For about 10 years, Mrs. Risikatu Rahman had boarded a molue bus from her home in the Ketu area to the popular Idumota Market, where she sells dresses and other items. She had stuck to this routine until a few days ago when the Lagos State Government banned such buses from operating on Lagos Island.
Since the order took effect, Rahman has not been happy. In an interview with our correspondent on Monday, the woman complained that the ban had forced her to spend more money on transportation and to queue each morning to board BRT buses to her destination.
As if to compound her problem, the trader treks for about 20 minutes, after alighting from the vehicle at CMS Bus Stop, before getting to her shop. This was not the case before, because the terminus of the molue buses is not far from the shop.
“I am not happy with this development. The molue is the popular means of transportation for the masses. It has enough room for our wares, unlike the BRT and the LAG buses, which do not give room for such.
“Nowadays, I spend between N300 and N350 on transport daily, instead of N200 I used to spend. I hate to queue at the bus stop. Sometimes, we spend more than an hour waiting for BRT buses at Ketu.”
But Rahman is not the only resident that has complained about the ban on the popular means of transportation. Also, Mr. Nnamdi Orji, who sells video CDs at Ebute Ero, seethed with rage when our correspondent approached him.
He said the ban does not augur well for him and other commuters that regularly travel from various parts of the Mainland to Lagos Island.
He describes the action of the state government as putting the cart before the horse, saying the government did not consider that its mass transit buses plying the route were insufficient to meet the needs of commuters, before issuing the ban on molue buses.
“Na so government restrict Okada on many roads, now na molue. Wetin be all this kind wahala? Na poor man dey suffer for this country. Which alternative dem wan give us? Na because dem and their children no dey enter commercial buses; that is why dem dey ban them for Lagos Island. The vanagon buses dey charge N150, but for molue na between N70 and N100, depending on where you enter the bus. It may even be as low as N50,” Orji says in Pidgin English.
However, another resident, Mr. Eric Akapo, welcomes the ban, describing molue vehicles as unsuitable for the image of a mega city.
Akapo says he cannot recall the last time he boarded a molue. He notes that apart from the fact that some drivers of the buses wear only singlets when at work, many of them are rickety.
However, he wants the government to make available more buses to cover areas that may be affected by the ban.
“The molue, as far as I am concerned, has no place in the mega city dream of the state government. This may even be the first step by the government to restrict its services to the suburbs,”he says.
In a statement made available to journalists last week, the management of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority said the buses were banned from operating on Lagos Island, as well as on the Third Mainland, Eko and Carter bridges.
LASTMA also noted that while the buses were not expected to operate in the city’s Central Business District, the ban was intended to ensure adequate monitoring of the operations of commercial vehicles and compliance with traffic rules and regulations.
Emerging from a meeting with the branch chairmen of the Lagos Urban Bus Owners Association of Nigeria, the operators of molue buses in the state, the General Manager of LASTMA, Mr. Babatunde Edu, had said, “This directive had become effective since August, 2012. But the Lagos State Government, being a responsive and responsible government that believes in enlightenment before enforcement, decided to shift the enforcement to September 2013.
“LASTMA officials have been mandated to ensure strict compliance and impound any molue found to have flouted the directive after September 4, 2013. The government has not banned the operations of the molue in the state. Rather, it has restricted their operations to areas like Orile, Iyana Ipaja, Mile 2 and Mile 12.”
He said the routes from where they are prohibited include Iddo, Ebute Ero, Apongbon, Obalende, Idumota and CMS.
Our correspondent spoke with some members of LUBOAN and molue drivers over this development.
A LUBOAN official at the Agege Motor Road section, Mr. Sulaimon Yusuf, said that though some members of the association were affected by the directive, there was nothing they could do about it.
“Some of our members are affected by this new directive, but this means they have to move to other routes. This is a directive from government. We have no other choice than to comply,” Yusuf said.
But a man named Saheed Akeju complained that before the ban, molue drivers were constantly harassed by LASTMA officials, policemen and vehicle inspection officers.
“We don’t take passengers from Agege to Lagos Island. We take passengers from Agege to Oshodi and back. A colleague of mine, whose molue was impounded by the VIO, went to pay the fine imposed on him. As he was driving through Ikeja, some LASTMA officials asked him to stop and inquired what he was doing in Ikeja,” Akeju said.
Sarafa Tajudeen, who plies Agbado to Oshodi, said he was prepared to quit driving molue as soon as he found another job. “Something tells me that molue buses may be phased out and some of us may lose our jobs as a result. Now, they are saying we should not be found on Lagos Island. Who knows where next?”
When contacted on the issue, the Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, said, “I don’t know anything about it.”
While the molue question lingers, Lagosians have yet to have the best of services from the BRT buses and LAGbuses. For instance, there are still long queues at their major terminal and bus stops around the city. Such queues are noticeable at Berger, Ketu, Iyana Ipaja, Surulere and Race Course, among other areas.