The sorry state of the Rivers State-owned transport company, RTC, has raised serious concerns among residents of the state who are not happy over the continued shutdown of the transport company, Daily Trust reports.
Rivers State Government in 1991 set up the state urban transportation scheme tagged Rivers Transport Company to take care of the transportation need of residents who were at the mercy of the exploitative tendencies of private investors in the transportation business.
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The Rivers Transport Company as a corporate citizen was birthed on 13th June 1991 as the only state government wholly-owned road transport agency. It was incorporated to operate as a road transport provider. The company services include intra-city transport services, intrastate services, inter-city transport, hire/leasing services, haulage and courier services.
The transport company was very vibrant and had a very strong administrative structure with a General Manager as the head of the organization.
The transport company takes care of the intercity and interstate transport needs of the residents. The administration of former Governor Peter Odili at its inception in 1999 set up additional urban transportation schemes that took care of urban transportation needs of residents. Over 100 Mecedez Benz buses were procured by the state government to convey passengers within the state.
Passengers were made to pay a token sum of N20 for a short distance journey while long distance journey cost N50.
The transport scheme was applauded by residents who saw it as a big relief to the difficult transport situation in the state. The scheme lasted for only six months before it went underground.
After the demise of the transport scheme, residents had to grapple with the State Transport Company but the company was shut down by the present administration in 2020 on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company has remained under lock and key till date. The inability of the state government to reopen the state transport company has left residents in the hands of private owned transporters.
The activities of commercial transporters are not regulated by the government just as the operators take advantage to exploit commuters.
Since the transport company, located at the popular Waterlines Junction in Port Harcourt, was shut down, the expansive premises has been in a terrible state of abandonment just as it provides easy accommodation for street urchins who use the premises as a hiding place to carry out their nefarious activities.
A visit by our reporter to the company shows the ineptitude of the government to public facilities. The entire premises was unkempt, littered with filth and overtaken by weeds.
A member of the state chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Peter Udeh, said the failure of the state government to revive the state transport company has left commuters in the hands of the private sector-driven transport system.
“The state government is not doing anything to revive the state transport sector. The only transportation company owned by the state government was shut down in 2020 and no effort was made to set up an alternative urban transportation company in the state,” he said.
A commercial bus driver, Godwin Okolo, said the inability of the state government to set up a standard urban transportation scheme has made the private driven transportation business to thrive in the state.
“The transport sector in the state is controlled by the private sector and that is the reason why the state government cannot control transport fare which is at the mercy of the private sector. There was a situation in Port Harcourt when the commercial drivers withdrew their vehicles from the road over issues with the state government. The masses suffered untold hardship because they didn’t have any alternative means of transport from the state. The state government in 2020 shut down the state transport company which was the government’s only means of transportation. If you visit the premises of the company located at Waterlines, you will see the sorry state of the company. The facilities there have deteriorated while the buildings have provided easy accommodation to street urchins who are using it as a hideout to carry out criminal activities. The state government should do everything possible to reopen the place for business,” he said.
A resident, Michael Johnbull, said “When you leave a very strategic sector of the economy such as transport in the hands of the private sector, the masses will continue to suffer. There is no urban transportation company in the state. We are paying through our nose in the hands of shylock transporters and this is very bad,” he said.
Efforts made by our reporter to speak with the officials of the state Ministry of Transport was not successful but a source from the ministry told our reporter that the state government has concluded arrangements to hand over the transport company to a private investor.