Multiple extortions by area councils in Abuja driving up transport fare as commuters groan




Residents in the capital territory Abuja have over the past 2years experienced a sharp rise in the cost of transportation, in some instances, as much as 100% increase, an investigation by Daily Post has revealed.

This sharp increase in transport fares may not be unconnected with the general inflation that has affected the prices of goods and services across the country, and the periodic fuel scarcity in the country. The situation has been further compounded by multiple daily tickets imposed by Area Councils in the FCT.

The FCT has 6 area councils; Bwari, Gwagwala, Kwali, Abaji, Kuje, and the Abuja Municipal Area Council. Findings have revealed that most of these area councils charge separate tickets to transporters, a practice that is driving up the cost of transportation in the city.

“From Zuba to Area One, we have to buy three tickets from three local governments—in Zuba, you must buy the Gwagwalada Area Council ticket. When you get to Kubwa, you will buy another for Bwari Area Council and when you get to area one, you must buy the Abuja Municipal Area Council. To operate along that route, that is N600 for five passengers car,” Mustapha Aliyu, a retired civil servant that operates intra-city transport told Daily Post.

Aliyu, while lamenting the multiple levies, disclosed that transporters still have to pay N200 levy to the National Union of Road Transport Workers and another to the Drivers Welfare Club of Nigeria. In total, over N1,000 is extorted from these transporters by the authorities.

“They just introduced this one by Drivers Welfare Club of Nigeria, obviously, it is one of those money for the boys arrangement,” Aliyu said while showing this reporter the new receipt. Adding that “they hurriedly put it together. As you see, no specific reason for the collection. Inevitably, we have to transfer this cost to the commuters. It is just like an indirect tax, the final commuters pay for it,” he said.

“Wetin concern Abuja Municipal with taxi? You are not creating garages for them to pack, but you are charging them a parking levy. Naa one director just create this thing. The government does not pay the boys (Task Force) salary, they depend on the money they collect from transporters. If you don’t cooperate, they will burst your tyre or glass. As a gentleman, you run the risk of being harassed and disgraced.”

Daily Post findings revealed that the taskforce collecting these levies also targets private vehicles. Recounting his experience in the hands of the touts enforcing the levies, Samuel Dare, said touts deploy different tactics to get unsuspecting transporters.

“Sometimes, these touts act like passengers, they enter your vehicle and seize your car key and even vandalise your vehicle. Most times, you are forced to go to their parks where you are charged as much as N15,000. This is how bad it has gotten. They operate with impunity without checks.

“What makes the situation worrisome is the fact Abuja as a city does not have a mass transport system. Most workers come from satellite towns, and most of them depend on private cars that is popularly known as ‘along’. They are compounding the hardship on the people,” he said.

Unlike Lagos State which has the mass transit business, BRT, the federal capital territory lacks such scheme. During the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, long buses for mass transit were purchased under the SURE-P scheme, however, most are currently not working. The multi-billion Naira Abuja Light rail system is yet to commence operation years after the commissioning of the first phase.

In essence, the city relies on saloon cars that most often can only take 5 passengers at a go, hence. The growing traffic on some of the major highways across the city.

Amidst Ahmad, a youth corps in the city, told this reporter that the increase in transportation has made it difficult for NYSC members to survive. She explained that transportation now takes the entire N33,000 allowance.

“Rent in the city center is almost prohibiting. The only place you can get decent accommodation is in places like Kuje and Gwagwalada. Two years ago, Gwagwalada to Berger Bus-Stop was N250 and you can get N50-N100 taxi to your destination. However, the same Gwagwalada to town is now N500 hundred naira. Daily, you will send over N1,500 on transportation,” she said.

She equally explained that most Places of Primary Assignment don’t pay the transport stipend or give accommodation as provided by the NYSC posting letter.

“Of course, the option would be to move to Lugbe, but if you check house rent even in Lugbe, it is forbidden now. A room apartment cost as much as N300,000 and landlords discriminate against Corpers (NYSC Corps),” she said.

For some in Abuja, the villages in the city center provide an alternative to avoid the exorbitant transport fare, however, those living in these villages live in constant fear of demolition by the government.

“When the bulldozers came some few weeks ago, it was like a bad dream,” Jane, a resident in Kpaduma in Aso-Koro extension told this reporter.

She added that the Federal Capital Development Authority demolished over 20 houses in her neighborhood, living them stranded.

“Some of us just renewed our rents. In that desperation, I went to Lugbe to try get an apartment, it was almost impossible. I went to Karu, Nyanya, nothing. I was obviously desperate as my properties were outside. I finally got one in Kurudu,” she said.

Like most workers in Abuja, she will have to rely on the poor transportation system and the heavy traffic along the Mararaba-Nyanya axis for her to get to work on a daily.

Mudairu Abubakar, a resident in Kubwa, told Daily Post that in the past, transport from most bus stops in Kubwa cost between N150-N200, currently, the minimum is N300 per passenger.

“Salary is not increasing, but transportation is increasing at a serious rate,” he said.