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Rage over surcharges by transport companies

Rage over surcharges by transport companies

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With air transport fares soaring high, majority of passengers use road transport to commute from one part of the country to the other. The sore point however is that these days some road transport companies are fleecing some of their travelling passengers.

Consumer Watch was inundated with complaints from affected victims, who shared their bitter experiences thus far.

One of such victims, Kingsley Duru [not real names], recalled that last August, he had boarded a Sienna sedan vehicle ‘Regular’ from the Autor Star Travels and Tourism office at Ogui road Enugu. His destination was Lagos. He paid N11,500 for a seat, though travelling with  company, he paid N23,000 for two seats.

After a relatively good trip, as they were approaching Lagos State, he informed the driver, [whom I will refrain to mention his name for now], that he and his companion will be alighting at the major Ojota Bus stop.

The driver informed him that he would not be making a stop at the bus stop unless the passenger paid money to the park officials. The said passenger complained that it was not fair as he had already paid for his ticket. At this, the driver said he was not going to make any stops except at Anthony Bus stop and their office at Jibowu, Yaba.

By this action, passengers in the vehicle who were going to Kosofe LGA, Ikeja LGA, Onigbongbo LGA will be forced to go past their destinations and alight at Anthony or the company’s office at Jibowu.

According to Duru, it was not the first time he was getting such a treatment at the hands of Autor Star drivers. He was a regular traveller. “In this year alone, I have made eight trips to Enugu on Autor star vehicle and each time I am forced to pay extra money to alight at Ojota.

“Knowing that I will not make any headway arguing with the driver and not risking following the vehicle to Anthony or Jibowu as my destination was Oregun, I had no other option than to give the driver N100 to settle the motor park officials though seething with anger.

“Yes, seething with anger. Not because I do not have N100 but because I know it is a great injustice and an abuse of customer rights. I have already paid for the company to transport me to Lagos and whatever dues they have to pay at the motor parks concerns the company and not the passengers.”

On getting home, narrated Duru,”I sent a text to the company in response to the one they usually send to their customer requesting their experience. This they do, through 07034511404 or 08059548157.” Responding to the text through the first number, Duru stated, “The driver was excellent in all ways but I have an issue with the management. If you check on your system, since the inception I have been using your transport. Please it is not right for passengers to be paying at major bus stops if they want to alight at Ojota and Berger.”

Continuing the text message, “These are major bus stops so the management should provide the funds for the driver. It is not more than N400. Paying at Ojota park each time I want to come down after a wonderful trip takes away the novelty of the trip, thanks.’’

Obviously, he complaints fell on deaf ears as the company did not even acknowledge it neither did they mend their ways. This is what their passengers who alight at legally designated major bus stops like Ojota and Berger go through every day.

Exactly on the 12th of this month, another passenger, who dared to complain, said she boarded the first Sienna from Enugu to Lagos. Again, I will refrain to mention the driver’s name.

According to this lady, who paid N23,000 for two seats, she informed the driver politely that she would be dismounting at the major bus stop at Berger. The driver drove into the motor park and demanded N200 from the lady in order to settle the park officials.

The lady passenger who narrated to the reporter that being a regular Autor Star passenger, in the past she has been forced on several occasions to give money to their drivers for such issues each time she alighted at Ojota or Berger bus stops.

However, she said that this time around she got so infuriated and refused to oblige the driver. “Why should I be the one to pay their motor park charges? Other transporters do not harass their passengers with such issues and Autor Star even charges their passengers more than the others.”

The driver threatened not to allow her to dismount but insisted that he would drive her to Anthony or Jibowu Bus stops unless she pays the N200. As they were arguing, the passenger called the company’s Lagos office but the calls were not picked.

“At this point, the motor park officials told the driver to move his vehicle which was obstructing other vehicles. Seeing how adamant I was, he had to settle the motor park officials and opened the door to let me out. It was indeed a haranguing experience but we must put a stop to this harassment from the company.”

Many passengers of this company have complained severally of this kind of ugly experience and many more. There was a story we published on this page about an incident where passengers from Enugu to Lagos on getting close to Ogun State had to contribute money for fuel because the driver said he was running short of fuel and had no money on him. We called the Lagos office and shamelessly the lady official that spoke to us said it was possible. Meanwhile, passengers had already paid fully for their tickets. The money they contributed for the fuel was not given back to them.

A trip to other transporters and even the motor parks revealed that such levies are charged but it is the transporters who pay them and not the passengers as the transporters have already built it into the fares.

At the Iyana-Ipaja office of G. Agofure Motors, a popular transporter, the manager of the branch, Mr. Kolawale Ajiboye, surprised that any driver would ask passengers to pay, said that “such money is among road expenses which the company gives the driver. It does not concern passengers. They have paid for their trip and whatever levies transporters are paying does not concern them.”

At the God is Good [GIG] Motors Jibowu, a driver who simply identified himself as Clement said that every driver pays N200 at Berger bus stop, N100 at Ojota, N100 at Sagamu and N100 at Cele bus stops once he drops a passenger. “Passengers do not pay the money but the transporters pay through the drivers and if a driver refuses to pay the motor park officials will not allow them to drop their passengers.”

Mr. Philip Okoro of Libra Transporters also corroborated with what the other drivers said. Displaying his receipt of payment on the 19th of this month at the Berger Bus stop, he said part of the money from such levies is remitted to the state government.

However, on speaking with an Autor Star official, Ebere Igwe, after fruitless efforts to speak with their top manager, Dorothy, or one of their management staff, Igwe stressed that any of their passengers that want to alight at Berger or Ojota Bus stops will have to pay the required levy to the motor park officials.

“The levy at the motor park has nothing to do with our company. It is Lagos State that is demanding it. Our drivers have complained about it and management has advised them to stop passengers where they are not levied like Anthony or our office at Jibowu. If you are a passenger and do not want to pay the money then remain in the vehicle till you get to Anthony or Jibowu,” adding that it is not the responsibility of Autor Star to pay the money.

Not satisfied with her response which sounded unprofessional, the reporter implored her to call her back or to get a management staff to call as she was open to more chats with them. The reporter now put another call to their Enugu office and again she was promised that someone will call her but till going to the press, she did not receive any call.

Nigerian consumers go through one form of abuse or another every day. We do not blame the drivers but the management. They cannot claim of ignorance of this. Many passengers have registered their complaint just like Duru. Their staff admitted drivers have complained but said it is not the responsibility of the company but passengers that had already paid for their trip.

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