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Another look at Abuja's new transport policy

By The Citizen
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Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed may have redefined every aspect of the city's development but the chaotic transport system in the nation's capital was a major deficit. That was before Monday June 3, 2013 when the Minister who fancies the city getting into the World's top 20 in the near future, unveiled a new transport policy for the FCT.

Central to the measure was the restriction on commercial mini buses otherwise called araba or danfo, from major highways of the Capital City areas. With the eventual introduction of the policy, hundreds of such buses were restricted to feeder routes, the area councils and satellite towns. In their place, high capacity buses and taxis were introduced to ply the major entry and exit routes and highways of the city centre as well as the major roads within the metropolis. While taxis were generally exempted from the restriction, the ubiquitous tricycles (keke) transit were similarly restricted to designated Housing Estates and satellite towns.

With the new transport policy, over 300 brand new high capacity buses were deployed. Though this number is 400 short of the 700 earmarked for this purpose, it was enough to absolve the pressure that expectedly came with the mini buses withdrawal. The few hiccups obsewrved in the past two weeks are expected to ease when the FCTA's promise to increase the number of such buses to 600 by the end of this month materializes. Also, no fewer than 200 new taxis have been procured by the FCT Administration through the SURE-P scheme for distribution to licensed private operators on hire purchase basis.

In less than three weeks, the thousands of commuters in such routes as Nyanya through AYA to Eagle Square/Wuse Market and Giri Junction through Airport Road to City Centre have quickly settled down to a comfortable  transportation. Same goes for those that come in from Zuba Junction through ONEX (Outer Northern Expressway) to City Centre and Ring Road One connecting Wuse Market and Eagle Square. Other routes which have since bid farewell to mini buses are Gudu Market Junction through Ahmadu Bello Way to Gwarimpa, Herbert Macaulay to Utako/Jabi and Shehu Shagari Way through Federal Secretariat to Ring Road 1 Junction. At each of these routes the FCT Administration has provided service terminals at the beginning, end and intermediate locations mainly for high capacity buses and taxis.The mini-buses now terminate their operations at various interchanges on Kubwa axis, Yar'Adua Expressway and Nyanya, where they feed the high capacity buses with passengers going to the city centre.

The 350 buses to ply the city have been distributed to meet the volume of commuters in the various axes. For instance, Nyanya has 80 buses while Kubwa has 60. A bus is scheduled to depart the Nyanya, Zuba and Kubwa terminus every 3 minutes while in low traffic areas like Gudu District the buses take off every 10 minutes. Transport fares have also dropped by about 40 percent, with commuters paying fares as low as N50 for a drop while the highest fare is N150 for the farthest distances of Gwagwalada, Kuje and Zuba.

First introduced on January 14 2013, the policy was later suspended to allow for proper consultation with relevant stakeholders and to create adequate awareness among the residents. From what has been seen these past two weeks, the panel headed by Engr Ozodinobi, did not only receive the endorsement from all relevant stakeholders in the transportation business, it instilled confidence in the citizenry as well. Some of these stakeholders, like the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Self Employed Commercial Drivers Association (SECDA), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), FCT Chapter and civil society organizations, agree that it was in the best interest of the Federal Capital City and the majority of its residents.

The advantages of the new policy include reduction of time wasted in traffic, affordable and reliable mass transit and enhanced comfort for passengers. Others include reduction of the effects of environmental pollution via emission from vehicles, enhanced safety of passengers and better control of security of drivers and passengers via biometric capturing which paves way for easy identification of transport operators and companies.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the policy is its conformity with the city's transportation master plan and the fact that it was designed to create wealth and employment opportunity for professional drivers in the FCT. It also opens a vista of opportunity for entrepreneurs who are interested in venturing into mass transit business. Expectations are high too that transport related crimes and criminalities in the capital city will be minimised while a new driving culture and attitudinal change will be built over time.