The Federal Government on Thursday said it would impose sanctions on transporters, particularly operators of land transport firms who increase their fares, especially during festive seasons.
Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, said unreasonable transports increase was causing untold hardship on travellers and affecting the Nigerian economy negatively.
She spoke at a meeting that had transporters and officials of the Federal Ministry of Transportation in attendance, which was summoned by the House of Representatives.
Saraki said the lawmakers summoned the meeting due to arbitrary increases in transport fares during festive periods, particularly for land transport.
According to her, the lawmakers were further concerned that Nigerians were already viewing the situation as the gross exhibition of greed and monumental corruption on the part of transporters who capitalise on rushing periods to exploit people.
“This invariably puts a question mark on the country’s drive or fight against corruption,” Saraki, who was represented by the Director, Road Transport and Mass Transit Administration, FMT, Udu-Ejembi Mary, stated.
She added, “The mandate of the Federal Ministry of Transportation is not only to manage rail, road, inland waterways, sea and air transport nationwide but also to regulate the operators.”
This, according to the minister, was why stakeholders must put measures in place to monitor the activities of transporters across the country, especially during festive periods.
“This is in order to curtail the obnoxious hikes in fares and also impose sanctions on erring operators to serve as a deterrent to others,” she stated.
Transport operators at the meeting, however, argued that several factors often caused fare hikes, particularly during festive seasons.
The Deputy National Secretary-General, Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria, Henry Ugwu, outlined some of the factors to include excessive taxation on roads, high cost of petrol, among others.
He said, “From RTEAN, we’ve not directed our people to increase transport fares. Every festive period you have this rush, but it is not basically because of the rush.
“It is, for instance, if you have a fleet of 50 vehicles; when you move passengers from the area of the rush to their destination, you will not see people bring back. So that is one of the reasons.
“Also, as transporters, we’ve been clamouring for the establishment of a transport bank where we can get low-interest rates and we urge the Federal Government to look into this; it will help the sector.”
Ugwu added, “Another thing is that we are suffering from triple taxation on our highways. States, local governments and their agencies and even vigilantes collect money from us.”
The RTEAN official argued that transporters were not exploiting passengers, stressing the sector was not properly regulated as any vehicle owner could pick passengers from any location without much interference from the authorities.
By Okechukwu Nnodi