The presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, on Friday, praised the Federal Government for considering partnering with some major transport companies to subsidise interstate fares for Nigerians travelling during the Yuletide season.
The FG on Wednesday announced a 50 per cent reduction in transportation costs along 22 interstate routes during the festive period.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mr Dele Alake, who chaired the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Presidential Intervention, made the announcement when he briefed State House correspondents at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
The spokesperson for the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Segun Falade, also confirmed that the union would commence the implementation of the fare subsidy on Thursday.
Alake said the 50 per cent reduction in fares was arrived at in conjunction with companies operating luxury buses, and President Bola Tinubu had directed that commuters on all train services would get free rides from 21st of December, 2023, to 4th of January, 2024.
Reacting to the development via a post on his X (formerly Twitter) account on Friday, Obi commended the intervention intended to help the masses, saying it was the right step in the appropriate direction.
The former Anambra State governor, however, expressed concern that there were no checks and balances to ensure compliance, saying his investigation at major parks across the country showed that the transporters were not following the terms of the contract.
He tweeted, “If fully implemented, as reported, I consider this first-time intervention of the government, intended to help the masses, a step in the right direction.
“However, the major concern about such emergency measures is what follows afterward. The high cost of transportation and associated hardships are all well known.
“The question this seasonal palliative raises is what happens after the festive season. Is there a sustainable policy measure to cushion the masses from the current high transportation costs? Even the current effort comes with operational challenges.
“Millions of people have already travelled, bearing the brunt and huge costs of such travels. How will such people get their refunds or be compensated?
“Following the government’s announcement of a 50 per cent discount on interstate transport fares for Nigerians, I have taken time to inquire into the implementation mechanics across different cities, but I have been disappointed.
“Today, I sent out contacts who consulted widely with the transporters in major parks across the country: in Abuja, they carried out on-the-spot investigations in Jabi and Utako areas; in Lagos, they visited major parks like Jibowu, Festac, Mile 12, Ajah, and Mazamaza, and none of the transporters in these parks was aware of this 50 per cent discount.
“At Upper Iweka, Onitsha, which is the main traffic hub in Anambra, and in other parts of the country like Kano, Aba, Kaduna, Owerri, and Gombe, the story is the same.”
Continuing, the LP presidential candidate lamented that it was unfortunate that such a lofty initiative could be deliberately hijacked to further worsen the situation of the masses.
He also urged the FG to speak up in the wake of the alleged manipulation to clear the air that its 50 per cent intervention wasn’t just a ‘spin’ to deceive Nigerians.
“There are obvious questions about the integrity of this intervention effort. One expects that such a policy that strives to appeal to the broad masses, especially the downtrodden, should be made with transport companies.
“I pray that this is not yet another spin to curry favour in the media space after appetising the people. The Nigerian people are going through untold hardship, and the government must not remain insensitive to their sufferings.
“Compassion on the part of government is a good thing, but it should not be an avenue for exploiting the weak structures of government to encourage less than transparent policy implementation,” he stated.