The collapse of the Federal Capital Territory’s (FCT) urban transit system has forced workers in the territory to drive their cars themselves, exacerbating the one-man-car syndrome. This has led to traffic jams and traffic jams which have resulted in lost working hours, a Daily Trust investigation found on Sunday.
Jhe growth of the nation’s capital since its inception in 1976 has exceeded the projections of its planners, as it attracts new settlers from across the country.
At most of the parks visited, our reporter saw commuters rushing to vehicles upon arrival to secure seats.
Most of those who have one thing or the other to do in the metropolis reside in the satellite towns such as the Kubwa-Zuba axis, the Nyanya-Mararaba axis and the Bwari axis of the city, among others.
The Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited (AUMTCO), established by the then Federal Capital Territory Ministry, now the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in 1984 as Abuja Bus Service (ABS), then registered as Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited, under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990, was to serve as a vehicle to meet the transport needs of a city which was flourishing at high speed .
The outfit, among other things, was designed to provide “the best value for money and the safest and most reliable charter and regular bus service in Nigeria. It was also to plan, develop and implement implement an organized environmentally friendly and sustainable urban public transport system in the FCT for the provision of effective, comfortable, safe, regular, efficient and affordable transport services.
Apart from the implementation of the Abuja Urban Transport Master Plan, it was also to develop a sustainable way to finance urban public transport services in the FCT, develop an appropriate policy framework to subsidize transport urban public transport and to provide adequate transport infrastructure in the territory, with particular reference to urban public transport.
As the largest bus transport company in Nigeria, with a workforce of 518 employees, AUMTCO took off with funds totaling over N1.3 billion, which was to be used for the purchase of over 500 buses from large capacity for designated routes in the FCT. , including Abuja-Mararaba, Abuja-Bwari, Abuja-Kuje, Abuja-Gwagwalada and Abuja-Suleja respectively.
Before long, the arrival of high-capacity buses led to the banning of the popular mini-buses known as “Araba”, which served the capital in 2013, all with the aim of facilitating operations from AUMTCO.
In 2014, the administration headed by then-minister Senator Bala Mohammed launched more than 100 high-capacity buses to add to the already available buses known as el-Rufai buses that criss-crossed the roads of the satellite city.
“These new buses would go a long way in alleviating the transportation problems of FCT residents, especially the majority of workers living in satellite towns,” former Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo said at the launch of the buses.
According to Sambo, the administration would continue its efforts to build and administer a capital city in accordance with the Abuja master plan, “through the establishment of an efficient and sustainable service-oriented administration capable of responding to the needs and everyone’s aspirations. residents and stakeholders. »
But, eight years later, most high-capacity buses have disappeared on all routes to satellite towns, even within city centers.
Survey by Daily Trust further disclosed that most of the buses are parked in the FCTA yard, Katampe Hill, along the Kubwa-Zuba road, making them always unavailable to residents, who lack alternative means of transportation. Some of the buses that had only minor mechanical faults were left to rot alongside those with major faults.
The light rail does not work
After being abandoned for years, Abuja’s multi-billion naira rail transit, also known as Abuja Light Rail, is rotting.
Daily Trust reports on Sunday that the metro, which was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 12, 2018 and opened to passengers the following week, has since been abandoned, clearing the way for vandals to feast on the facility.
The project originally aimed to solve the perennial transportation problem in the FCT and its neighboring towns.
When the metro opened for business in 2018, only the section from Abuja Metro Station in the central business district to the airport was put into operation, with an intermediate station at Idu.
The whole project was proposed to cover a total distance of 290 km (180 mi) to be developed in six phases or lots.
It was to cost $824 million, 60% of which was to be financed by loans from the Exim Bank of China.
After completion of all paperwork, which has not been made public, construction work on Lots 1 and 3 began.
Unfortunately, the train service quickly withdrew and therefore did not bring added value to citizens, who are in serious need of an efficient transport system.
Transport system in cities in other parts of the world
Since 2020, Luxembourg residents can travel by train and bus throughout the country without buying tickets. According to the government, this is to reduce heavy car traffic. The measure is part of a wider plan to reduce congestion.
In a Bloomberg report, free transit programs have popped up in all sorts of cities and countries over the years as a way to deal with rising energy costs or traffic. Rome experimented with free buses in 1971; Austin, Texas, tried it in 1989 and 1990; Kansas City’s bus and streetcar systems have been fareless since 2020; and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has pledged to “liberate the T” across the city of Massachusetts, starting with three free bus routes.
According to the report, one of the longest efforts has been in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, which has had free public transport for residents since 2013, while Estonians also do not pay for bus rides in the middle. rural. Ticketless public transport has also recently arrived in the cities of Dunkirk, France, and Frýdek-Místek, Czech Republic.
Speaking to our reporter, locals lamented that commuters in and out of town have to rely primarily on private car owners for transportation.
Our results further revealed that in some areas, residents had to wait over an hour or more to access transportation to their destination.
A civil servant, Michael Daniel, told the Daily Trust that “life in Abuja is largely miserable as far as public transport is concerned. The masses are at the mercy of nature and private motorists who often charge double the usual fare.
Another civil servant, Madam Joy Anyanwu, while lamenting, said, “Public transport in Abuja has collapsed.
Deidei resident Tunde Olayinka, whose office is in Wuse, said finding a vehicle to transport him to his place of work during rush hour is always difficult. He said: “You have to fight for a seat once a vehicle comes to this junction (Army Barracks Phase 2 Junction) or you risk getting to work very late.
Parked buses undergoing maintenance – AUMTCO
When contacted, AUMTCO’s Head of Marketing and Communications, Tunde Akintola, told our reporter that the buses parked in the company’s corporate headquarters were undergoing maintenance.
He said the company is trying as much as possible to deploy buses for commuters.
He said: “When you have a fleet, some of them have to come back for maintenance. This is the head office and this is where we repair the buses and we have our depots here from where the vehicles come in and out. In the kind of work we do, it is necessary that at least 70% of the fleet must be functioning and 30% may be down. The buses are not new buses. There is a need for repairs.
“If you go to Lagos and Port Harcourt you will see a depot like this where you will see a lot of buses for major or minor maintenance and a few other repairs. A vehicle can enter just because of the stop light because it has to be We try as much as possible to deploy buses for commuters.
On the way forward for the outfit, he said it was up to the government to “give us dedicated terminals or bus stops, subsidize our costs and you will see us bounce back to benefit the residents”.
A commuter stranded at the Kubwa NNPC bus stop, Hassan Ibrahim, suggested that the FCT minister, should urgently develop and unveil a transport plan for the national capital.
Ibrahim said, “Abuja should be a model for other cities in the country. Unfortunately, it is not the case. A few years ago, Luxembourg made public transport free. But here we beg the government to establish only robust, stress-free public transport that commuters will pay for. It is unfortunate that there is no public transport system in Abuja.
A transporter from one of Kubwa’s parks, Ikenna Uche, told our reporter that the failure of the Urban Mass Transit Company Limited to meet expectations was responsible for the high volume of passengers hanging around major bus stops. of the city, including Berger Junction, Area 1 Junction, the Federal Secretariat, FCT Roundabout, among others at close of business each day. The situation worsens in case of heavy rains
Uche said, “I am not saying this is the right thing but as business people we are taking advantage of this failure on the part of the government to increase our tariffs from usual N200 to N300, and sometimes even to N400 for travel from Kubwa to Airport Junction, Wuse, Berger, Area 1 and other areas.
“Unfortunately, the inability of transit buses to effectively cover the entire FCT has led to a situation where all kinds of people resort to transportation. In some cases, criminals pose as carriers and steal from commuters their valuables”.
But according to the director of information and communication of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Muhammad Hazat Sule, the administration is aware of the inadequacy of the public transport system in the country’s capital and doing everything possible to fix it.
The director, while answering questions from our journalist during his recent visit to the Media Trust Group, the editors of Daily Trust titles, said the minister, Muhammad Musa Bello, was working on a plan to address the challenges associated with the public transport system in the territory and would present a concrete policy in due course.
He said a committee had already been set up to assess the situation and assured residents to monitor the outcome soon.