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Thursday, December 24, 2020

COVID-19 war: Open letter to Sanwo-Olu, Lagos NURTW - ITREALMS

Commentary@ITREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news!

Just last Sunday, I received a confession from a parishioner who claimed to have not believed there is CoronaVirus, because investigations shown him and newly married wife have diatribe on what is COVID-19, let alone its existence.


My immediate take is to advocate usage of facemask even if one disapproves COVID-19 exist and is real and even more daring nowadays as we can see for those who care for news that the United States of America alone is nearing 20,000,000 infectious mark, while Nigeria advances daily towards 100,000 cases.
This strong diatribe on COVID-19 despite its existence, made us to hit the road and our first point of call was the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) bus terminals at Oshodi-Lagos. The BRT stations as known in Lagos parlance; is a high-quality bus-based transit system that supposedly delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities and comes with air conditioner. 

While at the bus terminal entrance at Oshodi, everything looked normal, until you may have purchased the ticket, which poor and exploitative governance left at 2-hour for you to use after purchase or it expires. Then on entering the main waiting side of the terminal, behold a crowd of over 2,000 waiting for their turn or buses to convey them to their various destinations especially to Obalende and CMS in the Lagos Island and some others to Ikorodu and even Ajah. 

At first, it was like a movie because all the waiting arrangement spaces have been occupied and single line for Oshodi-Obalende via CMS showed that some 3 multiple lines have reached the end of the building on multiple queue. The terminus was rowdy without ventilation for this number of commuters to wait on. 

What came to mind was when will the commuters be lifted out of Oshodi terminal and they will hit road full of traffic, moreso now the Third Mainland bridge has been on partial lock? Further investigation showed that there are some 10 mini-luxurious buses or better known down here as big coaster buses parked in the premises and not being put to use, whereas the main luxurious BRT buses takes between 7 and 10 minutes to arrive after one has been loaded. This means that even in 2 hours, the number of commuters waiting to be transported out of Oshodi terminus to various destinations would not happen because more and more people, keep coming to the terminal with hope of a better service. 

With this, it was evident that those who may have businesses or appointments to deal with in next two hours of their getting to the terminal should better forget it or check out the other options including taking supposedly shortcuts to their destinations via small buses who will stop at Onipanu, Fadeyi and Palmgroove as their supposed last bus stops to get more fare from unsuspecting passengers, before reloading to CMS or Orile-Constain etc. Those who are lucky to get Molue, mostly from Ikorodu are likely to pay less than using the danfo-buses. Of course, with this route, passengers pay more. 

But then, using Molue, which Afrobet legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti had dedicated one of his numerous albums enitled "Suffering and Smiling" to the molue buses in Lagos, described as metaphor of “49 sitting and 99 standing.” has not changed in spite of surge in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria particularly coming from Lagos daily. 

So, its this molue and availability of good transport system in Lagos is where the alarm is and should be focused on. As gathered most of the commuters in Molue do not use FaceMask, a few that have them left them on their jaws if not on their neck. The excuse largely given by such commuters is that Molue is suffocating, especially when on traffic, whilst the conductors are simply interested in getting their fares from more passengers, outside about 40-60 seated. 

And with the rate of jam-packing of persons in the Molue, physical distancing protocol took flight. 

A few actions that must be taken by the government of Babajide Sanwo-Olu is to ensure that all vehicles commuting passengers like Molue must have a functional radio strictly in use for commuters benefit. This would as often as the COVID-19 protocol messages are relayed remind those who may have heard about it before, rather than waiting until market is over in the evening to get home and watch television. 

There is need to empower the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to monitor their members, especially Molue buses to keep to the approved number of passengers, even if there must be standing passengers, as long as its approved number. In addition, NURTW members must be made to undergo training on COVID-19 protocols as often as possible, because it should start from those gatekeepers like the conductors, with insistence that they always wear nose-masks to live by example and ensure washing of their hands at every terminal. 

Finally, all the newly acquired businesses for BRT should be put to use as soon as possible to alleviate the suffering of Lagosians, which cannot be distanced from the burning of BRT buses during the recent #EndSARS protests, with hope that Nigerians and Lagosians precisely have learnt that destroying or burning of public property means more suffering by the same public in nearest future, either directly or indirectly, as its evident Lagos is short of buses and allied staff at the moment. 

*Remmy Nweke/DoP

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