Commuters shun interstate trips as operators hike fares, record low patronage



The escalating costs of living occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy and the subsequent rise in the pump price of petrol, and rising inflation have forced different categories of Nigerians to make adjustments to the way they live.

These are not the best of times in the road transport sector as commuters are now cutting down on interstate travels except for those that are absolutely necessary and essential, while commercial motorists who ply interstate roads have been recording low patronage and as a consequence are scaling down the number of trips they make and taking other measures, including to combine passengers going to different destinations along the same route.

AZZUR MEDIA  investigations revealed decreasing passenger traffic at popular bus terminals and motor parks in different cities across the country, while vehicles that usually get full within an hour now take over four hours in some cases.

Recall that President Bola Tinubu announced the removal of subsidy on petrol during his inauguration on May 29, 2023 and this was followed by a jump in the pump price of the commodity from N185 per litre to N500.


As Nigerians were battling with the effects of the subsidy removal and awaiting the palliatives promised by the Federal Government to alleviate their suffering, a new price regime kicked off on Tuesday and resulted in petrol selling for between N586 and N630 per litre.

Many transport operators, who spoke to our correspondents, said they had to raise the fares to reflect the new economic realities, as their services were solely dependent on petrol.

On Monday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited published a new price list which pegged petrol at between N586 and N630/litre.


This new price, according to the Group Chief Executive of the NNPCL, Mr Mele Kyari, is because of some market forces, including the exchange rate of the dollar to the naira, among other factors.

The country’s annual inflation rate rose to 22.41 per cent in May from 22.22 per cent in the previous month, almost matching an 18-year high, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The transport sector has been the worst hit by the fuel price increase as fares for interstate travels have increased by up to 250 and 300 per cent.

Lagos, Ogun, Oyo

Before the fuel hike, travellers going from the Iyana-Ipaja park to Ibadan, Oyo State, were asked to pay between N1000 and N1500 for the trip, AZZUR MEDIA has learnt.

An Oyo State-based content creator, Ibrahim Sadiq, said in an interview with one of our correspondents he was charged N2,500 from the old toll gate area in Lagos to Ibadan on Wednesday.

“When I got to the small park right after the toll gate along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the bus drivers asked that we pay N2,500. A Sienna even charged N3,000. When I travelled last month I paid N2,000 from Berger. The increment is just too much,” he said.

“A lot of our customers are no longer coming to board our vehicles. The business has been slow. Now, for people going to Ughelli in Delta State and other places along that route, we put them on the same bus going to Bayelsa.

“Before, by 7am, the first bus would have moved. Now, even by 8.30am, we are still doing some kind of amendments to make sure that the bus does not leave any vacant seats. It (the fuel price hike) has really affected business.

“As I speak, I am scared that the company may begin to consider downsizing in order to stay afloat. With the current situation, I hope we don’t go under.”

A ticketing agent, who spoke to one of our correspondents at the terminal, said the rate of passengers booking trips online had also dropped.

She said, “Before this current palaver, we used to have about five or more first buses going to Jos, Plateau State; Port Harcourt, Rivers State; Yenagoa, Bayelsa State; Enugu, Enugu State; and even to the far North like Bauchi. But, now, we manage to fill the second buses going to these areas.

“As of yesterday (Wednesday), we got a report from our Jibowu office that as of 9.30 am, the second bus going to Port Harcourt had yet to move because it was half empty. We are really losing a lot of time, manpower and resources to the fuel palaver.”

An Owerri-Imo State-bound passenger, Mrs Ogechi Nnaemeka, said she thought she had missed the bus when she arrived at 9am, but was shocked to find out that the vehicle had not moved because it was waiting for a few more passengers.

“In 2018, if you didn’t arrive at 8am or even 15 minutes earlier for the second bus, you would miss it. I am in shock how this bus has still not moved till now,” she said.

Nnameka also stated that she used to board a bus from Lagos to Owerri for between N4,500 and N6,500 between 2016 and 2018, adding that the spike in the pump price of fuel had made things difficult for her.

“For the first time in my life, last week I used the state-owned Imo Line. It was so uncomfortable but it was a bit affordable, it was N3,000 lower than what I would have paid if I had patronised any of the private transport companies,” she said.

Another passenger, Madam Martha Nzube, said she travelled from Port Harcourt to Lagos to see her daughter four days ago using the Rivers Transport Company, which charged her around N9,000, but was shocked that even the Akwa Ibom Transport Company, touted to be the cheapest, refused to accept N11,000 back to Port Harcourt.

“I am currently calling my daughter to send me some more money so that I can go back. Some people are even saying I should pay N25,000. The cheapest I have heard so far is N16,000,” she stated.

Another stranded passenger at the Yaba bus park, Mr Essien Etuk-Udoh, said he only came for a show at the Lagos State University last week.

He added that he was shocked that even the AKTC fares had also increased.

“I don’t even know what to do and Akwa Ibom is far. If I don’t set out by 12pm, I may get to my final destination by midnight and I don’t want to board any of these undocumented buses that do not have any proper registration. They have been found to be unsafe,” he said.

A loader at the Ekeson Transport Company, who refused to give his name for fear of retribution, said there had been low patronage since May when the fuel price began to rise.

He said, “You know people have to travel. And since airfares have increased to more than N100,000, people have to use buses. Imagine how they will feel when the buses too increase their fares.

“We are an affordable transport company but we also run on fuel. So, our prices have also increased by up to 100 per cent.

“The problem is that passengers now prefer Siennas because they are unregistered, cheaper and get filled easily, but I cannot assure you of their safety.”

At the Lekki terminal of the GUO Transport Limited, a field operative with the company, who gave his name simply as Shadrach, said the firm now had only one bus going to the North because of the fuel crisis.

Shadrach stated, “You know we are an elite service company. Before the fuel price increment, most people choose our services because of comfort. Now, they are going for kabu kabu buses and Siennas, which are relatively cheaper, because they have no choice.