OPEN LETTER TO ALHAJI MUSILIU AYINDE AKINSANYA AKA MC OLUOMO[1]

Dear MC Oluomo,

LAGOS TRAFFIC CHALLENGE: YOUR ROLES AND POSSIBILITIES

Congratulations sir, on your election as the Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). I am happy for you that you have been chosen by your colleagues to lead the affairs of the Union. Your election proves your acceptability by members of your Union. Among none members, it would seem that you are considered urbane, modern and willing and able to effect and push for necessary reforms within the Union that will no doubt have a positive impact on Lagos transport challenge. This is perhaps exemplified by Teni The Entertainer’s For Your Case.

My purpose for writing this open letter to your good self is to call your attention to areas which your administration of NURTW may wish to consider if Lagos’ transport will actually progress. I equally decided to make this an open letter as I do not have a private access to your good self and because the issue of public transportation in Lagos affects every Lagosian and unfortunately despite the ‘best’ efforts of governments, Lagos’ transportation is not progressing.

Sir, I will suggest that your administration places at the front burner the need to carry out continuous and periodic orientation courses for its members i.e. drivers, conductors, touts popularly known as agberos, etc. These orientation courses should focus on reminding members about traffic laws; the need to comply with extant traffic laws; the need to avoid drug abuse; best customer service practices including the need to treat customers right, keep their vehicles in good and motorable conditions, etc. Agberos for instance beyond just being ‘tax collecting agents’ and publicists of buses and/or routes, could also be trained to serve as record keepers; collating the details of each driver they have served. While some members of your association and/or impostors have given your association a bad name, not all members of your Association fits into the mould created by your few bad eggs. Carrying out these orientation courses may just be what is needed to improve the perception of the teeming population of Lagosians about members of your Association.

Further to this sir, I suggest that your Association should set a minimum standard for buses which its members can use in commuting passengers; this will be the benchmark by which all public buses will be judged by. Unfortunately sir, most Lagosians on a daily basis have had to make do with public buses which are dirty, uncomfortable, hazardous to the environment, and are not road worthy. Personally, my trousers have torn, my whites have gained unholy colours while in transit on some of the numerous ubiquitous yellow buses on Lagos roads. The poor state of your members’ buses partly explains the reason many middle income Lagosians would rather drive their vehicles or use Uber, Taxify[2] and more recently Gokada and ORide than utilise any of your several fleet of vehicles.[3] I recommend that your administration of NURTW put it upon itself to set minimum standard of buses that its members can use for public transportation. In setting standards, I suggest that you consider the maximum number of persons who can sit on each roll, the minimum space that should be allowed between each roll of seats, minimum standard of neatness of the buses, etc. I will further propose that your administration considers an hire purchase arrangement for its members via which impoverished members may acquire buses that meet this minimum requirements. This hire purchase arrangement may involve the exchange of your members’ present fleet of vehicles as part-payment for these minimum standard buses. The Lagos State Government should also be made a partner in this arrangement perhaps as financiers and/or guarantors.

Sir, it will be stating the obvious to say that your Association has a huge political influence. Beyond being a trade union, your Association is a strong pressure group as well as a formidable political bloc that cannot be ignored in the political arrangement of Lagos State. I therefore suggest that you utilise your Association’s voice, your access to Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Governor of Lagos State), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to call for improved road network in Lagos State, greater cooperation between traffic control agencies and road users, an end to unofficial charges by officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and other traffic control agencies, etc. Perhaps more than any other group of persons, your members are affected by bad roads, poor handling of traffic challenges within the metropolis. Thus, more than any other group of persons, NURTW in Lagos State as led by your able self should make a consistent and vociferous case for a smooth moving Lagos State. In making the case for better flowing traffic in Lagos, you will be doing a great service to not just members of your Association but more importantly the All Progressives Congress, a party in which you are a card carrying member and Lagosians as a whole.

Mr Chairman sir, as you will know based on your numerous years of practical interface with Lagos traffic, a huge population troops from one part of Lagos to another on a daily basis in search of their daily bread. This means money for your Association and the State as a whole. This however comes with a huge burden on the fleet of vehicles owned by your members. However, to give commuters better commuting experience, I suggest that at various bus-stops, commuters should queue for buses. I know as a fact that in your various garages, buses are loaded in turns based on a set queue. However, outside garages, your members usually compete with each other for commuters. Would it not be better if every bus is loaded on the basis of the time it got to the bus-stop while commuters board the bus while maintaining a queue? This should increase user experience in transit and reduce the stress Lagosians have had to face because they were hustling for buses. This idea, Mr Chairman, is not novel. The Bus Rapid Transit Scheme uses it as its various bus-stop. At Ogba and Aromire, the Keke Napep garages plying Ikeja and Ogba respectively ensure that commuters queue to board the Keke Napep.

In addition sir, I humbly advise that your Association considers improving its relationship with the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN). Your two Associations are complementary rather than competitors. Areas for example Ojuelegba where the NURTW does not cover, the RTEAN covers. In order to prevent the possibility of a vacuum, unnecessary conflict of interest, and/or unnecessary conflict, a better working relationship with RTEAN is a necessity.

Permit me sir to warn that these reforms are long overdue. Bus Rapid Transit (whether as managed by the Lagos Bus Services Limited or otherwise),[4] private vehicle owners, OBus, ORide, Gokada, Bolt and Taxify provide strong competition to your Association. Providence has given you the office and influence to effect these changes. I do hope, that you will do the needful. Leadership is a call to service and I hope you will serve your constituents (members of the NURTW) with all you have got. Your service to your constituents will not just impact positively on the lives of your constituents but will also have massive ripple effects on the economy of Lagos and Nigeria as a whole.

I look forward to hearing from you and possibly discussing the issues raised in this letter in greater details.

I wish you the very best as you run the administration of NURTW Lagos State.

Yours faithfully,

Oluwakemi S. Adeyemi Esq.

[1] Oluwakemi S. Adeyemi Esq is an Associate at P O Bajowa Chambers, a law firm based in Lagos and his research interest covers litigation (trial and appellate courts), the institution of effective pension system that caters for present needs while preparing for the future, the interface between law and the economy of nations especially Africa, the development of an efficient and effective transportation model for Africa’s mega cities. He shares his thoughts on these issues and more via www.medium.com/@aolulaw17 and interfaces on Twitter via twitter.com/@aoluwakemi17. He may be reached via aolulaw17@gmail.com.

[2] I respectfully submit that Taxify, Uber, ORide, Gokada and many like them are not mass transit schemes. They are good ideas and will get their fair share of the market. However, if we really desire to keep Lagos moving, we need to invest in mass transit schemes.

[3] https://medium.com/@aolulaw17/confronting-lagos-traffic-challenge-low-hanging-fruits-1-cbe6e26f2d91

[4] I ply Ikeja to Berger almost on a daily basis. I have noticed that the Bus Rapid Transit managed by the Lagos Bus Services Limited seems to have driven the yellow buses out of the Ikeja to Berger route because of its cheapness and greater comfortability. Lagosians do not seem to even mind maintaining a long queue and sometimes even standing.

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