FG’s 50% transport rebate: A festive season blessing for travelers
By Babajide Fadoju
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s recent announcement regarding free train rides and a 50% discount on interstate bus fares during the festive period has sparked widespread reactions across Nigeria.
While some voices, notably the Nigerian Labour Congress, expressed skepticism, numerous travelers, including myself, have already experienced the benefits, potentially making this policy a game-changer for the Yuletide season.
The Minister for Transport, Saedu Alkali, explained the rationale behind the government’s decision, emphasizing discussions held with the luxury bus union. Alkali highlighted that the increased fares during festive periods due to empty return trips were considered. He further pointed out the government’s contemplation of the prevailing security situation in the country, leading to the decision for a 50% reduction in road transport fares.
The head of information and public affairs of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Benson Upah, told LEADERSHIP that the federal government was only “killing a cow with mouth,” a term which indicates that it is a declaration that will not work. This claim has not met the light of day, as commuters have continued to enjoy the federal government largesse.
Personally, traversing three states from Lagos to Ogun and then Oyo via the free train journey, I witnessed a surprising smoothness that was absent during regular travels. The usual anxieties of crowded platforms and delayed departures were conspicuously absent, replaced by an atmosphere of festive cheer and genuine relief. Passengers, many of whom shared past struggles with high fares, were visibly grateful for this unexpected benefit.
This sentiment resonates with numerous others who have directly experienced the positive impact. From students finally able to reunite with families to traders transporting goods affordably, the initiative seems to be significantly improving lives. It’s more than mere cost-saving; it’s about enabling freedom to travel, reconnect with loved ones, and partake in the season’s joys, previously inaccessible for many.
Certainly, challenges persist. Valid concerns raised by skeptics, such as the Labour Congress, revolve around sustainability and potential exploitation. The reliance on luxury bus operators mainly and selected routes has not made the benefits totally inclusive for all travellers.
Furthermore, the long-term repercussions on the transport sector require meticulous consideration.
Despite these challenges, the immediate relief experienced by thousands is indisputable. This initiative has served as a lifeline, granting the chance to celebrate and connect during a time shadowed by economic hardships. The visible joy among fellow travelers, the tales of reunited families, and the sheer sense of possibility brought about by this unexpected gesture are genuine testimonials deserving attention.
President Tinubu’s initiative may not offer a flawless solution, yet its immediate impact on countless Nigerians cannot be dismissed. In this season of giving, the policy has bestowed the gift of mobility, connection, and hope. Whether it leads to sustained change or remains a seasonal gesture, one fact remains: for many Nigerians, this Yuletide will be etched as the season when transportation became a gift of liberation..
Fadoju is a Public Analyst