Commercial transport workers in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, have lamented low patronage by passengers in the metropolis, claiming that commuters now resort to trekking to their various destinations.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that due to the economic recession rocking the nation, taxi drivers and motorcycle riders now struggle to get passengers as many commuters cannot afford to pay their transport fares to different places around the city.
According to Lamidi Akande, a taxi driver who plies the Zango-Post Office route, commercial transport workers in the city are having a hard time due to the economic downturn as most passengers now complain of financial difficulties.
"Passengers always lament that they don't have money. Some of them, especially the old ones, would beg us to convey them to different places for free. It is pathetic. Many other commuters now trek to their various destinations."
Johnson Samuel, another taxi driver who plies the Challenge-Tanke route, also complained about the effect of the economic recession, stating that the government should find lasting solutions to the scarcity of resources in the country.
Johnson, an HND graduate of Kwara State Polytechnic, implored the government to create jobs and put in place measures that would make money circulate among Nigerians.
"The government should let money flow from the top down to the grassroots here. The scarcity of resources is why passengers now complain that there is no money. Whenever they board taxis, they will just be begging us to reduce the fare.
"Sometimes when I take some of them from Challenge to Oke-odo, instead of paying N100, they would offer N50. And we have to accept it except we too do not want to eat by the end of that day."
A commercial motorcyclist, okada rider, who simply identified himself as Baba Kulende told PREMIUM TIMES that the low patronage started in the beginning of the year. He said the situation got worse after the government increased the pump price of fuel and there was attendant hike in transport fare.
"The hike in pump price of fuel has been the cause of the hike in fare. It is also the reason why many passengers now prefer to trek. Imagine buying petrol at the rate of N145. Do you expect the price to remain the same? Yet passengers who patronize us don't have money. Some are even being owed backlog of salaries," he said.
Another motorcycle rider, Tayo Habeeb, decried the increase in the cost of spare parts, saying that it has become difficult for him to maintain his motorcycle.
Mr. Habeeb, a student of Kwara State College of Education, explained that things were fair until recently when the economic situation became unbearable.
"A motorcycle tyre that sold for N4,000 around November last year now sells for N5,200. I am talking about the tyre alone; excluding the cost of the tube. It is difficult to maintain a motorcycle yet passengers too are very scarce. Many of them now trek. They no longer want to board Okada because of the hike in fare," he said.
He also disclosed that some okada riders still charge the same amount they charged before the economic recession due to low patronage, yet they still find it difficult to get passengers.
When probed about the amount he realises daily as against what obtained in the past, Mr. Habeeb disclosed that the figures have dropped drastically.
'"Before now, I used to make about N6,000 to N7,000 daily; but now, I only struggle to realise between N1,500 to N2,000 daily," he said.
Segun Ezekiel, a member of the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN), Post Office-Ganmo Unit, told PREMIUM TIMES that most passengers now beg them whenever they board motorcycle. According to him, the little increase in the fare occasioned by the high cost of goods including spare parts of motorcycle has led to poor patronage.
"People don't patronise us anymore like we used to have in the past. Most passengers now complain due to the economic situation in the country. Sometimes when you convey passengers from Challenge to Ganmo, rather than pay us N100, some passengers would pay N50 or even N40. The sad part is that many others now prefer to trek to their respective places."
When PREMIUM TIMES spoke with commuters at Challenge roundabout, they disclosed that the poor patronage recorded by commercial transport workers was due to the 'greed' of some okada riders and taxi drivers in the metropolis.
According to Funke Aboyade, a provision store owner at Maraba roundabout, motorcycle riders are exploiting the economic situation at the expense of residents.
"Some Okada riders too are callous. The situation is not this terrible. Just like those people selling foodstuff in the market, they always claim that the hike in transport fare is due to the long forgotten hike in price of fuel. Some even blame it on the price of dollar. It is unfair. It is the reason they now record low patronage. They are just exploiting us," she said.
A student of the Kwara State College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies (CAILS), Mohammed Kareem also complained about the hike in transport fare in the city, calling on taxi drivers, okada riders and tricycle riders to be considerate with their charges.
"Yes, we all understand that the economic situation is bad and things are difficult but taxi drivers, tricycle owners and, most especially, okada riders should be considerate too. They shouldn't make life more miserable for the poor masses that patronise them."
Commenting on the claim that some commuters now shun commercial transporters and resort to trekking due to the economic downturn, Mr. Kareem confirmed that it is true especially among low income earners, secondary school students, artisans and petty traders. He also disclosed that it is all due to the scarcity of resources and economic hardship being faced by Nigerians.
"These days, if I do not have much money on me and the distance is not that long, I always trek too," he said