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30.12.2023 Featured REPORTER’S DIARY: At GIGM, Young Shall Grow, I Looked in Vain for FG’s 50% Transport Palliative

Published 30th Dec, 2023

By Timileyin Akinmoyeje

On December 21, the federal government announced a 50 percent slash in transport costs along 28 bus routes in the country. The palliative, according to the presidency, covers Lagos, Rivers, Oyo, Sokoto, Gombe, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Plateau and Anambra from December 21 to January 4, 2023.

According to Dele Alake, the Committee Chairman for Presidential Interventions, the federal government partnered with five major transport companies and the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to bring the yuletide palliative into fruition. The companies are: God is Good Motors, Chisco Transport, Young Shall Grow, God Bless Ezenwata and Area Motors.

The 50 percent slash is not the first palliative intervention by the federal government since Tinubu assumed office. It is, in fact, about the sixth federal government palliative in the last eight months. But it is one thing to issue directives; it is another for them to be properly implemented. For instance, reports about a lack of transparency surfaced after the implementation of the N8,000-per-household palliative began.

To see if the palliative worked in this case and evaluate how effective it had been, I visited the offices of the five transport companies in Jibowu, Yaba area of Lagos.

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PALLIATIVE ON HOLD AT GIGM

On December 26, around 10:30 am, I alighted from a cab just in front of the God Is Good Motors office at the Jibowu recreational park in Lagos.

At the park, I saw pockets of people scattered along the road, attempting to board the available commercial buses. I also saw a commensurate number of park conductors and head porters lobbying for their share of passengers, items of luggage and customers.

To my right, the GIGM building stood out in the company’s characteristic red and white colour. About four buses, mostly Toyota Hiace models, were parked in the building. As I walked inside, I noticed there were significantly fewer people inside compared to outside the building.

I met some customers sitting in the office’s lobby and some by the counter trying to buy bus tickets. I also saw a man, a bus driver, as I would soon learn, lying on the row of chairs in the lobby.

GIGM lobby

A middle-aged woman, who would not give her name, sat very close to the entrance with a big leather box and small cartons with bottles of palm oil in them. She appeared disappointed. When I approached and asked her about ticket prices and the palliative, she told me that she did not know about the palliative until the previous day. A relative of hers had gone to Onitsha from Lagos through GIGM. This relative said they were refunded half of the cost when they arrived at their destination. Pretending I was heading to Owerri, I asked her whether she had booked her ticket too. She gave a surprising response.

“When I asked for a discount, they said it was no longer available. I initially hoped to travel with two people if the discount applied. Now I have to reconsider,” she said.

Prompted by her response, I stepped up to the receptionist sitting at the desk. I had noticed about four people in the reception when I entered. However, I met only one of them by the time I stepped up to the place.

After I exchanged pleasantries, I asked the lady receptionist if I could book a bus ticket to Ibadan against December 28. She told me that the buses did not ply the Ibadan route. I asked her if I could buy an Enugu ticket for the same day. She responded in the affirmative. Her response to my follow-up question about the palliative corroborated the claim of the woman I met earlier.

“No, the palliative thing does not apply,” she responded. When I probed her further, she told me that the palliative was on hold at the time.

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As I was speaking with the lady receptionist, two of her colleagues emerged from one of the rooms leading to the lobby. She directed the same question about the palliative at them, and the man among them responded.

“The palliative is currently not working. For now, you’ll pay the full cost of your ticket,” he said.

I probed them further to find out why the discount was on hold, but this did not yield any other response. I tried to follow up with GIGM through their official line of communication. Between December 26 and December 28, I dialled the number repeatedly. Each time I requested to be connected to a staff member for inquiries, the line went blank.

YOUNG SHALL GROW SAID NO

It was a little difficult to locate Young Shall Grow. The office building was somewhat obscure compared to the rest. I eventually located it behind a long line of buses.

I entered the lobby through an entrance tiled in green and found a few people sitting, waiting for their buses to be filled up. As I did at GIGM, I asked the receptionist, a dark middle-aged woman, whether I could book bus tickets for December 30 to Port Harcourt.

“You cannot book a ticket before the day. You have to come on that day to book your ticket,” she responded. I followed up with questions about the 50 percent discount. The response I got confused me.

The receptionist told me I had to ask at their other offices. She explained that the palliative does not apply at the Jibowu office. Meanwhile, I checked before I entered the building. Young Shall Grow has more than 26 Lagos offices, according to the company’s websites.

I asked the receptionist again to be sure I heard what she said. She repeated herself and told me to find other offices where the palliative applied. I left the office building more confused than when I entered.

On December 29, I called Young Shall Grow customer care to confirm which of the offices applied the palliative. The response I got confirmed my suspicions: the company does not give any discounts, despite the statement of the federal government.

The customer care lady gave me a definite no when I asked about the 50 percent transport palliative. When I asked her why, the line dropped.

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CHISCO, GOD BLESS EZENWATA STILL APPLYING THE PALLIATIVE

After I left the Young Shall Grow building, I walked down the same side of the road to find God Bless Ezenwata transport services. I had only walked a few metres when a light-skinned driver, fully bearded, stopped me and asked where I was going. I was aware that the company’s office was in the area, but I didn’t have specifics.

I decided to ask this driver. Luckily for me, he works for God Bless Ezenwata, the company I was looking for. He directed me to the front of the building and pointed me to another staff member, a light-skinned lady, sitting at a blue plastic desk and table.

Chisco Transports in Jibowu

I asked her the same question I asked at the GIGM office. I asked to know if I could book a bus ticket to Port Harcourt for December 28.

The receptionist told me that I had to come to the building on the day of my travel to stand any chance. I followed up by asking her if the palliative covered the cost of the journey, and she responded in the affirmative.

Chisco Transports is on the other side of the road. It was not difficult to locate. The red building stood out, and the herd porters were actively calling for customers to ride with the company.

It had more people than the other places I had visited. At the reception, I met a man and a woman who carried a baby on her back. I had to wait my turn. After waiting for about three minutes, I stepped up to a dark male receptionist and asked the same question I had been asking all along: “Can I book a ticket to Enugu for December 30?”

His response was similar to what I got at God Bless Ezenwata. The receptionist told me to come in the morning on December 30 if I wanted to book a ticket for that day. I asked him whether the palliative would apply to my travel, and he responded in the affirmative.

“Yes, you get a 50 percent discount until January 4. Just come here that morning. If you make it before the bus is booked, you can follow it,” he said.

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Published 30th Dec, 2023

By Timileyin Akinmoyeje

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