Subsidy removal: Between Makinde’s SAfER and other govs’ palliative
By Olujide Wilanpa
The Executive Chairman and Sole Administrator of the Pacesetter Transport Service, Dr. Ibrahim Oladeji Salami (Dikko), recently said that the state’s mass transit scheme commutes an average of 17,000 residents at half price on intra-city and inter-city routes.
This is another cheering news coming from Oyo State so early in the year. It is calming to know that in the labyrinth of economic hardship where all hopes seems lost; there is still a leader who cares so much for his people and does everything possible to ease their burden.
Oyo State seems to always be in the news for all right reasons and I believe that this is due to the visionary and people-centred leadership on offer by its governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde. Though I have never had the opportunity to reside in the state, safe passing through it and sleeping in Ibadan and Ogbomoso for a day or two on different occasions, I have always admired Oyo State due to the different good news I read and watch about the governor. Though I am aware that one has to be wary of the news one believe in this era of social media journalism, where all that glitters can be portrayed as gold, I am often wowed by the volume of good things the state governor has been said to be doing.
Only few days ago, I read that Governor Makinde paid all workers their December 2023 salary, paid pensioners their full December pension and that about three days after, he paid the N25,000 wage award to civil servants and N15,000 wage award to pensioners. My colleagues and I went into a discussion about how the Oyo governor had been doing well with regards to salary payment and how he has also kept up with his promise to pay wage award for six months. Interestingly, the Oyo governor only borrowed a leaf from the pages of President Bola Tinubu, who had earlier promised to pay N35,000 cash award to federal workers. Sadly, while Oyo State has kept his promise, the Federal Government has let its workers down; we only recently got out cash award for October 2023.
What was even more interesting, however, was the news that the Oyo governor followed the two payments with the payment of the 13th salary before the year ran out. I tried hard to verify if all these news from Oyo State regarding the payments were true and was surprised to learn that the governor had, indeed, effected the three payments within less than two weeks.
Coming at such a difficult period for Nigerians, one cannot but commend the governor for placing a great premium on the welfare and wellbeing of the state’s workforce. But as if trying to tell one that there are more reasons to commend him, the news of the state government supporting the transportation of about 17,000 people daily across the state got into the public.
According to the official to whom the news was credited, residents pay as low as N100 to N200 for transportation within Ibadan, while paying N1500 at most for trips from Ibadan to other parts of the state.
He said: “Under the SAfER Transport, we commute 13,000 people daily on routes inside Ibadan, the state capital, alone. Outside Ibadan, we commute about 3,276 people daily, making it about 17,000 people every day.
“What the governor asked us to do was to reduce the prices of our mass transit to 50 per cent across the state and we did that. That is why even on buses that are going to Saki, Iseyin, Ogbomoso, Eruwa and Oyo from Ibadan, our people are boarding them and enjoying the 50 per cent slashed rate. We have also added the Oyo-Saki route. The bus will take off at Oyo, stopover in Iseyin and then move to Saki.
“For instance, in Ibadan, the highest rate to move from one spot to another is N200 no matter how far you are going. The only place we charge N500 is when you are boarding from the Train Station in Moniya. But moving intra-city, the highest is N150 to N200 and we are using 34 buses in Ibadan currently.
“Within Saki, Iseyin, Ogbomoso, Oyo, and Ibarapa, the highest is N100 because they are not as wide as Ibadan. We are always considering our people.”
If this claim is true and I believe it would, as Governor Makinde has proved over the years that he is not deceptive like most of his colleagues, who hid under the buzz on palliative to hand out food items and execute half-hearted policies that have since been abandoned, then the impact of the transport support cannot be overemphasised. It simply means that the government is contributing daily to empowering 17,000 residents to have access their business, retain their profits which would have been expended on transportation and have better economic powers. This, to me, is far better than putting out a few buses for the first few weeks of subsidy removal and later leaving the people to their woes. It is also far better than handing out food items for the first few weeks.
The Oyo governor explained that he was not doing palliative when subsidy was removed. When he gave that explanation, I like many other people, had taught that the guy was only trying to be like the average Nigerian politician that uses semantics to achieve their deceitful end. But reading news like this transport support suggests that he, indeed, thought out the decision and with the visible achievements and verifiable effects of the SAfER initiative currently being implemented in Oyo State, it is my unassailable view that SAfER is, indeed, safer than palliative.
Wilanpa writes from Sapon, Abeokuta