By Ijeoma Njoku
Currently estimated at roughly twenty-one million, the population of Lagos State is growing rapidly. The rural-urban migration to Lagos is consistent and steadily increasing which puts even more strain on the state’s infrastructure.
As described by the United Nations, Lagos is the only mega city in the world without an organized public transportation system. Mega cities, are expected to have a balanced transportation mix comprising of rail transportation, water transportation and safe road transportation, with good road networks. Although Lagos prides itself as a mega city, it has failed in this regard.
Lagos public transport systems have been widely described as chaotic, inefficient, expensive, low-quality and dangerous, both in terms of road traffic accidents and personal safety. Lagos roads are largely ridden with rickety buses that regularly break down and are not considered safe. Lagos is estimated to need at least seven thousand buses, however, the state currently has less than three thousand. The shortfall is apparent and having detrimental effects on the lives of everyday Lagosians.
In 2007, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) idea was conceived by the administration of Bola Tinubu, the then Governor of Lagos State. The BRT scheme is a transport option, which relies on the use of dedicated interference-free, bus-only lanes to guarantee fast and reliable bus travel. This system came to fore, under the Fashola-led administration, which kick-started the BRT scheme in 2008. The BRT program is a high-performance public transport bus service which works to combine bus lanes with high-quality bus stations, vehicles, amenities, and branding to achieve the performance and quality of a light rail or metro system, with the flexibility, cost, and simplicity of a bus system.
However, a gap that existed within the scheme, called for Public Private Partnership. A group of investors led by Mr. Fola Tinubu (Managing Director of Primero Transport Services Limited) thought it wise to invest in Lagos State, in a bid to solve the transportation issues. Hence, November 2015, saw the birth of Primero Transport Services Ltd. The entrance of Primero Transport Services Limited into the BRT scheme, as initiated by the Lagos State government has seen Primero grow to become the leading transportation service provider in Lagos. Primero Transport Services Limited prides itself as a privately owned company with an ultra-modern facility in Ikorodu. The Primero facility boasts of a fuel storage facility, an automated washing bay, a maintenance workshop, a warehouse, and a technology driven control room which helps determine the status of busses and traffic. This helps in either deploying more buses to where there is the most need or re-routing buses due to road blocks. Primero began operations with roughly 434 buses which operate from Ikorodu through to TBS in Lagos Island.
Recently, Primero Transport Services Limited marked its third year anniversary. This was a special milestone, particularly given the current harsh business terrain in Nigeria. As part of its renewed commitment to customers the Managing Director, Mr. Fola Tinubu, recently remarked that the company is poised to increase the number of its buses so as to drastically reduce the waiting time at bus terminals.
Primero Transport Services Limited prides itself as having offerings that are unmatched in Nigeria’s mass transportation. Such offerings include, the card system, a cashless system which enables passengers to travel seamlessly and eliminates leakages which are often associated with cash transactions. Primero buses are fully fitted with air conditioners, TV screens and free Wi-Fi access.
Since Primero Transport Services’ debut, the company has grown quickly, with further calls for the company to expand and increase its routes, in order to reach the demand of Lagosians who would like to enjoy safe, premium transportation services. The company is said to be aware of these demands, and in response, they have applied for the BRT corridor between Oshodi and Abule-Egba, which, if approved, will come into effect in 2019.
The social impact of Primero’s initiative cannot be ignored as it has helped improve the transportation system in Lagos; and any improvement to infrastructure helps both people and commerce thrive. On average, Primero Transport Services Limited conveys just over one hundred and fifty thousand commuters to and from their places of business on a daily basis. This is a massive contribution, but given the state’s populace, this is only scratching the surface. Beyond this, Primero Transport Services Limited, has employed roughly one thousand employees, thereby contributing gainful employment opportunities to the state.
Lagos is currently the 5th largest economy in Africa. And with its quest to move up the ladder; likewise any forward thinking company operating in Lagos State. The Public Private Partnership will form a major growth driver to achieving this. Often time it has been posited that been that government has no business doing business other than creating a conducive environment. . As Primero Transport Services Limited strives to change the narrative in the transportation space; one can’t help but wish them the very best as this would be a win-win affair for the investor(s), state and the citizens alike.
Ijeoma Njoku writes from Lagos, Nigeria.