How Makurdi residents survive without commercial taxis | Dailytrust

How Makurdi residents survive without commercial taxis

In most Nigerian state capitals, taxis are the commonest means of commercial transportation, apart from motorcycles and tricycles. In fact, it is easier for...

Government House roundabout
Government House roundabout

In most Nigerian state capitals, taxis are the commonest means of commercial transportation, apart from motorcycles and tricycles.

In fact, it is easier for commuters, especially those with luggage, to board a taxi to convey them from one part of a city to another, where bus services might be considered too expensive to ply. 

More so, it helps passengers in intra-city movement, sometimes to high profile areas where motorcycles are prohibited. 

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But in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, this is not the case. Even with an estimated half a million people living in the city, there are no commercial taxis operating anywhere in the town, such that people who don’t own cars or patronise motorcycles (okada)/tricycles (keke) often find it difficult to move about. 

The city itself is located on the southern bank of River Benue, a major tributary of River Niger, and boasts of different forms of transport, including a narrow gauge railway line (now in comatose), which links the northern and southern parts of the country.

Interestingly, before the road/rail bridge was built in 1932, boats ferried people across River Benue to either the northern or southern banks of Makurdi. Presently, there are, however, regular bus services within the city, as well as linking Makurdi to neighbouring towns.

Although the transport system in the state capital has developed over the years to meet modern standard, taxi services have not improved. For instance, taxi services have remained on chattered basis for long distance travellers, in front of the state-owned transport company terminal, known as Benue Links. Even so, they are sometimes hard to come by.

Our correspondent who visited the place could not find the taxis or their drivers during the rush hours of Benue Links.

 

A resident of the town, Mallam Shehu Iorve, who was waiting for a bike in front of the Ministry of Works roundabout, told our correspondent that he would appreciate any effort by the authorities to establish taxi services to reduce the cost of intra-city movement for the common people.

“I prefer taxis to commercial motorcycles, but I don’t have an option, so I am waiting for okada her. I believe we would find a solution if the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) work with the state government to establish taxi services. I have lived in Makurdi for over 20 years but I have never come across taxi town services. 

“If taxi services become available, people like me will derive lots of benefits. For instance, right now, I am going to Malina market on the David Mark Bypass and waiting for a bike. If there were taxis, the transport for me would be cheaper, with a maximum fare of N100, but okada will take me there for at least N150. We need services of taxis in the face of this financial difficulty we are facing presently in this country,” he said.

Vicky Audu, another resident of Makurdi, said commuters like her who detest the use of motorcycles were sometimes forced to trek long distances because there are no taxis.

She said road transport workers could buy the idea of introducing intra-city taxi services to enable residents find an alternative to commercial motorcycles and tricycles, which don’t often cover such areas.

Also, Moses Agoom, who spoke to our correspondent around the Government House roundabout where he was waiting for a bike, blamed bus drivers and motorcyclists for the unavailability of taxis.

He also said, “Aside the main road networks that are tarred, off roads are not tarred; and we have a lot of people who come in from these roads, which are better plied by okada. There was a time the former governor, Gabriel Suswam, during his tenure, brought taxis, but commercial motorcyclists, as well as bus drivers, resisted that venture. 

“They didn’t want taxis in the town. It was like that was affecting their businesses, but I wouldn’t know their real reasons for doing that. They stopped it. Taxis were not being utilised so they left. If the taxis were available, I would prefer it to bike services because I can even use it for a drop if my house were off the road. 

“I think the private sector can break the jinx and individuals can try it (taxi business) to see if it would work for them. The only means of intra-city movement in Makurdi currently is buses and keke. But they don’t even station in places such as where we are now (Government House roundabouts). They only ply major roads.”

Ben Kondo, a private cab driver said he had tried to convert his car at some point of financial hardship about seven years ago into a taxi for town services but the idea failed.

“I would stay at High Level junction to pick passengers heading toward Zone 4, Barnada and Road Safety junction, but nobody patronised me.

“Some of the passengers even called me names (419, one-chance) and they usually preferred to waste their time waiting for a bike rather than board my vehicle. I got frustrated and desisted from making the idea work,” Kondo explained.

On his part, a bus driver, Terna Williams, said it would be very tasking to activate taxi services in Makurdi city because the gap had existed for too long and residents were never used to it.

Williams said, “There are hardly enough passengers; besides, the people are not even aware of taxi services. You will usually find buses, motorcycles and tricycles competing for passengers at different markets in Makurdi.

“Even the tricycles majorly ply the routes the buses pass through. I think the intra-city taxi service was faulty from the beginning, so it would be hard to reintroduce it, except with the help of union workers.”

Reacting to the development, the secretary of the NURTW in the state, Stephen Akintola, said getting taxis to move about the city while conveying passengers from one bus stop to another as it is done in other state capitals had remained a herculean task for the union in Makurdi.

“We have two local branches that operate town services in Makurdi – the buses and taxis parked in front of Benue Links terminal. The issue is that most passengers are used to all these okada and keke NAPEP, otherwise we have registered taxi members who operate within the town. But the patronage is very low. 

“As things are now, no taxi driver will just carry his cab and begin to roam around town looking for passengers, and in the end he will start looking for fuel, which is very costly. That’s why they just station their vehicles in a particular place; when they get drop or chatter, they move. 

“That is the challenge. It is possible for the NURTW to open a park around new areas, but it won’t be as easy as you think. If you go to Yaman Park in Wurukum you will see keke NAPEP there plying all these routes. You will see them competing with buses on Ikpayongo route. 

“Even on market days you will see keke competing with buses for passengers. And a good number of them prefer to board keke, which is not even well balanced on the highway even though buses queue to load passengers. That’s what is happening on both axis, but we will still discuss your suggestions when I get the leaders of the town service vehicles. As for the buses, we don’t have problem,” Akintola said.

Our correspondent could not get the commissioner for works and transport in the state nor the director in the ministry to comment on the matter as they were both not in office when she visited, neither could they be reached on their telephone lines.

But available record in August 2015 showed that the state had no defined transport policy.

The then commissioner for works and transport, Emmanuel Manger, an engineer, had decried the non-existence of a defined transport policy in the state, a development he said was not good for the sector.

While addressing journalists in Makurdi, he had said there were already plans by the present administration to introduce a clear policy for the transport sector.

“To the best of my knowledge, there is no defined transport policy in Benue, but I intend to call a meeting of all the stakeholders in the transport sector – private operators, NURTW, the police and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). We will talk, and at the same time, come out with a clear transport policy for the state, then pass it to the governor for consent,” he had said.

He, however, disclosed that the Benue State Government once approved a taxi colour for transporters, but after so many years, taxi services are yet to become fully operational in the state.

“There are taxis, mostly Golf vehicles that operate without a state-approved colour. You can only see them in the night with an indicator light placed on the roof, but in the day they are not there. And I know that most of these vehicles that operate at such hours are owned by workers who use it to make ends meet. This thing has to do with policy,” Manger added.

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