Fuel price increase: Port Harcourt commercial drivers vow to double transport charges

By Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi

The controversy generated by the October 1, 2020 independence broadcast of President Muhammadu Buhari pertaining to the federal government’s decision to peg the pump price of petrol at N161 is yet to die down as many Nigerians are still complaining bitterly.

In Port Harcourt, some commercial drivers who appear to be more directly affected are threatening to increase transportation fares by a hundred percent if the federal government makes good its plan to increase fuel price as hinted by President Buhari.

Lamenting to TPCN yesterday, a cross-section of commercial drivers in Port Harcourt condemned the plan to increase fuel price again, arguing that the masses have suffered enough.

Lucky Ndookor, a taxi driver from Ogoni who plies the Eleme Junction-Garrison route of the popular Aba-Port Harcourt road, warned that further increase in fuel price will compound the suffering of Rivers people, especially the unemployed.

Lucky Ndookor added: “Imagine somebody that is not working; how will he survive? It’s as if they don’t think about the common man. How can they even think of increasing fuel price again after what we have suffered this year due to the coronavirus? Is it that they are not happy that many people survived the corona that they now want to use this fuel increase as a method to kill more people? See what we suffered during the lockdown. People saw hell in Rivers State but God still helped us to survive. Now, they want to cause more pain for us. This is very bad, because with this fuel increase now, we will increase our own price. Yes, they will not increase fuel price and expect us not to increase our own. The people am pitying are the passengers.”

A commercial bus driver who identified himself simply as Tony threatened to double his charges should the federal government continue with the fuel price hike.

Tony, who said he operates from Rumuokoro to Borokiri, expressed his anger in Pidgin English: “Me, I listen to Buhari talk for morning. Buhari get mind say him go increase fuel price again. Make him try am now make we see. So, we never suffer well for him eyes? I no blame am sha, na because him dey for Aso Rock dey enjoy our money, him no care. Make him try am now. Me, I go double my own fee. No N50 drop again. Every drop na N100 now, whether na from here to that house wey dey there. They know say money no dey, they still dey increase fuel money, which kind country be this sef? Him dey compare us with Ghana, em, em Egypt, Saudi Arabia. Nigeria dey like those countries? Money dey for those countries well well. My uncle na Muslim; when him go Saudi Arabia come back, you know wetin him tell us? Him say we dey hell fire for Nigeria here, say Saudi Arabia dey like paradise, everything dey there –money, steady light, better jobs, everything. Na that kind country Buhari carry dey compare us. I no blame am. I dey wait make them increase the fuel price, I go increase my own.’ Anyhow they want am.”

Another commercial driver, who runs a taxi and plies the Choba-NTA-Rumuola route, described the proposed fuel price increase by President Muhammadu Buhari as inhuman and pleaded that the idea should be jettisoned.

“Please, I beg the federal government not to go ahead with this fuel price increase because it will be inhuman. The people have suffered too much this year alone because of the covid-19 pandemic and now if they increase the fuel price, it will increase our suffering the more. In a State like Rivers, we’re not supposed to buy fuel more than N100 a litre because we produce crude oil,” he said.

However, an official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Rivers State contacted by TPCN downplayed the statements of the commercial drivers, assuring that the union has not discussed the possibility of an increase in transport fares irrespective of President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech.

The NURTW official told TPCN: “Of course we are not happy with what President Buhari said in his independence speech that fuel price will increase. But that does not mean that we planning to increase transport fares. Those drivers are speaking for themselves, not for our union. For now, we’re watching the federal government”.