By Oji Odu
Monday, July 10, 2017, Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) scheme drivers decided to embark on a partial strike. Passengers who patronised the laudable transport outfit of the Lagos state government were stranded from the early hours of the day, as the drivers refused to work.
At all their bus stops from the Ikorodu terminal to Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), passenger were seem stranded and waiting for the buses to convey them to their destinations from 5.30am to no avail, as the angry drivers loitered around the Ikorodu terminal.
Unfortunately, with the unrefundable tickets, the angry passengers had the option of either waiting until the issues were settled or make alternative arrangements. The Magazine observed that most, especially Civil Servants took the second option.
In a chat with The Source, one of the affected passengers at the BRT Ikorodu terminal, Kenneth Obilo, a businessman at CMS on the Island said: “ This situation is regrettable. I was here since 5.30am this morning, thinking that I would board the first bus to my place of business. Unfortunately, everything is grounded. I have to make alternative arrangement so that I will not lose my customers, especially those I have already booked an appointment with this morning.
“ Again, it is pathetic that the money we have paid for our ticket are never refunded,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, private transporters operating the yellow buses along the blue BRT route are smiling as long as the strike continues. The Magazine’s findings reveal that they increased their fares by between 50 to 100 per cent.
“ Oga, this one is a blessing that does not come everyday. Anybody can say what he or she likes. But what we know is that for the time their strike lasts, we will make more gain after settling those wey follow us get the bus,” Gboyega Ogunkoya, a bus driver told the Magazine.
Speaking to the Magazine on condition of anonymity, one of the striking drivers said that their action is due to unpaid salaries and allowances. This, he said, is after slashing their salaries.
In August 2016, commuters on all BRT terminals in Lagos State, were stranded for hours when the BRT scheme drivers and ticketers embarked on an indefinite strike over unpaid salaries and reversed terms of service. As early as 6am, the commuters, who were confident of boarding the buses, were disappointed when the boarding points were empty.
The Magazine gathered that the workers had initially convened an emergency meeting at about 5.45am at Majidun loading station before proceeding on the strike. As soon as the meeting was over, the protesting workers barricaded the BRT route to prevent any bus from leaving the premises of the company or ply the route but the protest was carefully managed to prevent break down of law and order in the axis.
The Magazine’s investigations revealed that some of the workers protested unpaid July (2016) salaries and lamented that their terms of service had been reversed. They also protested unpaid salaries for the month of July. Some of the drivers who spoke on condition of anonymity lamented that for the past four months, the management had slashed salaries from N60,000 to N45,000, and efforts to get them to revert it proved abortive. Also, the performance bonus of N20,000 was also slashed to N14,000.
They told the Magazine that the management had initially issued a letter of appointment in November stating N60,000 as salaries only to issue another one recently stating N45,000. Apart from this, any driver who does not record an accident in a month is entitled to a performance allowance of N20,000, but this has been slashed to N14,000 in the new letter.
“They sanction us anyhow and cut salaries and allowances. Our working hours are from 6am to 2pm and 2pm to 10pm, but this has been extended without prior notice. Apart from this, there is no provision for staff bus, and if one closes late, he is forced to pass the night in the office or risk being attacked by hoodlums.”
Why should this problem continue recurring? Why should the Management of the BRT continue to embarrass Lagosians and the nation in general despite the huge money raked in from the BRT outfit?
In March this year, the BRT increased their ticket fares from between 42 per cent to over 80 per cent. A breakdown of the increase showed that N70 ticket was increased to N100, while N120 and N195 tickets were increased to N200 and N300 respectively.
The protests the increased generated did not make them to adjust the fares in spite of the untold hardship faced by Lagosians and Nigerians generally, a situation that is worsened by the economic recession faced by the country. Unfortunately, rather than improve the lot of their workers, the BRT management is seen to worsen it and make working conditions unfavourable.
Meanwhile, following a trade-off between the drivers and BRT management, the strike has been suspended. But the question remains: Should Lagosians continue to suffer this avoidable embarrassment every year? The operators should know they are meant to have human face as servants of the people.