A new dawn is in the offing in Lagos State as the driver of the Centre of Excellence, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, is set on some ambitious but major restructuring that will change the outlook of the megacity.
The ubiquitous yellow commercial buses, popularly known as Danfo, may soon become history. The governor’s plan for taking the yellow buses off Lagos roads is to give way to a more efficient, well-structured and world-class mass transport system that will boost the movement of people within the city.
When that happens, Lagos will sure lose one of its classic piece of heritage that remarkably signposts it from the hundreds of major cities across the world. The state is the economic hub of the country and a functional transportation system is the catalyst for economic activities.
While speaking at the 14th annual lecture of the Centre for Value and Leadership held in Lagos on February 6, with the theme: “Living Well Together, Tomorrow: The Challenge of Africa’s Future Cities,” Ambode had dropped the bombshell when he said he would banish yellow commercial buses from Lagos roads this year.
“I tell you what, I want to banish yellow buses from Lagos this year. My dream of ensuring that Lagos becomes a true megacity will not be actualised with the presence of these yellow buses on Lagos roads,” he said.
Already, there are some signals to the effect of the banishment. Last week, the state government unveiled new modern buses it intends to use to replace and phase out the Danfos. The scheme would see to the introduction of higher capacity buses that would have 30 seats as opposed to 14/18 seats.
Also last week, the national president of Bus Conductors Association of Nigeria (BCAN), Israel Adeshola, announced that from March, it would become mandatory for bus conductors in Lagos State to wear uniforms, nametags and badges. Adeshola said the state government has approved wearing of uniforms and badges to be worn by over 3,000 members.
Already, Danfo drivers, who would be adversely affected by the new transport policy, are losing sleep despite the assurances from the transport workers’ union that their best interest will be taken care of.
The proposed ban has sent jitters down Ayo Bamidele’s spine. Like most commercial bus drivers in Lagos, he is apprehensive. He said if the government eventually executes its plan, he is worried about the fate of commercial bus drivers whose source of income are the Danfo buses.
Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede, said talks on the plan was ongoing. “We are still on the negotiating table with government through the Ministry of Transportation. The initiative started during the administration of Fashola and ever since we have been on it. There are certain issues that are inconclusive and must be concluded before any of such move could be taken.
“My advice to our members is that they should not entertain any fear. All will be well at the end of the day. We believe our members will be actively involved and carried along in all the process of this initiative, though the details of the present administration’s policy on transportation system are still sketchy.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Adedapo Oyedipe, president of Nigerians Unite for Road Safety (NUFORSA), said the plan might not work considering the state of Nigerian roads. “You know our roads are categorized into three:Trunk A, B and C. The high-capacity buses cannot ply Trunks B or C. So, commuters will still rely on the yellow buses to move.
“This move, expected to inject about 2,000 buses with bigger capacity to carry scores of passengers at a time when the goal should be to reduce the volume of vehicles on Lagos roads, is a puzzle. Presently, a 300 km metro/light train network across the state is required to address the ongoing traffic paralysis.
“For any such mooted project to succeed, adequate funding for urgent modernization and expansion is essential. The cosmetic improvement to road infrastructure is patently insufficient, and cannot cater for the needs of the state’s population, given the number of vehicles in use on the city’s roads,” he said.