Citing the rising costs of running their vehicles and keeping them in road-worthy conditions as justification for their action, luxury bus owners have announced a slight fare increase of one thousand Naira across various routes they operate with effect from Sunday.
The transporters under their umbrella body – Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria (ALBON) – explained that they resorted to fare review as a painful survival measure, even as they appealed to the Federal Government to intervene with incentives and palliatives in order to save the industry from “imminent collapse”.
The association in a statement argued that the combined effects of dilapidated roads, rising costs of maintaining the vehicles and unaffordable prices of new buses, on transportation, would drive the business to the brink unless the government of President Muhammad Buhari comes to its members’ rescue.
By the new fare regime announced yesterday by ALBON, passengers on Lagos-Abuja route will now pay N7,000 (up from N6, 000), while those on Lagos-Kano that paid N6,500, previously, now pay N7,500. Lagos to Port Harcourt that was hitherto N5,200, is now N6,200.
The statement issued in Lagos by ALBON President, Chief Dan Okemuo, particularly cited the pump price of diesel which is currently N200 as against the previous N145 per litre; a drum of lube oil that was N95,000, but now costs N147,000; and the price of petrol (that members mini-buses use) which is now N140 from N87 per litre.
“Equally, the price of a single tyre (for our big bus) is now N144,000 as against the previous price of N85,000. As you are already aware, this sharp increase in prices is due to the current economic recession, which in turn has affected prices levels in the country”.
Okemuo who himself owns a fleet of buses, said it is “a notorious fact that some major federal roads are in terribly poor conditions, lamenting that the situation which has not improved over the last two years, had imposed a heavy maintenance burden on the transporters due to increased wear and tear on their vehicles.
While conceding that major repair work had been carried out on a few sections of some of the roads, like the Ore-Benin expressway, the association pointed out that numerous others remain in frightening condition. Among them are Omotosho to Ijebu-Ode within Ondo and Ogun states on Shagamu-Benin expressway; and Ubiaja-Uromi leading to Abuja; Oyibo road, connecting Aba-Port-Harcourt road; as well as Ikot Ekpene-Itu -Udukpani road, connecting Uyo and Calabar.
Other roads in deplorable state, according to Okemuo, are Ikwuano-Ikot-Ekpene, connecting Abia and Akwa Ibom States; Enugu- Onitsha expressway; Benin section of Asaba-Benin highway; Ilorin-Mokwa-Minna-Abuja; and Enugu-Port-Harcourt.
“Since those roads are critical link between one state and another”, the statement added, there is an urgent need for the Federal Government to carry out major repair work on them in order to reduce the huge maintenance burden our members are challenged as a result of the deteriorating state of the highways”.
Compounding the bad situation for the transporters are the effects of the current FOREX (foreign exchange) crisis coupled with the increase in import duties on commercial buses from 10 percent to 35 percent.
“Today, the cost of Fully Built Luxury Bus (big) is N160million as against the previous price of N65million two years ago. Similarly, the cost of Hiace bus is now N16.5million as against the former price of N8million. Since bus owners have over the years depended on the procurement of fully-built imported buses for the sustenance of their fleets, it is difficult for them to survive in the present circumstances”.
The result, according to the ALBON President, is that the cited factors have now forced about 30 percent of the associations members to close shop. “Those still struggling to remaining in business would or later close down too unless the escalating cost of operation and poor road conditions are urgently addressed. As you are aware, similar high operating and maintenance costs in the aviation industry has caused some of the airline operators to either close shop or scale down their operations, he remarked.