On January 14, 2013, the Transportation Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) commenced the implementation of routes delineation for mini and high capacity buses in the Federal Capital Territory. The measure entails a restriction of operation of mini-buses (popularly known as danfo) to certain routes and the high capacity ones to the others in the City. The mini-buses are those that have seat provision for 18 passengers or less while the high capacity ones are the ones with sitting provision for 30 passengers and above.
The measure was necessitated by the need to curb congestion, engender sanity and reduce accidents on the roads of the nation's capital city. Studies and experience have also shown that the current mixed use of the routes by tricycles, mini and mega buses do not augur well for the commuters and other motorists. The mini buses had often used their large numbers to harass and chase the high capacity buses out of space. The situation has been blamed for the perennial failure of mega bus operations in the FCT in the past decades.
Prior to the take-off of the policy, the FCT Administration through its Transport Secretariat had painstakingly engaged the transport stakeholders on the new policy through several meetings throughout 2011and 2012. Many of the stakeholders' meetings were covered by journalists with their outcomes widely publicized in the print and the electronic media.
The agenda of the meetings centred mainly on fine-tuning the routes delineation by the FCTA for orderly and seamless road transportation in the FCT with particular attention to the capital city. But it soon became obvious, in the course of the sensitization meetings, that a section of the mini-bus operators was bent on scuttling the very lofty new policy on routes delineation based on selfish reasons without considering its numerous advantages as it concerns the generality of commuters and road users in the FCT.
The delineated routes were distributed in such a way that the mini-buses had 15 routes assigned to them and the high capacity buses allotted seven routes to ply. Among the routes allocated to the mini-buses are the following: Mombassa - Michael Okpara - Olusegun Obasanjo - Moshood Abiola Area 1; Area 1 - Gudu - Apo Mechanic Village; Area 1 - Cement Market - Apo Mechanic Village; Jabi - Mbora - Kaura - Gudu Market; Jabi - Mbora - Suncity - Apo Mechanic; Jabi - Mbora - Lugbe; Gwarinpa - Life Camp entrance - 1st Gate; Bwari Town - Dutse Alhaji - ONEX Expressway; Kubwa 2nd Gate - Gado Nasko Road - Kubwa 1st Gate; Mpape - Murtala Muhammed Expressway Junction.
The mini-buses are barred from plying the following routes which have been allocated to high-capacity buses: Wuse Market - Eagle Square - Asokoro - AYA - Nyanya; Area 3 Junction - Tafawa Balewa - Herbert Macauly Way - Berger Junction - Jabi; Gudu Market - Apo Quarters - Ahmadu Bello Way - Federal Secretariat - Gwarinpa; AYA - Shehu Shagari - Federal Secretariat - Transcorp - NICON Junction. Under the policy, the services of tricycles have been restricted to Gwarinpa Estate; Life Camp; Kado and inside all large estates and the satellite towns.
But motivated by their immediate business profits, a section of the danfo operators opposed the routes delineation wholesale and insisted that they must continue to ply all routes notwithstanding the overwhelming odds such as the attendant auto accidents, the persistent traffic gridlocks and chaos on the major roads and intersections in Abuja as a result of mixed use of the routes by commercial vehicles of different capacities and sizes.
It was this fraction of the mini bus operators that mobilized touts and urchins to stage demonstrations when the routes delineation came on stream on January 14, 2013. It is on record that a preponderance of the mini-bus operators complied with the policy by restricting their operations to the routes assigned to them. It is on record that the Abuja Master plan never allowed such a chaotic format where all manner of buses should ply all routes. The Plan prescribes delineation of routes for mini and high capacity buses.
Being a listening leader, the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, nevertheless, directed that the implementation of the new route policy be deferred for three weeks. He directed that further sensitization be undertaken in order to carry the commuters and the general public along in the implementation of the policy. He was however unambiguous that the routes delineation policy was a good one for all. He therefore stated clearly that the suspension of itys implementation was for three weeks only and that it would resume in full force after period.
The Minister directed that the three weeks period be used to carry out enough engagement and media enlightenment of the stakeholders and the public on the well intended policy. The period would equally be used by the FCTA and the stakeholders of the transport sector to fine-tune the implementation of the new policy.
It is instructive that Senator Bala Mohammed gave this directive after meeting with a wide spectrum of stakeholders in the transport sector and others including officials of the mini-bus operators' Union, the FCT chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) respectively as well as the FCT Police Commissioner, Director, Department of State Security Services (SSS), Director, Department of Road Traffic Services (RTS) on Wednesday, January 16, 2013.
Ogbuenyi is a media aide to the FCT minister