Transportation business in Nigeria and other parts of the world is a capital-intensive and highly sensitive enterprise. Venturing into a modern, technology-driven transport services and operations does not only require finance but also experienced and dedicated manpower, technology and infrastructures as critical success factors.
The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) operation in Nigeria is evolving due to the Lagos State Government’s Bus Reform Initiative. It is a high-quality bus-based transport scheme which delivers fast, convenient and affordable services at metro-level capacities. The government infrastructure deployment ensured the provision of dedicated lanes for buses to move from point A-B and modern fare collection modes. Compared to the yellow bus services, BRT operation is cheaper, more reliable, convenient and faster.
However, the current realities being experienced in the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted businesses. The company continues to abide by COVID-19 directives from the State Government by ensuring all buses carry a maximum of 42 sitting passengers. No passenger is allowed to stand inside buses.
Apart from that, the challenge of traffic gridlocks and on-going road repairs are currently affecting the operation of BRT operators in Lagos, leading to delay and increased waiting time for commuters at different shelters. For example, the Lagos State government is fixing many roads simultaneously – Mile 12 to Ojota, Oshodi to Oworoshoki, Third Mainland Bridge, Eko Bridge from Alaka to National Theatre, Costain Bridge, and part of Ikorodu Road. The current effects of these repairs may be tough, in the long run; it is to the benefit of commuters and the operators.
Lagos state is recognised as one of the most congested cities in the world for different reasons. It is a small landmass with over 20 million population and increased daily migration to the city. The commencement of BRT operation by Primero in 2015 revolutionised the transport services in Lagos and by extension Nigeria in general. Primero is a typical example of a private business with a vision of becoming ‘leading transportation and allied services provider in Africa’.
Primero does not only pride itself as a business ready to meet the transportation needs of commuters through the purchase of 434 buses supplied by leading Chinese manufacturer Yutong in 2015, but it also introduced a modern, technology-driven transportation system in Lagos. Its main depot based at Majidun- Awori Ikorodu is well equipped with state-of-the-art maintenance facilities. Qualified personnel are deployed to man different department for a maximum roll of buses daily, seven days a week. Its ambition is to increase its fleet of buses to 2,000 and transport one million people daily across Lagos.
Primero uses technology to deploy and monitor its buses in Lagos. The company is currently running a promo that encourages commuters to bring out their cards to board and pay quickly using a cashless system to support the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy. If not for COVID-19, Primero’s buses are all air-conditioned and fitted out with free Wi-Fi, making it a comfortable and convenient alternative to travelling by car. Speaking on this development, managing director, Primero Transport Services Limited, Fola Tinubu said; “The biggest advantage of a BRT is that it has its dedicated lane. It is faster compared to the congestion being faced by other road users.”
The increase in bus fares that was approved in May this year by the government has been long overdue. “Despite the recent increase, our cost structure is a lot higher, we are still the cheapest on that corridor”, Tinubu said.
In its little way, Primero has contributed to the society with the recent environmental cleaning exercise it organised in Ikorodu area. Apart from that, the education sector is also impacted by its social responsibility programme.
Maintenance is given priority at Primero. During the COVID-19 lockdown, maintenance officials and mechanics were camped at Primero’s yard to fix buses. This has helped increase the company’s bus rollout to between 300 and 310 buses daily. Furthermore, it is planning to deploy an additional 50 buses to Ikorodu axis from the buses Lagos State promised to give the company on revenue sharing basis. With this intervention, the number of Primero buses will increase to 360 daily, thereby reducing the waiting time of commuters. The current road repairs being executed by the Lagos State government will proffer solution to the waiting time challenges in the long run.
What Primero is doing is for the future of public transport in Lagos and Nigeria. Corruption is not in any way permitted at Primero. Its personnel are dedicated, diligent and contented. The security workers deployed at BRT shelters from Ikorodu to TBS is covered by two security companies- Lasis and Kayester. They are contracted by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), being the regulator of BRT operators in Lagos.
Primero is not the direct employer of the security operatives at bus shelters across the BRT corridor, as people always presumed. Therefore, their activities should not be misquoted for Primero’s employees. As a private business, disciplinary actions are put in place to summarily dismiss employees that are found wanting.
Notwithstanding the current challenges, Primero is doing all it can to ensure Lagosians, especially its commuters enjoy fast, modern, cheap and convenient transportation system around Lagos. The business is doing everything to make sure that the system is sustainable and provides world-class service to the commuters 24/7 every week.
Head, Corporate Communications
Primero Transport Services Limited