News reports have disclosed the possible intentions of the Lagos state government to take away the yellow commercial buses, popularly called “danfo’’ in Lagos state Nigeria.
Reactions and worries has been pouring in from different nooks and crannies of the state since the news of the possible eviction of the danfo buses filtered into the streets of Lagos.
When a middle-aged man by name, Lukman Salau, who manages a fleet of the yellow commercial buses, was quizzed recently about the situation and what his thoughts were on the possible outcome of the government’s proposed plan to take the vehicles off the streets? he emphatically replied “that means serious hunger strike and more increase in crime rate.”
Recall that the government had said a week earlier that in the original master- plan for Lagos state, the yellow danfo busses, do not have a place in its transportation system, and would have to be replaced eventually by blue buses under the bus rapid transit (BRT) scheme.
The government further argued that the ‘danfos’ are not conducive for a mega city like Lagos.
The questions on the mind of most Lagosians is , how many drivers and conductors as it often referred to in the local parlance , can the government employ?
Obviously at the moment it is not very lucid, the plans the government has for thousands of ‘danfo’ drivers who would eventually be jobless should this policy be implemented and this is a major concern for the drivers.
Recounting how difficult things might turn out to be, Mr Saliu who has been in the business for over 20 year now has revealed that with his three daughters in the university, things would really be worse when the yellow buses are pushed out of business.
“My daughters are on weekly allowance, and I send this to them every Friday when the returns for the week come in,” he said.
“What are we going to eat when government stops danfo? Who will pay my daughters’ school fees? How many people can government employ? The drivers, the bus conductors all feed their families from what they make daily here.
“Don’t forget that the ‘agberos’ too are there. And I can tell you that it’s because ‘danfos’ are working, that is why crime rate is not as high. If they stop us, what job are they going to give us at this age? It’s gonna be hard.”
The local transport union members popularly referred to as “agberos”, Salau, worries, might become a menace when ‘danfos” are banned.
There are certain things that tyese danfo buses do that are of great benefits to local indigenous such as taking the market women to Mile 12 a feat which is in doubt to be carried out by BRT buses.
“Danfo has its own usefulness,” argued Yinka Agbede, another driver who has spent about 10 years in the business.
While he agrees to a state regulation of yellow bus operators, he believes that phasing it out will compound the transportation challenge in Lagos.
“Can BRT take these market women who go to Mile 12 to buy pepper and tomatoes in baskets? How do you make space for them in a BRT bus?” he asked.
“Go and check. They are always not allowed in the BRT buses and that’s why these women make use of danfo. The BRT operators don’t want the buses to be stained with stinky pepper water, but danfo has no problem with that. There are other wares that are also not allowed on the BRT. So, if you stop this danfo, you are also putting these women out of business.”
Several ‘danfo’ drivers, who spoke with new sources The Cable, also kicked against the plan by the state government, stating that it is not possible to remove yellow buses from all routes, as there are some areas where the BRT vehicle cannot get to.
A few of them, however, said they would agree to the plan if the government creates alternative avenues for them to work and make ends meet.
It is interesting to note that like the administration of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, that of Akinwunmi Ambode, the immediate past governor of Lagos, had also initiated a plan to phase out ‘danfos’ in 2017. Ambode had, at the time, proposed the bus reform initiative aimed at giving Lagosians an integrated public transportation system. The Ambode administration had then earmarked N30 billion for the project
However, despite the significant efforts by the previous administration to add new BRT buses to the fleet, and also build terminals and stop stations, the phase-off proper wasn’t achieved.
Meanwhile, when contacted, Frederick Oladeinde, Lagos commissioner for transportation, did not immediately respond to the question of what would be the fate of the drivers when the yellow buses are taken off Lagos roads.
Gift Joseph Okpakorese