February 18, 2015 – The Lagos State Government yesterday rolled out 100 high capacity made in Nigeria buses acquired from Leyland Nigeria to beef up operation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Scheme.
The buses which were acquired from Leyland Nigeria, were fitted with air-condition and local wireless network, WiFi and widely seen as a consequent of the Federal Government Auto Policy, which required automobile manufacturing companies interested in marketing vehicles in Nigeria to assemble them locally.
The vehicles which are painted read have inscriptions on the base just above the bumper, Leyland Nigeria and a sticker on the back wind shield, with inscription, ‘Proudly Nigerian’.
It is the first time that the Lagos State Government will be using buses manufactured in the country in the BRT operations since 2007. Hundreds of buses have been imported from Yutong Motors, India since the BRT scheme commenced in the state.
Speaking at the occasion, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said the fleet of 100 new air-conditioned buses was made possible by partnership between LAGBUS Asset Management Limited and one of its franchisees Metro Bus.
He said his administration is committed to build a reliable and sustainable multi- modal transport system that is driven by the private sector.
He explained that it is only by creating opportunity for private sector to take ownership, employ people, and provide services that government can deliver prosperity to the people.
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 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.
“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 118 Naira 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 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.
“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 individuals like one bus owners. The Metro buses have come now with 100 buses and they say they would do more”, he explained.
“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.
Fashola saluted the courage of the investors for venturing to dare in spite of the challenges, 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.
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, adding that they will service Sango-Oshodi-Obalende- Ikorodu-Island –Epe.
He explained that the 100 new Air Conditioned buses have been made possible by the partnership with a private concern called Metro Bus and that it 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 part 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.