Joyful Yuletide tales from travellers over FG’s 50% slash in transport fares
Luxury buses loading at Oshodi Transport Interchange
Published By: Kazeem Ugbodaga
By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Maryrose Uzochiamaka was filled with excitement, she never thought she would be among the lucky ones to benefit from the Federal Government’s 50 per cent transport subsidy. She had left home for the Oshodi Transport Interchange to board a bus to Rivers State. The fare was N30,000. Like a dream, Uzochiamaka was told that under the Federal Government’s 50 per cent transport subsidy, she would be refunded half of the money she paid. The elated young lady was surprised when she was refunded N15,000.
She rained praises on the Federal Government for such a noble initiative. “I am really impressed that the government gave us 50 per cent of what we paid. I was refunded N15,000. I really appreciate this. It is great,” Uzochiamaka stated.
Her story was just one of the thousands of Nigerians who benefitted from the scheme which kicked on 21 December, 2023 and ended on 4 January, 2024.
Many Nigerians had called the initiative a fluke, but as it kicked off and many received the rebate, they were elated.
The Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, who was the Chairman of the Committee on the Implementation of the End of Year Transportation Subsidy Programme of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had announced in December that the initiative would kick off nationwide from 21 December, 2023.
This initiative provided free transportation on the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) routes and a 50 per cent subsidy on transport fares for passengers travelling on 30 bus routes operated by the Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria, ALBON.
“It is in this wise that the Federal Government is announcing a special discounted holiday season fare on road transport and zero-fare by rail across Nigeria.
“What this means is that from 21 December, Nigerians willing to travel can board public transport via luxury buses at a 50% discount of current cost and all our train services on the routes, the trains currently serve at zero cost to-and-fro on their travels this holiday season,” Alake had said.
In 10 days of the programme, over 160,000 Nigerians had enjoyed the 50 per cent slash in transport fares for those travelling for the Yuletide holiday and the free train ride.
Some of the beneficiaries of FG’s 50% transport subsidy
“I am proud to share that between December 21 and December 31, 2023, the NRC conveyed 71,000 passengers, while buses under ALBON carried 77,122 passengers. Additionally, 652 bus trips from Oshodi Interchange in Lagos carried 15,766 passengers,” he added.
“These numbers demonstrate that 163,878 passengers benefitted from the Presidential Yuletide Transportation Subsidy in the first 10 days of the programme,” he said.
In Lagos, the Oshodi Transport Interchange was one of the key venues for the execution of the FG’s 50 per cent transport fares rebate. Passengers journeying to Akure in Ondo State; Ilorin in Kwara State and the eastern and south-south parts of the country benefitted from the programme.
On the last day of the FG’s initiative, there was a surge of passengers travelling to various states from the Oshodi Transport Interchange. Several excited passengers were seen getting back 50% refund of what they paid as fares from the government’s representatives.
The Managing Director of Planet Project Limited, Engr. Abiodun Otunola, whose company is managing the affairs of the Oshodi Transport Interchange, said there had been a surge in the number of people travelling out since December when the Federal Government announced the initiative.
“So far we have had an upsurge in passenger numbers. We have been managing this terminal for the past five years, we could say that we have over 35% increase in the number of passengers compared to what we normally would have recorded during the Christmas period.
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“Nigerians are kind of trooped out and took advantage of the fact that there is a 50 per cent reduction in transport fare. As you know, transport is one of the pain points of the fuel subsidy removal and because of this laudable programme of the federal government, a lot of Nigerians troop here daily, morning, afternoon and evening to take advantage of the opportunity so that they can travel for the yuletide season,” Otunola said
Otunola (right) and others at the Oshodi Transport Interchange
“From this terminal, over 6,000 passengers have benefitted from the FG’s initiative and so far over 700 vehicles in 15 days, have conveyed passengers out of the State which is far higher than what we could have during the festive period at this point in time based on our historical data,” he added.
Otunola said the government deserved a lot of credit for doing this within this period, saying this is the starting point, saying “We believe that by the time this project is implemented in subsequent years, it will be better, there will be a lot more awareness, communication and information.
“More stakeholders will be brought on board and the project will be more successful. For the first time, people were refunded money as high as N15,000. So they were shocked that even during elections they did not get that kind of money. From this terminal so far we have been 100 per cent compliant.”
A beneficiary of the initiative at the Oshodi Interchange was a youth corps member, Komolafe Toibat Abolore, travelling to Ilorin, Kwara State. She was so elated after she was given N3,000 from the N6,000 she paid as fare.
“On getting here they told us there is a subsidy of 50% and they refunded to us N3,000 from our N6,000. We want to say thank you to the Federal Government of Nigeria. I am a youth corps member serving in Kwara State. I feel so happy,” she stated.
Omoshebi Esther, enroute Akure, who got N3,750 refund, half of the N7,500 she paid, said “I am very happy. It is a good move by the FG and we appreciate them for this.” Likewise, Hassan Kehinde, heading to Akure said “I am very happy about this. We thank our President Bola Tinubu for this.”
A beneficiary, who simply addressed himself as Keneth said “I am at Oshodi Transport Interchange. I am travelling to the East, I paid N30,000 for the fare and the government refunded N15,000 back to me. Thank you Federal Government.”
Clifford Ibe, also travelling to the East praised the government for refunding N15,000 back to him after he paid N30,000 fare for the trip. “I am very happy and I appreciate the Federal Government for this,” he said.
A driver with one of the transport companies, Ngene stated: “Personally, I appreciate what is happening, for the government to do what has never been done before, by touching people directly. The 50% is getting to the people directly. Nobody has ever complained, after people have paid their fares, they get half of the fares refunded to them”
Ade Ibileke, Director of Operation and Management, Oshodi Transport Interchange explained that usually in December “we have an upsurge in passengers but this year, we have 100 per cent upsurge because of this scheme. Between December 24 and now, we have recorded over 100 per cent of passengers.
One of the beneficiaries being given cash as part of 50% transport subsidy.
“This initiative is the best I have ever seen. Initially when the FG announced this, a lot of people did not believe, so there was apathy on the side of the passengers, but when we began, they rushed for it. There have been stories of goodwill and prayer for the Federal Government since this programme began.”
According to Kolawole Babatunde, Operation Manager, Oshodi Transport Interchange, “The subsidy has been very effective. The refund of the 50% is being made to the passengers directly and they will count the money to ensure it is complete.
“We have people who paid N30,000 to travel to the East and they got N15,000 refund immediately. Once they fill out the manifest, they come down from the vehicle to collect their refund. We started on the 22nd of December and we have been running this since then. The turnout was much.”