Naira scarcity: Sanwo-Olu’s transport palliative came in handy

By Uche Nnadozie

On February 8, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced a 50 percent reduction in the fares of all state-owned transport services including LagFerry, LagRide, and the BRT. The price slash also affected the mini last mile buses.

The governor equally announced a support programme for the vulnerable segments of the society.

This support programme was made up of a package containing food items ranging from garri to rice; beans to beverages, among others.

Both initiatives were to last for two weeks only; which means it was billed to end on February 21 – a few days before the presidential election scheduled for the 25th.

There was no doubt that the palliative was well conceived and received. Many persons, because of the dire scarcity of funds at the time, could not fault the intervention. Even political actors could not find a justifiable motive to oppose the laudable project.

And there is no doubt that the palliative on transportation clearly assisted many Lagosians to cope with the excruciating pain of having money, but not having access to it. Going to work became a burden; transporting kids to school became even more cumbersome.

Yours truly, is one of the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries of that laudable project. Commuting became a lot easier whether on BRT buses or through the LagRide car hailing service.

Times were when I was off route of the BRT franchise, and the LagRide came to my rescue. This is more so because other hailing franchises were charging far above the going rate of LagRide; whereas for LagRide, it was even a 50% slash. So a journey that probably cost ₦3,000, went for ₦1,500. Other car hailing options were charging up to ₦4,000 per trip at the time.

Bus fare which was hitherto ₦400 per trip was slashed down to ₦200. Apart from the Naira scarcity, petrol stations were equally empty, thereby compounding mobility hiccups at the time.

Therefore, it’s evident that the state government must have spent a lot of money to assist families go through one of the toughest times Nigerians have experienced in the past 20 years.

The state government under Governor Sanwo-Olu was proactive, innovative and foresighted in coming up with the subsidy.

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As a kind public official, the Lagos governor has shown the humane nature that informs his choices in public policy execution.

That programme, which the state has announced would come to a close on April 1, is a classic example of what a listening government should be.

It’s not out of place to see that many people would want the palliative to become permanent, but, it’s good enough that they extended the programme for another five weeks and four days. Every good thing must come to an end somehow.

Generosity of spirit exhibited by the government should be encouraged at moments of national crisis. But we (the people) should not take it for granted. We should also not ask for what is too much for the government to bear. Transportation is big business, there’s no way the government can continue to shoulder the burden by that percentage.

Even at normal rates and normal times, the state government still pays grants (more like subsidy) to BRT franchises for the rates to remain at what it was before February 8.

For now, the government has done well and should be commended fully. Happily, the reasons for the commendable palliatives to be instituted are progressively being resolved. More cash has been injected into the system and petrol queues are almost gone. It’s time to return to pre-February 8 because things are also returning to normal!

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