Okorie Uche Victor, FCT chairman of the Self-Employed Commercial Drivers Association of Abuja (SECDAA) in this interview with Abubakar Yakubu, speaks on the newly introduced transport policy of the FCT Administration which restricts the movement of commercial mini-buses to only feeder routes in Abuja city centre. Excerpts:
What are your feelings about the new transport policy of the FCT Administration?
We are not happy about it and as you can see, the masses are suffering, commuters are stranded and even the scene at Nyanya is an eyesore as everywhere looks chaotic.
Is your union planning any action over the policy?
We are still appealing to the government to reconsider their stand on this issue as before now, we have been attending meetings with the FCT Transport Secretariat and initially they said they don't want to deal with unions and that we should register as companies to which the stakeholders registered as individual companies and paid commitment fee of N1 million.
We were given colours to paint our vehicles into and we directed our members to paint their vehicles to that colour. The secretariat also told us to do biometric data capture of our members and we employed consultants, who have captured the data of about 80 per cent of our members.
But now the FCT Administration is saying they don't want to see our buses on major streets of Abuja, despite the fact that our members have been ensuring smooth movement of commuters for over 25 years. It is unfortunate that because investors came with bigger buses, you are now asking mini buses to leave the road for them.
This action will affect many lives in Abuja. SECDAA has over 20,000 members. So where do you want them to feed from and you are saying they should serve as feeder routes to high capacity buses but now mini buses are blocked from going into Abuja city at Nyanya.
Does government want them to fly to get to those routes they are allowed to operate? We are appealing to the FCT Administration to suspend the action so that we can come together to look at other better ways, which wouldn't affect people so much. There is also supposed to be palliative measures on ground to cushion the effect of this action.
Government is for the masses and the FCT Administration should listen to their cry. At Masaka on Monday, people going to work paid as much as N200 to get to Nyanya. The high capacity buses which were said to better the lives of masses carried passengers at the cost of N150 from Nyanya to Wuse, which was not like that before as their normal fare is N70 but now they are using the advantage of the crisis caused by the new policy to extort commuters.
So if FCT Administration says no going back, we leave it to the masses to decide as we are watching.
Some commercial drivers have accused transport union executives of collecting bribe to allow the policy operate. Is the allegation correct?
That is not true. We as leaders of our union have our responsibilities and that is to prevent lawlessness. We are still telling the FCT Administration that the policy cannot work for now. Nobody gave us money and we are after legal means to resolve the issue. But if government refuses to heed to our appeal, then we shall be left with no other option than to embark on a peaceful protest.