The ordeals of Abuja taxi drivers


BY YUNUSA BUNU ZANNA, JUNE 12, 2024 | 02:03 PM

One of the commonest, now almost forgotten, features of the streets of Abuja used to be the massive traffic seen in the morning and evening hours.

However, this has drastically reduced over the last one.

'My everyday nightmare was leaving home for office and office to home,' Ibrahim Abdullahi, a resident spoke of the situation when he first came to Abuja in 2015.

'The changes have been enormous,' he added.

Some would say it is because of newer roads and expansion of existing ones. Or even the expansion of and speedy urbanization of the city.

But it is not exactly so.

The reason is the unprecedented rise in cost of fuel, which has surged from an average of N200/liter to now N600 and above.

Another reason is the general rise in the cost of living.

All these are believed to follow President Bola Tinubu's inauguration day speech which announced withdrawal of petrol subsidy and subsequent floating of the Naira.

Area One Motor Park in Garki, which is one of the busiest parks located in the center of Abuja with linkups to all parts of the city, now pulls much lesser crowd than it used to.

The number of passengers has decreased, leaving drivers idle, even sometimes sleeping in their cars.

This reporter has run into many of them sleeping in various car stations and bus stops while compiling this report.

'People no longer move around as much as they do before because of the high cost of living caused by the hike in the price of petrol,' said Ali Yunus, who has been a taxi driver in Abuja for the past 11 years.

He explained that with N3, 000 petrol, he would previously cover his trips for the day, 'but now, even N10,000 petrol is not sufficient.

'Before, one would have at least ten trips from Area 1 to Lugbe in a day, but now, if you can manage three or four, you would thank God and go home,' he added.

Hike in transport fare

The hike in fuel price always resulted in transport fare hikes.

Prices per trips have risen by between 100 % to 200 %.

A driver told YERWA EXPRESS NEWS that the least paid for a trip is N600, from N200 before the hikes.

'From Area 1 to Kaduna Road was just N500, but it is now N1,200 or more,' Prince Isaac explained.

Henry Onyebuchi, another driver explained that the cost of repairs and spare parts have also gone high, equally resulting in making transportation expensive.

'You are not talking about the price of spare parts and repairs, it is now very high too and this would always blow up everything you have earned in a day,' he said.

Drivers no longer 'scavenge' for passengers in the streets

The drivers are also no longer seen driving across the streets looking for passengers.

'You cannot just move along the road in search of passengers, you might end up running at a loss,' Ibrahim Mohammed said.

'You would just be burning your fuel with any returns. So, you now have to just wait at any of the bus stops to get your passengers,' he added.

Money earned hardly sustains

Some of the drivers interviewed by this reporter lament that all the money they earn goes into fuel, food, repairs and buying spare parts.

'We cannot dare save for the rainy day, as they used to say, else we would go hungry,' one of them said.

'In fact, sometimes, we run at a loss. It is difficult for passengers, especially salary earners, and for us, the drivers,' another one added.

The expressed concerns that these situations may turn some to crime.

They are calling for urgent government intervention to address the skyrocketing fuel prices, which have severely impacted their livelihoods and their business.

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