Lagos BRT: A Withering Brand By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni
Just like the now rested Lagos Municipal Transport Service (LMTS), pioneered by Lagos Town Council in 1958, the satirical “Boletus” (meaning “Come Down, Let’s Fight” in Yerba language) of Mid 1960’s, the Dare-devil Mo lues (King of the road) that took over when government banned “Bolekajas”, the much admired Lagos Bus Rapid Transit system, initiated by Lagos State former governor, Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu and launched by the current governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) some 5years ago, is heading towards an open brand pit. A brand, which has been applauded by all and sundry, for bringing some resemblance of morality, respect for orderliness and bringing us close to what is obtainable in other metro city, is being awash by neglect and decadence.
In an article written by Olatunde Tijani in 2012 for Businessday newspaper, he alluded to Nigeria’s dying (or never existing) maintenance culture. He defined Maintenance, “as an act of putting a machine, building or piece of equipment in a good condition. However, apart from it being an act, it’s also a culture of repair and upkeep to ensure longevity, sustainability and beautification of the project in question”. He further posit that, “taking a panoramic view of developed countries like United States, Britain and Italy, maintenance has become a part and parcel of their culture”.
In the said article, illusions were made to the Statue of Liberty (USA), London Bridge(UK), Rome’s Coliseum amongst others. In Africa, Egypt’s Pyramid and the Great Sphinx were good pointable examples. But over here, “maintenance is almost non-existent due to negligence, inconsistent government policies, and desirability of new projects at the expense of maintaining the old projects”. In this regard, one finds it abysmal, disheartening and below excellence, the state of disrepair that has unceremoniously hit the Lagos Bus Rapid Transit system. Everything associative of the BRT scheme seems derelict; buses, the segregated roads, shelters and even personnel.
The Lagos Bus Rapid Transit System, also known as Lagos BRT, first came to being in March, 2008, under the managerial capacity of Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority(LAMATA). LAMATA was created in 2002 with the mission to “transform the state transport system by facilitating an enabling environment.” In a concessionaire arrangement, LAGBUS Asset Management Company (which is owned by the Lagos State Government) and National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Cooperative, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), etc are active participants in the BRT project. The Lagos State Government as the main stakeholder maintains the BRT lanes (segregated, by-pass, yellow lane etc), while the concessionaires procure and maintain the buses.
As at today, both the state and the concessionaires have failed woefully in their respective responsibilities. While Lagos state government failed to maintain the roads and sustain policies bordering on effective service delivery, the concessionaires are worse off with badly maintained buses. The buses which were either painted in blue or red in some cases at the beginning had air-conditioner, fans and even treat commuters to “parlour rides” with movies on flat screens television while they commute to their destinations, but now all that are things of the past.
The BRT system established with the intention of easing time and money spent commuting in yellow buses popularly known as danfos, has betrayed all indications of being a salvaging point to Lagos’s traffic gridlock, time wasting of conventional commercial buses and their astronomical increases of transport-fare at the slightest excuse. Lagos BRT is simply a sore point as commuters hardly get value for their money. The inability of the management to strategically make sure there is timed and chained flow of buses at their respective terminals have made commuter lose valuable and unquantifiable human time queuing for never arriving buses! An average pilot time to wait at BRT terminals today stands between 30minutes to 1 hour. It is even a disaster during rush hours.
One would have expected an improvement on the BRT introduced 5years ago, but what we have isn’t different from what late Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang about in one of popular albums, “Suffering and Smiling”. In a sentence, Lagos BRT is just the reincarnation of Molues on Lagos roads – 42 sitting, 99 standing. One other ugly feature aside stuffing commuters up like “sardine” is the re-occurring mechanical breakdown of the buses. This trend, only forecloses our long term fears, that the buses were actually refurbished cans dumped on Lagos roads! With collapsing seats, faulty signal bells, visibly dented bodies, none available headlights, rude ticketers, near insane drivers, manner-less bus attendants and most importantly gully invested roads, it is clear that our dear Lagos BRT is on a progressive descent into extinction. Did I mention that the Bus shelters are not sheltering anything?
Since Lagos BRT is taunted to be “the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, and the first example of a comprehensive and an integrated approach to improving public transportation”, one would have expected some standard in service delivery. Despite monetary review in the area of ticketing from N50 to N70 and N100 to 120, human capital maximization; a bus agent used to ride in every bus until recently, the quality of service delivery has spiral downwards and persistently moving below acceptable mileage. One thing the handler of the scheme must realize and realize fast, is that, service delivery is what determines brand optimization. And brand failures are byproducts of daunted service, breach of trust and capacity to deliver in record time.
If a service fails, it’s the brand which produces such service that is having perception problem. Human dynamics have contributed largely to the fragility of perception, and as Nigerians, we have a value placed on service, and are always willing to pay even if we would complain about charges later. We value our time and money, thus, get easily dissuaded when there is no corresponding benefit for time, money and services we pay for. Unlike its usual self, the Lagos BRT brand is fast deteriorating beyond comprehension. And when a brand gets tarnished via public perception and exposes same to media decimation, it quickens such brand’s burial.
Lagos BRT handlers’ needs to see this handwriting on the wall, no brand disregard the satisfaction of its clients/customers and remain in business, not even a brand trusted with the responsibilities of promoting other brands. With over 300 high capacity buses worth over 300 million in advert placement per annum, it would be insensitive on the part of Lagos State government not to salvage this enterprise before a post-mortem is required.
LAMATA, LAG Bus, NURTW, EcoBank and all other partners in this ensuing mess, need understand that strong service delivery, in this case, time management, help to protect a brand. As the case show, effective “service delivery” has become the “service provider- customer mileage”, which diffuses into being the relationship tag for patronage. The slightest decrease in quality of service, hint of mismanagement or customer dissatisfaction portends a great danger to the survival of the brand.
Lagos BRT is supposed to be the salvaging opium of commuting masses after the ban on “Okada”, but it isn’t so. Can’t we just get things right for once? What could be the hindrance to Lagos BRT? Is it the participation of the refined “Agberos” – National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW)? One cogent point that needs to be noted is the disparity of service delivery between the conventional Blue-Line BRT and the Red Lag bus. The red buses seem neater and a little bit coordinated though their frequency of breakdown is at par!
Conclusively, I must say it is not yet uhuru for our visionary masterpiece called Lagos BRT… This brand must not wither!
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