18 November 2012

Nigeria: Transport Operators' Worst Fears

Have you ever heard a bus owner say, "My prayer is to have my bus arrive safely?" Why has this become a fear? We visited a branch manager of Stanbic IBTC Bank. Our aim was to find out how willing are banks to support upcoming transport operators. At the end of it all, we came to terms with the risk and fears of transport operators and other stakeholders.

So we made our proposal, "we want to put buses on the road. Will the bank support?

The manager replied: "What route will we operate on?" We responded, "Uyo to Abuja."

The manager leaned back on his chair, looked at us for a while and said, "Try something a little bit different. The bank will be concerned about strategy of operations due to one factor. Who will drive the buses?"

So we visited a few persons who had once had experiences as operator and asked about the risk. One of such persons was Mr Hanson Ema who once had a bus terminal.

Ema told us: "The risk of entrusting a vehicle to a driver is so high. You think about your bus completing its journey before looking at how much money you can make".

According to Ema, "Drivers are a major concern". Referring to Tabasco (a former transport operator), he said it was successful because "initially the drivers were well treated, valued and respected". So Tabasco earned their loyalty but didn't survive due to changes that occured in management.

Currently, many of Tabasco drivers are working in another company, Promiseland Criuser.

Ema introduced us to Young Ike, former chief driver of Tabasco. We asked him how he was able to recruite responsible drivers for the former Tabasco and OPL Transport company?

Ike said, "In my own opnion, getting good drivers involves knowing their backgrounds. It is important to know if your driver is a family man and has had many years of experience on Nigerian highways."

He added, "It is not the best idea to bring in young drivers. Getting goal oriented drivers is important."

From our findings, it is clear that getting a good driver is one problem. Good drivers are indispensable for safety of passengers.

The quest to make quick money on the road must be discouraged. The journey should be pleasant for all.

However there is one big problem; there is hardly a good road to travel on in the east.

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