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In 1998 when I arrived Abuja, I did so without the privilege of owning my own car but transporting myself from Karimo to The Guardian newspaper’s office in Zone 1 Wuse as it then was, was a luxury.
There were functional yellow painted commercial buses that were not too old nor dysfunctional and there were lots of green, white green taxi that were ready for the asking price as they engaged in what is still called ‘ALONG’.
The population density in Karimo by that time used to be phenomenal because it seemed like every newcomer to the Federal Capital Territory found refuge in renting affordable face-me-I face you rooms that were found in many houses that were hurriedly built by their owners who are not natives but who bought the properties from the natives who were either resettled or at the verge of being resettled.
It was however not a very big deal to catch any public transport from Karimo, Gwagwa, Kubwa, Nyanya, Mararaba to the city centre because maybe those who were engaged in the commercial transportation business were humane or maybe they seriously have a way of putting many of those vehicles at the beck and call of the residents who are ready to use their services at not too unaffordable rates.
Another factor that was noticeable then was the proper use of designated bus stops by both the commercial vehicle operators and the well-mannered passengers because these persons usually found their ways to these designated spots and as it was then, the buses come one after the other to pick up the passengers who are either headed home after work or going to work from their homes.
Also, I did observe that the incidence of violent crimes being perpetrated now with some unpainted taxis were not very common then as at the year 2018 just few months to the epochal election that saw the emergence of the democratically elected government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999.
Significantly too, President Obasanjo as he then was, made first-class appointments of his cabinets with the ministers knowing and adhering strictly to their terms of reference in such a way that the man who manned the Federal Capital Territory could bring up some innovations in the already existing workable transportation system in the nation’s Capital that breamed with newcomers seeking greener pastures and a lot of tourists who frequented Abuja because of its serenity and pristine qualities and because of the divergent gifts of nature and a welcoming atmosphere. President Olusegun Obasanjo was such a very strict man that he established two anti-corruption bodies and the first major culprits were some of his cabinet-level ministers and the Inspector General of Police Tafa Balogun. So the government of President Obasanjo made sure that ministers kept to their mandates. The Abuja minister then wasn’t necessarily an Angel but to be very Frank, he did a lot I the area of organising the transport system in the nation’s Capital.
Years after, due to poor maintenance culture and the inconsistency in the administration of established systems of government, the transportation system of Abuja has collapsed spectacularly. What you will see whilst driving will make you weep unless you are a sadist. Abuja’s transportation system is anything but organized and methodical just as the few available commercial transporters are behaving like LORDS OF THE MANOR.
Today, as I drove home through Garki two near the old Central Bank of Nigeria and Security Printing and minting company, I saw a huge crowd of workers who were desperately searching for just any available transportation means to convey them home after a very tiring day at work.
I saw also and pathetically, a large number of poor artisans and street hawkers carrying their little babies on their back also desperately seeking any transportation means to be conveyed home after selling their wares in the very hot and highly unfriendly Abuja sun. Same rowdy situations of desperation and extreme frustration replicated itself in Federal Secretariat, Hilton Junction, Gana Street in Maitama, Gudu Junction in Garki District.
I then asked myself why the government doesn’t seem to care about this critical sector of the economy and is not doing anything to ameliorate the pangs and pains that hundreds of thousands of Abuja residents go through just so they can make a living as either civil servants or self-employed.
Why should a government do nothing and allow little babies to suffer the deprivation of not enjoying functional transportation system like every other human being does all around the civilized nation. Come to think of it, I asked myself one day at one of the British Railway underground tubes why we in Nigeria are classified as third World or underdeveloped society. I also wondered how is it that we are in a third World whereas we keep constantly in touch with advanced countries. But seeing how the transportation system works in England was enough to explain why Nigeria is a Third World nation.
I then began to ask myself what exact crime have these children of the poor and marginalized committed to deserve this unprecedented cocktail of coordinated poverty and hardships. Why does a government worth the name does not make adequate arrangements to have a functional transportation network so the citizens can at least live like the rest of the members of the human race.
I then started imagining Why Abuja has no metro train system or underground rail lines like in most metropolitan areas around the World do. I then began to ask myself what has become of all the so called palliatives by way of subsidised buses donated by the Federal Government to the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress for onward redistribution to the National Union of Roads transport workers or the Transportation owners Union.
Something is inherently wrong with a society whereby the poor and the marginalised are further impoverished and pushed to the margins of extreme hards by the same government they elected to reduce the burdens they carry on daily basis.
Where then is accountability and transparency?
Please can Oga Muhammad Musa Bello the FCT Minister take steps to fix the broken down transportation system in the Federal Capital Territory. Oga Bello, have you not gone to London? Have you not travelled to Gernsny, USA, Canada and Australia? Are you not seeing how cities arrange their transportation system so their citizens could live like human beings? I know you must have visited the United Kingdom many times over, Oga Bello. Did you notice how so well organised the British railways and bus services are?
The UK transport system can be explained as follows as disclosed on the official website of the conglomerate that runs transportation in the UK.
The company wrote thus: “We are a statutory corporation regulated under local government finance rules. We are governed by the Greater London Authority Act and have three subsidiary companies incorporated under the Companies Act 2006.
Transport Trading Limited companies
has a number of subsidiary companies. These are detailed below in alphabetical order.
City Airport Rail Enterprises Limited
Company No: 04411523
Place of registration: England and Wales
Registered office: 5 Endeavour Square, London, E20 1JN;
The company appointed to procure and manage the implementation of the Crossrail project.
Company No: 04212657
Place of registration: England
Registered office: 5 Endeavour Square, London E20 1JN.
Another is Docklands Light Railway Limited
Which Owns the land on which the Docklands Light Railway is built and is responsible for the operation of the railway.
Company No: 02052677. Place of registration: England and Wales
Registered office: 5 Endeavour Square, London, E20 1JN; London Buses Limited are Responsible for Dial-a-Ride, which provides door-to-door transport for disabled people.
Then Company No: 01900906 which has a Place of registration: England and Wales
Registered office: 5 Endeavour Square, London, E20 1JN. These are just a few amongst the over one hundred other Registered companies providing safe and affordable transportation system for the people of Great Britain. ( courtesy of-: Tfl.gov.Uk).
From WIKIPEDIA comes the full details of how the transportation system works seamlessly and reading this tells us that Nigeria indeed has no transportation system so to say.
The researcher stated that Public transportation in the United States refers to publicly financed mass transit services across the nation. This includes various forms of bus, rail, ferry, and sometimes, airline services. Most established public transit systems are located in central, urban areas where there is enough density and public demand to require public transportation. In more auto-centric suburban localities, public transit is normally, but not always, less frequent and less common. Most public transit services in the United States are either national, regional/commuter, or local, depending on the type of service. Furthermore, sometimes “public transportation” in the United States is an umbrella term used synonymous with “alternative transportation”, meaning any form of mobility that excludes driving alone by automobile.This can sometimes include carpooling, vanpooling,on-
Most rail service in the United States is publicly funded at all tiers of government. Amtrak, the national rail system, provides service across the entire contiguous United States. The frequency of Amtrak service varies depending on the size of the city, and its location along major rail routes. For example, cities such as New York City , Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. which are located along the busy Northeast Corridor may see up to 50 Amtrak trains per day come in an out of their stations. This same corridor is the location of the only operating high speed rail network in the Americas: the Acela Express. Other cities located on less frequent Amtrak lines, however, such as Dodge City, Kansas for instance, which is located on the Southwest Chief line may only have two trains daily. Regional rail services are primarily fixed on a major city or a state.For example, the Long Island Rail Road services the Long Island suburbs of New York City, while the UTA FrontRunner serves as a regional rail service for the Wasatch Front of Utah. These trains normally run throughout the entire day with service ranging from every 20 minutes during peak hours to every 30–45 minutes during off-peak hours. Other rail services that are regional in nature may only operate during rush hour. For example, the Virginia Railway Express (VRE), which services the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., only operates during the morning hours into Washington and the evening hours out of Washington. VRE does not operate at night nor on the weekends, and only has one train during the middle of the day. Finally, several cities have light rail systems which operate generally in the core of the city and their surrounding suburbs. For instance, cities such as Kansas City, Norfolk, Boston, New Orleans, and Seattle have light rail or streetcar services that run every 10–15 minutes throughout their respective urban cores.
Presently, there is only one for-profit, private rail service in the United States, which is Virgin Trains USA (formerly known as Brightline). This service provides regular rail service from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, with a long-term goal to connect Miami to Orlando, and become a statewide rail service for the state of Florida.
There are three common types of bus service in the United States: conventional bus systems, bus rapid transit (BRT), and intercity buses. Nearly every major city in the United States offers some form of bus service, with some being 24 hours a day. These buses run on flexible routes and make frequent stops, with a focus of provided accessible service to all tracts of a community. Bus rapid transit attempts to mimic the speed of a light rail system. Most BRT systems in the United States are in moderate-sized cities or satellite cities and serve as auxiliary routes for rail service. The primary difference between BRT in the United States and regular bus service is BRT often runs more frequently as has fewer stops, in order to make service quicker. Furthermore, BRT service generally has their own dedicated right of way and signal prioritization, which allows BRT vehicles to move faster than regular automobile traffic. Both BRT and conventional buses are usually publicly financed. Well-known examples of cities with popular BRT services in the United States include Cleveland, Miami, and Richmond. Most inter-city bus service is private for-profit ventures, although they normally used publicly subsidized motorways and highways. Examples of intercity bus service in the United States is Megabus and Greyhound, which are the two largest inter-city bus services in the United States.
Several coastal cities offer ferry services linking localities that are across large bodies of water where constructing road and railway bridges is not financially viable. Ferry service sometimes is pedestrian-only but sometimes may offer platforms for automobiles and public transit vehicles depending on the vessel used.
Long-distance public transit which may be too far to feasible travel by rail or bus, i.e. cross country travel, or traveling to U.S. territories) is more regularly undertaken through the airplane. Most airports in major regions are situated on the peripheries of major cities and publicly owned, while airline service itself is typically owned by for-profit corporations. In some cases, larger airports may operate their own rail, bus, and monorail systems that link various terminals together. Examples of this include Atlanta, Boston, Orlando, and Washington, D.C.’s airport.
I know that the FCT Minister is a young man who should be pursuing legacies that he would bequeath to generations yet unborn and if I can suggest to him, I will inform him to work on fixing the transportation system of the Federal Capital Territory.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA