The Federal Government on Wednesday announced 50 percent reduction in transportation costs along 22 interstate routes during the Yuletide season.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mr Dele Alake, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Presidential Intervention, disclosed this when he briefed State House correspondents at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
Also, the spokesperson for the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, Segun Falade, said the union would commence the implementation of the fare subsidy on Thursday (today).
Giving further explanation, Alake said the 50 per cent reduction in the fares was arrived at in conjunction with companies operating luxury buses.
He added that President Bola Tinubu had directed that commuters on all train services would get free rides from Thursday (today) to January 4, 2024.
But the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, faulted the initiative, describing the Federal Government as confused.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers, however, lauded the package as a welcome development.
Alake, flanked by his counterparts in the Ministry of Transportation, Saidu Alkali, and the Ministry of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, while briefing the State House correspondent, explained that the President okayed the directives in the spirit of the season given the economic realities facing Nigerians.
He said, “President Tinubu wants Nigerians to travel within Nigeria to wherever they want to meet their loved ones without the extra burden of paying exorbitantly for inter-state public transportation.
“It is in this wise that the Federal Government is announcing, beginning tomorrow (today), a special discounted holiday season fare on road transport and zero-fare by rail across Nigeria.
“This means that from tomorrow (today), Nigerians willing to travel can board public transportation via luxury buses at a 50 per cent discount on 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.
“This special presidential intervention will commence tomorrow, Thursday, December 21. It will end on January 4, 2024. The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Transportation, will be working with transporters, road transport unions, and Nigerian Railway Corporation to seamlessly deliver on this special presidential initiative,” said Alake.
He added that from Thursday, Nigerians wishing to embark on inter-state travel to any part of the country—Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Ibadan, Akure, Maiduguri, Sokoto, and other major inter-state transportation—hubs will be able to do so at half the cost.
On the operability of the scheme, Alake said, “I can tell you that all the relevant stakeholders in that industry have been engaged and all the parameters laid out and the Minister of Transportation has the full details and it’s on top of the game.
“In fact, we have met the presidents of the various transport unions …They have given us their own side of the case. We have had to haggle and negotiate, and everything is in top shape in terms of execution.”
“This idea did not emanate today. It had been in the works and before we now came to this conclusion of publicising it, all the I’s were dotted, and all the T’s had been crossed. And we have gotten the understanding of the various stakeholders, especially the transport unions.”
He assured Nigerians that there would be no price hikes at the expense of the passengers because the costs had been determined during the negotiations.
However, Alake declined to mention the total amount of rebate the government would give for the project, arguing that cost counts little given the priority of the intervention.
He explained, “Somebody asked what is the cost of all of these. Now, the cost is not important when you want to give succour to the masses, especially when it’s not an ad infinitum kind of policy.
“It is for a couple of days. So, the cost is not prohibitive, beyond the affordability of the government.”
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.