The Lagos State Government is to consolidate on the bus reform project proposed by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in March 2017. Its target is N30 billion (USD94.6 million).
With the plan, wheels on the Danfo buses will no longer navigate the roads, as new minibuses hopefully herald in the beginning of transit reform in Lagos.
Over the years, upgrades to the Danfo buses are one part of Lagos’ efforts to modernize bus transit in the city and throughout the state of Lagos as well as integrate several modes of transport.
From the framework, there are indications that in total, 5,000 air-conditioned buses will replace the old, yellow vans. Over 70% of the new units will carry 30 people, and the remaining buses will have up to a 70-passenger capacity.
The governor believes that Nigeria has outgrown this less than professional mode of transit and wants to elevate bus transport in Lagos.
Convinced with the project, he even updated the timeline for integration of the new buses; in September 2017, the action governor announced that Danfo buses would be replaced in six months.
According Governor Ambode, more reliable buses will not push out Danfo drivers, as the funding scheme is set up to incorporate existing drivers, mechanics, and other union members.
In a May Day celebration of worker this year, he had also promised that the new blue and white minibuses would create even more jobs, assuring that there would be no job losses, just as he added that there is need for appropriate vehicle maintenance and opening of
maintenance shops will generate the added jobs.
Against a NGN100bn (USD315m) public transportation bond, the Danfo replacement budget of NGN30 billion will be a sinking fund.
In line with the national Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which aims to privatize selected public assets, the state bus reform is also expected to be open to private franchise.
The plan is that with a down payment of 25% of the cost of the buses, attracted stakeholders can invest in a set quantity of buses. It is through franchise that the government is claiming benefits for current Danfo drivers.
Ambode equally expects the transport unions to participate in this scheme as the government is prepared to provide buses and training for labor leaders to implement the reforms.
Before this innovation by the governor, experts have warned against the advantages of riding on danfo buses. On the surface an inefficient, outdated, and iconic mode of transport, the Danfo buses are also home to darker, less innocent activities than hurling through Lagos traffic.
Danfos are also seen by many as a security risk, as many criminals and fake transporters operate the common yellow Volkswagen. More illicit activities, such as drug selling and armed robberies make the Danfo buses an easy reform target for a government looking to elevate Lagos’ status.
But the governor’s new buses have drawn intense backlash. Many wonder if the new buses are anything more than just a superficial facelift for the archaic Danfos. The modern buses will be more environmentally friendly, but do not revolutionize transit systems in the intensely congested mega city.
Meanwhile, Danfos have a 14-18-person capacity; therefore, the new buses will help reduce the number of vehicles on the roads, easing congestion.
Whether the blue and white editions of the Danfo minibuses truly provide, stakeholders in the transport sector are of the view that a better structured, more organized system remains to be seen.
They concur that, at the very least, the updated buses should be more reliable, mechanically speaking, and should reduce congestion caused by breakdowns.