A new era of what could be described as “Competitive Transport System” has unfolded in the history of transport operation in Rivers State, and in Port Harcourt environs in particular. This is the desire of average commuter in the state.
In the past, the transport system in the state could be said to be very undeveloped, having the features of hooliganism, gangstarism with the “winner takes all” syndrome in the system.
It was a period of near monopoly due largely to the operational style of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), where no other group outside the NURTW could survive in the system, and if they must survive, it must be by violence, clash and flex of muscles physically among themselves and with the law enforcement agents.
Transport fare was relatively unstable especially within the town service operation ( intra-city bus service) Mini buses dominated the entire transport and every attempt to checkmate obnoxious increase in fare was met with stiff opposition by members of the transport union.
It is not surprising that any attempt made by any group to appear as an independent group will face serious attacks from the transport cabals that held the system to ransom.
The scenario then gave birth to other emerging groups who had links with either the government (the federal or state) or the Labour Organisation to make their existence strong in order to enable them withstand the threat of transport mafias in the state.
The coming on board of the Labour Mass Transit (LMT), the Rivers Mass Transit Scheme, and the Port Harcourt City Transport Scheme were fallouts of the efforts to launch themselves into the mainstream transport scheme in Rivers State.
Other transport bodies that followed suit were the Rivers Transport and Investment Cooperative Union Limited (RTICUL) and the Nigerain Legion Mass Transit Scheme. Their coming on board brought hope to the general commuter public and other self commissioned drivers who were seeking for other alternative organisation in the transport system to guarantee freedom from the near-monopoly known in the system.
The new entrants into the transport system operated as franchise schemes, with lots of promises and hope of freedom for its members, where a lot of self-commissioned drivers were registered for protection, as it were.
Hopes were dashed, when these operators could not accomplish promises made to members, as the system turned out to be a source of environment for the operators.
This scenario nevertheless plugged back the system into confusion again, as any emerging group could be taken very serious because of the antecedents.
But since the inception of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi government in Rivers brought, hope and relevance have been rekindled in the transport system, as real investment for the development of the transport system evolved in the state.
Governor Amaechi on January 29, 2008 organised a transport summit where egg heads in the transport sector both within and outside Rivers State gathered to brainstorm on the way forward and for the development of the transport system in the state.
At the summit, transport and related issues were discussed, and resolutions reached, which informed the basis for government transport policy in the state with the Skye Bank playing active role at the summit.
Decisions reached at the summit began to pay-off when the Skye Bank as a private financial institution in partnership with the state government rolled out the Port Harcourt City Bus Service Scheme (PHCBS); a scheme where multiple luxurious buses were used to service the Port Harcourt metropolis and its environs transport wise.
This effort of The Skye Bank’ efforts in partnership with the state government impacted positively on the system, particularly in the area of control of transport fare along the Aba Road axis which was its first point of call in operations.
This also gave rise to relatively organised transport system in the state as tickets were issued and the same fare charged both at the peak and off-peak in commuters rush hours.
At least there was no reported case of cut in distance of operations, and the most impressive aspect is that large number of commuters and passengers were moved from one point to another and buses were readily available, with designated bus stops remarkably built.
Another remarkable appearance was that of the Monier Haulage, that partnered with the Skye Bank to provide readily available and affordable transportation.
With the appearance of the Monier Haualge, PHCBS launched its operations within the Mile III- Rumuokoro and Choba axis, with multiple luxurious buses in its fleet.
Before the advents of the transport firm operators along UNIPORT-Rumuokoro axis, as well as that of Mile III, the fare charged by other private transporters were out rageous. But competition set in when Monier haulage started charging moderate fare against what others in Union have garged up to charge.
A fare charge of N100 from Choba to Rumoukoro has now been forced down to N50 by private mini buses drivers, while PHCBS takes only N40 both do Mile III and Choba.
Ideally, the major transport corridors in Port Harcourt metropolis are the Aba Road, and the Ikwerre Road axis, and this is where much passenger traffic is experienced. Next is the Rumuokoro-Choba and the Igwuruta axis, and on record, the PHCBS has taken over operations along the routes giving rise to competitive transportation.
Already, many commuters that ply the routes have made the PHCBS as their number one choice because their operations are well organised, easily available, no report of hike in fare at any time of the day, and of course with low transport fare.
This scenario has forced other mini bus operators to compete for passengers with lower fare charged in most cases.
Interestingly, many drivers no longer position their vehicles for loading at the park but are always seen outside the motor park to compete with the PHCBS operators at a reduced fare.
The reason is that the number of passengers that enter the motor park has drastically been reduced, since PHCBS positioned themselves outside the park to scout for passengers. This has affected the revenue base of most transport operators.
The Secretary of NURTW, Rumuokoro branch, Mr. Ikechukwu Orlu, agreed that the operations of PHCBS has brought competition to the system, and that the daily revenue to the union has reduced drastically. This prompted the reason for members to load outside according to him.
It is clear that this competitive scenario has reduced the burden on commuters on the road, and this of course will chart the course of advancement of transport system in the state, and the credit will be given to the initiators of the present administration.
MWUN Threatens To Down Tools Over Failed Quay Aprons
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) on Friday threatened to shutdown port operations over the dilapidated quay aprons at some of the nation’s seaports.
Speaking in Lagos during a joint press conference put together by the union and Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), President General, MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, reiterated that the lives of labour workers at the affected terminals was at risk, saying that “injury to one is tantamount to injury to all.”
Adeyanju lamented that the union cannot allow the situation consume some dockworkers before protesting against the trend, noting that as a responsible and proactive group, there was the need to down tools for government to do the needful.
Our correspondent gathered that two port terminal, at Tin Can Island Port Complex, Lagos, and another at Port Harcourt, Rivers Port Quay wells have been in dilapidated condition for over five years without any sign of repair works from the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Recall that Minister of Transportation, Mu’Azu Sambo, who also inspected the dilapidated portion of the Tin Can Island Port quay apron recently, asked Mohammed Bello-Koko, Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the engineers to forward the ‘as-built’ plan of the jetty, alongside other documents to his office for immediate action.
While reacting to questions from the journalists, Adeyanju said the union will also engage management of the NPA in furtherance to address the menacing failed infrastructure of the terminals.
On the recently inked Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NARTO, the President General noted that the collaboration has been in existence for a long while with the aims to cater for drivers’ welfare and support projects of the NPA in port terminals operations.
He also warned members of the dockworkers branch to cooperate and embrace the agreement with the trucking association, noting that any attempt by the dockers to flout the MoU reached so far would result to sanctions from the national executive of MWUN.
He assured the leadership of NARTO, led by its National President, Alhaji Yusuf Othman, of the Union’s commitment towards ensuring that progress and success is achieved in the agreement.
According to him, the MoU is binding for members of the dockworkers branch, stressing that the Lagos ports was a test run with plans ahead to extend the agreement to other seaports, including, Warri, Calabar and Port Harcourt ports.
Earlier, President of NARTO, Alhaji Othman, lauded the MoU reached with MWUN, adding that success will be achieved in the merger. Othman said in line with port operations, the merger will bring about free flow of vehicular movement in and out of the ports calling on the parties involved to embrace sincerity and transparency for the benefit of the industry and Nigeria.
He said, “We wish to draw the attention of the general public to the decision for MWUN and NARTO to synergise and collaborate on a basis of common desire to ensure seamless environment to do business in the maritime sub sector of the nation’s economy”.
By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
PenCom Approves Use Of Pensions For Mortgage
National Pension Commission (PenCom), has commenced approval for workers to use 25 per cent of their Retirement Savings Accounts for mortgage.
PenCom in a press statement released on Friday, titled ‘PenCom approves guidelines on accessing Retirement Savings Account balance for payment of equity contribution for residential mortgage by RSA holders’, noted that the approval was in line with the Pension Reform Act of 2014.
It stated in part, “PenCom is pleased to inform all stakeholders and the general public, particularly RSA holders, that the commission has approved the issuance and immediate implementation of the guidelines on accessing RSA balance towards payment of equity contribution for residential mortgage by RSA holders.
“The approval is in line with Section 89 (2) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, which allows RSA holders to use a portion of their RSA balance towards payment of equity for residential mortgage”.
According to the PenCom, the guidelines cover pension contributors in active employment, either as a salaried employee or as a self-employed person.
It added that the maximum amount to be withdrawn is 25 per cent of the total mandatory RSA balance as of the date of application, irrespective of the value of equity contribution required by the mortgage lender.
It further stated that where 25 per cent of a contributor’s RSA balance is not sufficient for payment as equity contribution, that RSA holders may utilize the contingency portion of their voluntary contributions (if any).
To qualify as a mortgage lender for the purpose, it stated, the company must be licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, comply with the Contributory Pension Scheme and have valid Pension Clearance Certificate.
“The RSA of the applicant shall have both employer and employee’s mandatory contributions for a cumulative minimum period of 60 months (five years).
“A contributor under the Micro Pension Plan is also eligible, provided he/she has made contributions for at least 60 months (five years) prior to the date of his/her application, and the RSA Holders that have less than three years to retirement are not eligible.
“Married couples, who are RSA holders, are eligible to make a joint application, subject to individually satisfying the eligibility requirements.
“RSA holders, if registered before 1 July 2019, must have their records updated through the RSA data recapture exercise.
“Application for equity contribution for residential mortgage shall be in person and not by proxy.” it stated.
By: Corlins Walter
Car Hires Operators, Bolt Driver Flex Muscles In PH Airport
There was pandemonium at the Port Harcourt International Airport Omagwa, Friday, as the Accredited Car Hires operators clashed with a Bolt taxi operator over passengers.
The scenario that played out got to the extent that everyone scampered for safety, as the Bolt driver went wild with his vehicle, and defied everything put in place to stop him, determined to crush anything, including humans, that stool on his way.
Problem started when the suspected Bolt driver was stopped by the Car Hires. After a heated argument, characterized by abuses, the bolt driver decided to enter his vehicle in anger, after he sensed that his car was in danger of being confiscated.
In the commotion that ensued, the car hires, as usual, used their iron piercing instruments to block the tyres of the vehicle to keep it within their custody, and the uproar attracted the attention of other airport users.
The Car hires and their allies at the airport had always insisted that no other taxi operator must carry passengers at the airport, since they do not pay any levy to the airport authority.
Consequently, they use every force necessary to stop other outside taxis from carrying passengers from the airport.
Friday’s incident took a new twist, as the Bolt driver over. Powered the forces used by the car hires, and went on a suicide mission, which made people to scamper for safety, including the car hires.
The driver went on a speed spree away from the airport. Even when the piercing instruments cut his tyre, he drove in such reckless manner capable of pulling down a building, thereby setting the entire environment on panic.
Some security agents present had to clear the way for the Bolt driver who drove out of the Airport with the iron piercing instrument obstructing his car, defiling all attempts to stop him.
By: Corlins Walter
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