Babatope Okeowo reports that the people of Ondo State, especially the low income earners, have been groaning over the 100 per cent hike in intra-city transport fare by members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers
Despite the promises made by government at all levels to mitigate the effects of economic hardship on the people, drivers under the auspices of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) have hiked transport fare with over 100 percent in Ondo State.
This development has led the residents of the Sunshine State who have been battling with the effects of COVID-19 had caused on their finances to groan and lament the increase in the transport fare has caused. Particularly hit by this sudden hike were the civil servants who are on half salary because of the dwindling resources from the federation account to the coffers of the State.
Also, many low income earners, traders and artisans have been complaining about the increase in the transport fare compared to what they earned as their daily income.
Consequently, critical stakeholders in the economy of the State have expressed divergent opinions about what they called ‘inhuman action’ of the NURTW boss; Mr Jacob Adebo popularly called Idajo, who they accused of acting the script of the state government.
The people of the state woke up last week to the hike in transport fare. The union blamed the increased of the taxi fare from N50 to N100 on the upward review of the daily ticket by the union in the state. The daily ticket was increased from N250.00 to N700.00.
The drivers responded with the sharp increase in the transport fare. An official of the NURTW who spoke on condition of anonymity however, blamed the state government for the hike, saying it was collaboration between both government and taxi driver union.
He said “the ticket we used to pay N250 has been increased to N700.00 it is collaboration between our union and government.”
RTEAN rejects the hike
The Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN)) dissociated itself from the hike in intra city transport fares in Akure metropolis and other parts of the state. They promised to stick by the new transport fare and vowed to maintain the old rate of N50 per drop.
The Chairman of RTEAN, Mr Adewale Bolarinwa, who directed his members not to increase the fare, described the increment as inhuman. He alleged that some hoodlums suspected to be agents of the NURTW to have been moving around the town, attacking RTEAN members for not joining in the hike of the transport fare.
Bolarinwa however, insisted that his members would continue to carry passengers at old fare, maintaining that RTEAN was duly registered and called on the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and security agencies to call members of the NURTW to order.
He also warned NURTW members against attacking his members to prevent bloody unrest in the state, saying two of their members Kasali Akande and Tajudeen Kazeem who were matcheted over ticketing are receiving treatment in the hospital while their vehicles have been impounded by members of the NURTW.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state described the hike as unacceptable to the majority of the people in the state.
A statement by the Director of Media and Publicity, Mr Leye Igbagbo said the party was irked by the arbitrary hike in taxi fare from N50 to N100 per short distance in Akure, the State capital due to increment of the daily levy for taxi drivers from N250 to N700 by the leadership of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) under Jacob Adebo popularly known as Idajo. The statement read: It is a generally known fact that Idajo was the arrowhead of a violent wing of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that terrorized Ondo State people before and during Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s second term bid in October, 2020.
The increment in levy for taxi drivers is a carefully drawn ploy to compensate Idajo for his ignoble roles during the election. “The PDP condemns in strong terms this importunate, inconsiderate, inhuman and insensitive action of the NURTW in a morbid rush to generate revenues that may ultimately find their way into the private pockets of a few privileged allies of the Governor.
“Our party however encourages the people of Ondo State to endure for a little time and pray along, in that, weeping may endure for a night; but joy comes in the morning.”
The Media Adviser to the outgoing Dep uty Governor of the state, Mr Allen Sowore said the action of the NURTW was capable of causing more economic woes to the people of the state. In his statement titled ‘Agbàlówómeri’ said: On Monday – 8th February, 2021, the good people of Ondo State woke up to a new regime of percent hike in the transport fair- from N50 to N100 per drop.
This is a direct result of Governor Akeredolu’s decision to introduce a new daily ticket fee of N300 on commercial drivers in Ondo State. The leadership of the state NURTW too, after agreement with the government also jacked up their daily ticket fee from N250 to 700. Therefore, a taxi driver in the State now has to pay N21, 000 in a month or N700 daily.
“After the highly procured temporary second term victory at the poll, the only economic policy of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu seems to be the exploitation of the already impoverished masses. The people are now impecunious through various obnoxious anti- people policies- hike in tuition fees, cancellation of free health care and the disappearance of the free shuttle school buses.
“Not only that, workers in the state have been forced to collect quarter or half salary at the end of the month without their cooperatives’ deductions, which has made doctors in the public sector embarked on an indefinite strike in the middle of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Don’t be cajoled by the denial of any government official, it is a connivance of the government and the NURTW to milk the people. When I thought about the burden and untold hardship this increment will bring and juxtapose it with the level of general poverty in the state, I remember the Yoruba word, Agbàlówómeri. “Akeredolu government will be remembered for taxing the poor and collecting from the have-not. Ijoba Agbàlówómeri
In response to complaints of civil servants about the 100 percent rise in transport fares in the state, State Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), Mr Sunday Adeleye said the leadership of NLC has met with the leadership of the drivers unions on the hike.
He assured that the transport fare would be reverted to the old rate. Adeleye however did not disclose whether the new ticket regime introduced by the state government would be reviewed downward or not.
The state government in its reaction distanced itself from the hike in the daily ticket of the taxi drivers from N250 to N700 which resulted in upward review of taxi fare in the state. Speaking on behalf of Governor Akeredolu, the Special Adviser on Transport, Mr Tobi Ogunleye, said government was not part of the increase, putting the blame on the drivers union, the NURTW. According to him, “I don’t know how they arrived at that decision but I want to distant the government from this development.
The government does not have the authority and power to intervene in business of any union. “The issue of N700 per ticket is strange to us, it is quite embarrassing. From history, NURTW had not been paying into the state coffers, okada rider, tricycle drivers have always been paying appreciable revenue for government and they did not increase their fare.”
Ogunleye who admitted that though the taxi driver union increased its taxes to government coffers this year but said the people could reject any price that is not favorable in civil manner.