Crisis Looms at Oshodi Terminal as Lagos Hikes Service Charge for Luxury Bus Passengers

Crisis Looms at Oshodi Terminal as Lagos Hikes Service Charge for Luxury Bus Passengers

Bennett Oghifo

There is palpable tension at the section of the Oshodi Terminal Interchange (OTI) occupied by long distance luxury bus transporters following a sharp increase in service charge from the usual N600 to N2000 which took effect from Thursday February 1.

Following this development, the Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria (ALBON), yesterday, sent a protest letter to the Lagos State Government through the Managing Director, Planet Project Limited that operates the terminal.

The letter is titled, “Protest against imposition of 333% exorbitant increase in access charge payable per passenger at the OTI from N600 to N2000 per passenger”

They said, “We are compelled by the recent ugly development at the Oshodi Transport Interchange (OTI) to forward this protest letter to you.

“In a meeting our Association held with your Management at the OTI Conference room on 25th January 2024, the Association’s Representatives were informed that your Management has decided to increase the Passenger Access Charge payable at the OTI from N600 to N3000 per passenger. Our members at the meeting strongly protested this unconscionable increase of nearly 500% in the access charge and that the same was too exorbitant and choking and did not have a human face.

“However, in order to show our good faith in the negotiation, our representatives proposed a counter offer of N200 that should be added to the already existing access charge of N600 to bring the total access charge payable per passenger

“Trustees: Chief (Dr) Vincent Obianodo,MON; Chief (Dr) Chidi Anyaegbu, MFR; Mr. Frank Nneji, OON; HRH Igwe Leonard N. Ezeh Sir, G. U. Okeke MON; Chief Eugene N Ojukwu MON; at the OTI to N800. However, as both parties were still negotiating,you reluctantly informed our Representatives that your management has agreed to reduce the access charge from N3000 you had earlier proposed to N2000 per passenger. But ALBON maintained and is still maintaining that the N2000 being demanded, which is over 333% increase, is still unconscionable and capable of ruining our business completely at the OTI based on the following grounds.

“1.ALBON is maintaining that the N2000 increase in the access charge which the OTI management is proposing that should be passed on to the passengers in the form of extra cost in the existing bus fare payable at the OTI cannot in any way be transferred to the passenger in the form of an increase in bus fare because the ALBON tariff is uniform throughout the country including all transport hubs in Lagos State. For example, if the ALBON bus fare is N18,000 in all its branches in Lagos State including OTI, passengers at OTI will find it extremely difficult to pay an additional N2000 being imposed by the OTI Management às the new access charge.

“ALBON also argues that since transport fares are elastic in demand,virtually all our prospective passengers will choose to go to other zones or branches in Lagos State where there is no exorbitant access charge.The effect is that passengers’ patronage at the OTI will be drastically reduced to a low level of about 20 or 25 passengers in a bus with 51 or 59 loading capacity.”

It was gathered at Terminal 1, where the luxury buses operate from, that the transporters are urging the Lagos State Government to rescind the upward review in view of the harsh economic realities of the day, even as the regular passengers insist they won’t pay the new charge.

Further checks at the busy inter-state terminal 1 on Thursday revealed that in reaction to the order by the firm managing the OTI – Planet Projects Limited – that the collection of the new service charge must take effect from February 1, the transporters have not been loading their buses at the terminal since Thursday.

One of the managers disclosed that they were waiting for directives from the bus owners who were said to be making efforts to convince the government to shelve the plan or, at least, ensure that the increase does not go higher than N800 – a N200 increase.

He described the new N2000 service charge for luxury bus passengers as “very unfair” and “discriminatory,” because “other inter-state buses, especially those belonging to the members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), are still paying only N200.”

He stated that there is no way the Lagos State Government could justify imposing a heavy burden on passengers by collecting N2000 service charge only days after the end of the recent transport fare rebate introduced to ease the pains of oil subsidy removal on passengers.

“It is like giving the public tranport palliative with the right hand and taking it back with the left hand,” he lamented.

Intending passengers who heard of the impending hike on Wednesday had openly voiced their complaints, wondering why the Lagos State Government would think of such a sharp upward review at a time Nigerians are groaning under the weight of economic hardship.

They vowed to resist the increase, adding, however, that if the Lagos State Government goes on to impose the new charge, they would look for alternative transport services.

Some of the passengers threatened to start using other terminals and loading stations belonging to private long distance bus transporters for their travels and goods movement.

“If the increase stands, what is likely to happen is that the fare paid by the man who enters a luxury bus at Oshodi will be higher by N2000 than the fare paid by the passenger travelling to the same destination from Jibowu or any other terminal or station in Lagos,” a passenger explained.

“So, tell me why travellers must continue to come to the Oshodi terminal where Ithey will be charged higher?” another agitated intending traveller who gave his name as Chuka Anaebonam, asked, arguing that he had just been charged N100 for making use of the toilet.

“Now, look at that. You are imposing an exorbitant service charge and at the same time you are collecting N100 from the same passengers, is that not exploitation and double taxation?” he asked.

The likely consequence of the sharp increase, according to another passenger, Valentine Okoro, who was Onitsha-bound, is that the Oshodi terminal would be deserted, because if the passengers refuse to pay, the bus owners would be forced to take their vehicles elsewhere for loading.

Neither the leadership of the luxury bus owners association nor the management of Planet Projects could be reached for their comments, but a staff of the latter (Planet Projects) who spoke on phone, confirmed that the increase from N600 to N2,000 took effect February 1.

“Yes. There is an increase to N2,000 with effect from February 1,” he said, but won’t offer any more comments.

An infuriated manager who identified himself as Okey Transport and recorded his angry view in a voice note, warned that if the increase is implemented, it would scare away passengers from the Oshodi terminal

Okey Transport recalled in the recorded message, “Just last year, OTI increased the service charge from N250 to the present N600. We allowed it to stand. And I remember that I warned that if we accept it, they would soon raise it to N2,000. If we don’t resist this N2000 now, very soon, they will raise it further to N3000.”

He disclosed that the Lagos State Government makes not less than N3 million from the presence of the luxury bus transporters daily, including collecting money from passengers for using the toilet, arguing that an increase in service charge is unnecessary.

At a time when one luxury bus tyre costs more than N200,000, he pointed out, and the overall costs of keeping the vehicles on the road keep rising, imposing more charges on the transporters or their passengers, would compound their headaches.

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