from them means thousands of job loss, which could later increase crime rate in Lagos metropolis.
This complaint of job loss and hardship on the account of phasing out the yellow buses was put forward to Ambode by the Lagos chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) during the May day rally this year. The labour unions had expressed the fear that the policy might snowball to massive job loss and create more hardship for those who lean on it as a means of survival.
Responding to the complaint, Ambode said: “If Lagos is to be globally competitive, we need to change the outlook of the way the city runs. What is of paramount interest to this government is to make sure that every Lagosian has a comfortable means of moving from one point to the other. But I promise you there will be no job losses.
“We are not interested in driving all the new buses. It is the same bus drivers, the technicians, the mechanics that will also still be employed and trained to use these new buses. Instead of job losses, we are going to employ more people for the greater number of the buses and it will make the city more beautiful and more comfortable for all our workers,” Ambode said.
The Bus Conductors Association of Nigeria (BCAN) seems to be on the same page with the Lagos state Government on the policy.
According to its National President, Israel Adeshola, the body would fully cooperate with the state government in its efforts to give a face-lift to the transportation sector so as to uplift the state to a mega city status, assuring that by early 2018, its members in Lagos would start wearing operational uniforms which is expected to bring sanity to the service.
“The Association has been able to train a reasonable number of conductors on behavioural change. We started the registrations and training at Lagos State Drivers Institute for attitudinal and change in orientation of the members toward passengers and traffic rules. By January 1, 2018, all our registered members will be in their operational uniforms for proper identification and effective service delivery,” Adeshola said.
Expressing its determination to implement the policy, Ambode in a thinly-veiled manner, told the NURTW Lagos chapter during the inauguration of the Union’s new secretariat, to get ready for a “change” that would soon take place in the transportation system in Lagos.
Those who have been following the trend of events, would know that the “change” the governor talked about, signifies the phasing out of the yellow buses otherwise called Danfos in local parlance.