The Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN on Tuesday, 17th February, 2015, formally flagged off the operation of a fleet of 100 new air-conditioned buses made possible by the partnership of the LAGBUS Asset Management Limited and one of its franchisees Metro Bus, reiterating the administration’s commitment to build a reliable and sustainable multi- modal transport system that is driven by the private sector.
The Governor who spoke at the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) Yard, Oshodi added that the purpose of the vision is clear but its ultimate goal is prosperity for the generality of the people which can only be delivered in a structured partnership with the private sector.
He added that it is only by creating opportunity for private sector to take ownership and employ people, provide services that government can really can deliver the prosperity of her dreams.
While reinforcing the multi- modal objective of the state government that is boosted with the increased bus fleet, Fashola gave a status update on the various transport related projects, informing that the jetties and the terminals in Mile 2, Badore, Osborne, Ipakodo, Ibeshe are being concluded.
He stated that from just 150,000 passengers per month in 2007, the state is moving over 1.6million people every month with about 200 ferries already licensed and owned by the private sector, adding that more is yet to come.
“So what we are doing on land today is already taking place on water and what we expect to see when all of the jetties are commissioned, is extension, bigger capacity ferries financed by banks and owned by individuals and small companies and then our job really would have been done.
“For now, there are a lot of water taxis carrying 16 to 24 passengers and there are almost 200 of them and everywhere you look on our waterways up to Ijegun- Egba you would see them. People are moving on a daily basis and a lot of employment is going on there”, he stressed.
The Governor also informed that he has approved the concessioning of the fuel supply system to all the terminals in an open and transparent manner were adverts were placed for bids and the winners shortlisted.
He added that the ferry terminals would become destination points with banking halls and all of such facilities, adding that the same facilities that would be seen at the ferry terminals when they are opened would also be seen at the rail terminals, four of which have been completed now.
“We have completed Mile 2, Orile, Alaba and Costain stations for the rail. We are heading to the fifth station in Marina and if you are driving on the Marina you would see that we are driving pillar by pillar, we are on our way, so that you can come by water, join a bus and continue your journey from Marina and may be into Victoria Island when that one starts.
“There are seven lines for the whole of Lagos so the Master plan is ready and one by one we would connect this together. That is what is in the 2012-2025 Development Plan that we have just unveiled”, he added.
He explained that the BRT system was all about empowering private sector and that the first partners were the road transport unions who owned the old buses on Lagos roads, adding that the government convinced them that if they could change their buses the face of transportation in Lagos would be changed.
“They agreed and bought the first set of buses. They took loans, paid off the loans, recapitalized but again the environment in which they invested then has changed substantially,” Fashola stated.
Tracing the origin of the first set of BRT buses, the Governor said it was the positive spin-off of a partnership with the private sector.
“Government did not own the BRT buses; it was private sector that owned them. Our job was to build the roads, the bus shelters to maintain and manage them while they ran their buses but that environment at the time they were borrowing money at One Dollar at N118 and interest rate at 10 percent has changed completely”, he added.
Fashola explained that when people see ageing buses that are not being replaced on the roads, it is not because government is not efficient but because the private sector is being incapacitated by financial regulations and economic policies of the Federal Government that are not helping them to grow.
“That is the reality because we expect them to now borrow money at N210 to One Dollar at 25 percent and we expect them to buy buses and keep them at the same prices. What kind of economy is that?
“The Federal Government has also announced that it will increase tariff for the buses, so this is the environment in which the bus operators do business. And it is an environment we must begin to pay attention to if we must see growth in this industry”, he emphasized.
He explained that the administration in Lagos also felt that it had a role to play and that role was in setting up a government owned company, LAGBUS whose role was to provide support in the less commercially viable routes because government did not want to compete with its investors so that people who live in those areas will have some kind of support because the private sector is in business for profit.
He said as a government that was always reviewing strategies, it thought the LAGBUS company itself was going to grind to a halt if all that it did was to run on unviable routes.
“So we expanded its width and this is where the bus franchising model came to life. And we said instead of you operating this now, sell all of these routes under franchises to private investors who would bring their buses but they would brand them in your colours, put their names on it and this is the model that has thrived in many parts of the world”.
“So we would see Metro Bus which is a franchisee of LAGBUS and we would see a Diamond Bus and so many others under one franchise operating on minimum standards below which the bus system should not fall. It is a minimum of 20 buses to get a franchise because we didn’t want individual one bus owners. The Metro buses have come now with 100 buses and they say they would do more”, he explained.
The Governor who also spoke on efforts to provide road infrastructure stated that as the roads are being built, expanding the road networks, the road construction process is providing employment for numerous thousands of people from engineering companies, quantity surveying companies, quarry operators, the rocks suppliers, those who provide gravel, granite, cement, iron rod and the people who do the real hard work on a daily basis.
“Of course the banks would tell you how much they make from our borrowings every year and in that way they maintain profitability and as I have always said if Lagos State Government stops borrowing many banks would give up because I know how much is involved…and this is how an economy should function and that is why it is worrisome that lending by banks now is no longer a commercial activity based on commercial viability as the Federal Government is interfering and telling banks who they can lend to and who they cannot.
“I don’t know what kind of economic management policies these are because slowly but gradually they are squeezing the life out of this economy taking the independence away. Why should a bank need a minister to lend to a customer if the customer’s credit is good? But that is what is happening today.
“It is becoming difficult to get foreign exchange and to transact business. We are supposed to have remitted money now to pay for our trains but there is no foreign exchange backing for it. The foreign exchange bid transaction we used to take for granted is now wait for your turn in order to pay for legitimate international transactions and it may yet get to school fees of children”, the Governor explained.
Governor Fashola saluted the courage of the investors for venturing to dare in spite of the difficulties of the market, adding that the new investment will offer 1500 new jobs as well as provision of WIFI internet connection on board the air-conditioned buses.
In terms of facilities for maintaining the buses, the Governor stated that the state government currently has a maintenance yard at Cappa and Bolade and is looking at the possibility of entering a structured partnership towards building a bigger maintenance yard that can service everybody’s investment and provide an opportunity.
He urged all residents of the State who have not collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to go and do so and ensure that they vote rightly to ensure the continuity of policies in Lagos that brought about the new high capacity buses adding that the level of development in the State should not be entrusted to an inexperienced candidate being paraded by the opposition party.
Speaking earlier, the state Commissioner for Transportation, Mr Kayode Opeifa described the launch of the new high capacity buses as another firm demonstration of the readiness of the present administration to implement the multi- modal transportation system.
Speaking at the event, the Managing Director of the LAGBUS Asset Management Limited, Mr Babatunde Disu said the buses will start operation soon, servicing main routes namely Sango-Oshodi-Obalende- Ikorodu-Island –Epe.
He added that the 100 new Air Conditioned buses have been made possible by the partnership with a private concern called Metro Bus and would eventually have a total of 1800 buses servicing 47 routes to bring about comfort and safety as well as reduce congestion.
Disu said ridership has increased by 31 per cent as 64.5 million passengers have been moved by Lagbus from 2012 to December 2015.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of the Metro Bus, Mr Niyi Oguntoyinbo said parts of the innovative facilities available on the buses are access through preloaded cards that would generate 5000 jobs for mobile agents for the pre-loaded cards.
He added that passengers can also send SMS to a number to know when the bus will arrive at their bus stop because it has been realized that a lot of people wait at bus stops in vain and that the buses have been equipped with facilities that will enable the operators see the buses in real time and switch buses from one route to another to gain efficiency.
”There would be security camera on board to ensure safety of passengers. The live feeds from the cameras will be made available to security agencies to be able to track any mishap. Customers can also use WIFI on the buses as well as enjoy videos and music on the go”, he said.
The Governor later cut the tape to formally unveil the new buses before taking a ride in one of the buses alongside some of the dignitaries to the Alausa Secretariat at the event which was attended by many dignitaries including the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial running mate in Lagos State, Dr (Mrs) Oluranti Adebule and some members of the state Executive Council top bankers and other private sector operatives.