FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello (middle), cutting the tape to inaugurate 25 large capacity buses for the FCTA Staff Transit Scheme...recently

The Federal Capital Development Authority is fixing the hassles of commuting by donating 25 large capacity buses in support of the staff bus scheme on different routes in the nation’s capital. Olawale Ajimotokan reports

Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria is reputed as one of the fastest growing cities in the world. By 2016 the population of the metropolis, created in 1976, was estimated at six million.

All of Nigeria’s government administrative institutions are based in Abuja. However, a major drawback for the authority is the failure to address the mass transit deficit confronting the city’s dwellers with public workers bearing much of the impact on a daily basis.

It is common knowledge that inefficient transport system makes several public workers impunctual at work because they reside in places and neighbouring states that are far from the city centre. Again getting back to their destinations after the day’s task also becomes a tug of war.

The workers’ plight is set to be complicated with the seasonal rains projected to make the landfall in a couple of weeks.

But the launch of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCTA) Staff Bus Scheme by the FCT Minister Muhammad Musa Bello is a palliative that will alleviate the workers’ hardship through vehicular transportation to and fro the office.
The minister described the launch of the refurbished buses as momentous in the history of the administration.

“This bus scheme is very important to this administration because the welfare of staff remains topmost for increased productivity and quality service delivery to the residents of the territory. This will ease the transport burden on the workers. And to make it more vibrant, we intend to collaborate with development partners by getting more buses and expanding the scope of operation to cover staff of other MDAs across the FCT, ” he said.

The FCTA Staff Bus Scheme was recommended by the implementation committee headed by the Director of Establishment and Training, Salihu Anwar Mohammed. The committee was established to work out modality for a short and long term strategy on the operation of staff bus scheme.

According to Bello, the monetary value of the buses will be deducted as part of liquidation of FCTA loans to the Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company (AUMTCO).

He also stressed that in order to make the scheme vibrant the administration was considering the option of working with development partners in making more buses available as part of corporate social responsibility.

Though FCTA already has many existing red buses plying several routes in the city for its mass transit scheme, the minister said that the staff bus scheme was realised through the refurbishing of some of the serviceable buses from the existing fleet.

“The green buses are beautiful and hopefully this year, when the rainy season starts, it will be kind so that every where will be clean and nice. As for if they are they part of the existing fleet of buses or they are newly and freshly procured, what we did was that we looked at the existing buses within our fleet and made sure that those that were repairable were fixed and these are the ones we repaired, and as a matter of fact, when you go inside you will be amazed at how beautiful they are and even the air conditioning system is working. My appeal to the FCTA workers is to join hands in ensuring the buses are kept in highest condition of maintenance,’’ Bello charged.
Anwar Mohammed lauded the scheme, describing it as a morale booster that will reduce the transport stress of staff to offices and back home.
He added that the buses expected to ply 11 routes within FCT and contiguous states will guarantee punctuality to work.

He said that to ensure accountability, a system will be put in place for staff to purchase their tickets at designated banks while AUMTCO which has maintenance agreement with the manufacturers of the buses is expected to handle their maintenance.

But a member of the staff bus scheme committee, Comrade Titus Okoro, described the scheme as an initiative that will raise workers’ productivity and reduce number of hours waiting at the bus stops.

Okoro, who is the Chairman of the Joint Union Action Committee– a combination of 10 affiliate unions of Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC) Trade Union Congress (TUC) and trade union centres- said the committee has mapped out all the routes to be covered by the bus service.
He said the committee has classified the bus routes into four for operational convenience. The routes include, Keffi, Airport Road, Kubwa and Bwari.

The Keffi axis comprises settlements like Mararaba, Nyanya, Masaka, One Man Village, New Karu, New Nyanya, Auta Balefi, Gidan Zakara up to Keffi in Nasarawa State.
The Airport Road axis has Lugbe, Sauka, Jibi, and all the settlements along the western corridor, terminating at Gwagwalada, while the third axis goes through Kubwa, Gwarimpa, Madala, Dei-Dei, Suleija through Kaduna Road.

The last route comprises Bwari, Dutse Alhaji, Ushafa axis with Bwari as the terminal.
He explained that the effect of the high cost of transport on the workers will be minimised in the short and long term as the transport fares will be subsidised.

The cheapest ticket on a one-way ride from Area 11 to Mararaba will cost N100, while passengers disembarking at Keffi should expect to part with N250.

Okoro said that the bus was subsidised to make it affordable for FCTA workers, saying that the fares on every route is reasonable given the prevailing realities.

“The fact that it is FCTA Staff Bus Scheme means the priority is the staff. But it is not free, just that it is subsidised so that workers can afford the cost of one way bus ride. It is a fact the cost of transport to Keffi from Area 1, Berger or AYA is in the region of N200-N250, whereas if you are plying a commercial vehicle you will pay as much as N400. The remaining subsidy has been transferred to FCTA,’’ he said.

He added that the buses will be maintained from collected fares, stressing further that management will have to intervene if there arises a major issue.

Though the scheme is set in motion with 25 buses, Okoro disclosed that for the programme to be successful, requests were made for procurement of 10 more coaster buses.

According to him the committee expected the medium capacity buses to be bought last year, but that could not be realised because of issues with the 2016 budget.

“Let us look at 2017 and see if those procurements will be made. That means we are adding 10 more buses to the existing fleet to bring the number to 35. Later we can consider the necessity of increasing the number,” Okoro said.

Okoro’s enthusiasm was shared by another member of the implementation committee, John Okooboh, who declared that with the delivery of the project, the perennial issue of workers’ lateness to office will be sufficiently addressed.

“I feel great and happy that the bus scheme has been realised. Now the issue of workers reporting late to office will be addressed. Workers should no longer give excuses for late coming to office because they have now been provided with designated buses and the bus-stops where to board the bus,’’ Okooboh said.