I will not pretend to be an expert or a veteran, but the few times I have been here, I noticed that Benin to Edo is as Ikeja to Lagos, New Delhi to India, or even London to England. Benin is the metropolis of the Edo state, complete with a functioning airport, three universities (UNIBEN, BIU, Wellspring University), banks, restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, banks, hospitals, park, markets and museum. Asides from the countless physical and social infrastructures, and also business opportunities, Benin is blessed with fertile land for agriculture, rich tradition, diverse culture and very interesting history. Little wonder everyone that relocates to Edo wants to settle down in Benin City.
I alighted from the bus that dropped me at Eagle Line in Benin to take a cab down to ring road. I did not know anywhere and I could not find my way around so I decided to take a cab, since I also had luggage, to make it easier. The driver initially charged me N1000, but intense bargaining brought that down to N700.
With immense traffic jam, a 45-minute trip brought me to Ring Road. The outrageous fee I had to pay for such a short journey disturbed me greatly. That was just one of the many experiences I had on that same day. That was not my first time in Benin, but it was actually my first time alone in Benin. I remember trying to board a bus to Ugbor and ending up in Ugbowo.
It is not difficult to note that many things are wrong with the transport system in Benin – from the drivers to the buses. Comparing the transport system with where I came from and other places I have been, it was not a quick decision to conclude that the transport system needs a lot of attention.
First of the many problems is that the drivers of both the commercial vehicles and private cars are really reckless. It makes me wonder why their cars are mostly in pretty good shape and accidents hardly occur. Most of the drivers drive like they have an extra life stored away nicely somewhere, or it’s a car race game. The commercial drivers are a little more patient to pick up passengers, and the passengers would have barely entered before they go speeding off again.
Another thing I noticed is the sorry state of commercial vehicles. I was standing at Third junction one day, and I saw a cab that looked more like a metal collage. Its movement and conduct spelt imminent tragedy. Nevertheless, it had the cab sign on it. Same with the buses. They are always so rickety that if there a vehicle maintenance standard was set; many of the busses would be rapidly decommissioned.
As if that’s not enough, these vehicles are usually overloaded without consideration for passengers’ comfort. The cabs especially make four people sit at the back, almost lapping each other. The driver and two other people sit at the front such that the driver might have to hit you to access the gear box.
In other states I have been, there are different motor parks for cabs to go to different locations. No matter where you are going, you wouldn’t find it hard to get a cab or locate the place. There are really few motor parks in Benin; hence the reason for difficulty in moving around, especially when you are not familiar with the area. It’s also surprising that cabs also pass only major roads; some minor roads that are constantly plied ought to be on the route traversed by these cabs especially as there are no motorcycles.
Non-standardization of fares is a very big problem. Cabs are very expensive and they use every opportunity to extort passengers especially if you are new around. Imagine a driver telling me to pay N2000 to Limit Junction from Kada Plaza because it rained and that he would have considered taking me for N1500 if it hadn’t rained. This same distance would not have dispossessed me of more than N100 naira in a good rickety bus. These cab drivers forget the fact that everyone, regardless of salary, status or financial stability may need to take a cab once in a while.
While the government appears to know what it is on about in the traffic sector, it also needs to be made savvy on the inconveniences faced by those, who, for one reason or the other, have to resort to public transport to get around in the city of Benin. Policies that may favour them need to be instituted. A structuration and maybe digitalisation of public transportation would not be a bad idea.
Story by Adamson Falilat