By Chioma Ndife
The tripartite union of Awka Township Bus Service says Gov Chukwuma Soludo’s modernization of parks and upward review of the amount it remits to his administration is in good faith as it will help the administration to generate funds to actualize its vision of transforming Anambra State to a livable and prosperous smart megacity, even as they complain about difficulty in meeting up with payment.
The union, comprising Drivers Welfare Association, Perm Site; Drivers Welfare Association, Nibo-Mbaukwu; and Drivers Welfare Association, Ifite-Unizik; at a meeting in Awka, last Monday, said the present administration had demonstrated what they described as an uncommon commitment and seriousness to duty; even as they expressed optimism that the state was on course to witnessing what they described as an unprecedented development if funds were available.
The union also hailed Soludo for re-defining leadership and bringing scholarship to bear on governance, leading to the setting up of measures to curb unemployment, block leakages in internally generated revenue by digitalizing and automating the process; as well as introducing innovations in the state’s governance structure.
The association pleaded with the government to allow them to be paying N2,500 weekly which brings up their monthly payment to N10,000, instead of N20,000; noting that paying above N10,000 monthly would cripple their transport business as they had many expenses to contain with such as maintenance of their dilapidated vehicles and purchase of fuel and oil daily, apart from fending for their families.
Commenting on the adverse working conditions, the chairman of the Drivers Welfare Association Perm Site, Mr. Patrick Ezebelu, said that tricycle operators along Ukwuorji had taken over their passengers who joined them to Aroma, leaving their buses virtually empty.
He also said the closure of the Government House back gate had deprived them of patronage by civil servants; even as he stated that most ministries had re-located to the Secretariat, thereby worsening their plight as workers in those ministries now used government buses.
Also speaking, the chairman, Drivers Welfare Association, Nibo-Mbaukwu, Comrade Adams Oforkansi, disclosed that their main source of getting passengers had been closed owing to the prolonged ASUU strike that had sent students of Pre-Science School, Mbaukwu, home. Oforkansi said they plied their route only on Eke days when market women went to Eke Nibo Market.
In his reaction the chairman, Drivers Welfare Association Ifite-Unizik, Comrade Sunday Igwebuike, decried the effects of the protracted ASUU strike, which, he said, had closed down Nnamdi Azikiwe University and adversely affected them.
‘We hardly go home with up to a thousand naira after the day’s toil and with that we cannot care for families, let along maintaining our old buses,’ Igwebuike lamented.
Other bus drivers like Emma Ifediora, Tony Obiji, Fidelis Akangwe and Tobias Ifejika, also decried the hardship the present ASUU strike, absence of students on the road, and the closure of Government House back gate had caused them.
They said, ‘Many of us have parked our vehicles and those who can manage now abandon the now empty routes to ply along the Awka-Nkpor and Onitsha Road, instead of remaining idle.’
They made it clear that if the present situation did not improve, all their remaining buses would be parked, while they looked for alternative means of livelihood.
They feared that the present situation could lead to a triple increase of fares.
Mr Fidelis Ajanu said government officials could carry out investigations to prove whether the drivers’ complaints were true, even as he urged the state government to consider their plight and allow them pay to it N2,500 weekly, which translates to N10,000 every month; an amount, he said, was still hard for them to cough out.