Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos has said that his administration will introduce 5,000 air-conditioned buses to phase out the (Danfo) commercial buses in the state.
Speaking to journalists over the weekend, Gov. Ambode said this will be achieved through the proposed Bus Reform Initiative which is aimed at giving Lagosians an integrated public transportation system by providing a viable alternative.
The initiative which is a three-year plan will kick-start this year with a sinking fund of N30billion. Ambode said his administration had identified the challenges Lagosians go through on a daily basis commuting via public transportation. He said;
“The bigger size buses will take 70 people and then the medium range buses will take 30 people. We believe that the middle range buses will be supplied up to 70 per cent of the total volume which will amount to about 3,600 units and then the longer range in that direction.”
On funding the initiative, the Governor said that his administration will launch a public transportation infrastructure bond of N100 billion that will span between 7 to 10 years, adding that Government already has a sinking fund which it intends to put into the bond.
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“You are aware that the Federal Government paid the refund of the Paris Club Loan last December and this (money belongs) to the State Governments… So Lagos State decided not to touch its share of the Paris Club refund. Right now, we have a sinking fund of N14.5billion that is already put in place to drive this public transportation bond.
“We refused to touch our money and we believe that the second batch of the refund should be paid next month and eventually that will be N29billion that we will have. I will add another N1billion to it making it N30billion to kick start this initiative.
“By the time we have N30billion as sinking fund to drive the bus initiative against the bond of N100billion that we want to put into the market, there will be that credibility and credence that the bond will drive itself and that is the whole idea,” Governor Ambode said.
Asides the bond, Gov. Ambode said his administration also intends to give out franchise to interested stakeholders in multiple of 50 buses each, 100 buses, 200 buses and above, explaining that what is required is a down payment of 25 percent of the buses. Hear him;
“So, these are bankable projects as we have a sinking fund and so our exposure as a government is just technically 75 per cent. So, from the kind of machinery we want to use to run the buses, there are no cash takings, everything is automated and obviously, who ever has a franchise, whoever drives, they have the recourse to take part of the money while part of the intake also goes to the repayment of the facility and so it is a comprehensive template.”
The State Government expects the Danfo drivers, who would be absorbed into the new initiative to adapt accordingly, as the transport unions will be expected to take ownership to ensure sustainability.
Governor Ambode said the initiative is just a paradigm shift where Danfo drivers move from being addressed as Danfo drivers but as professional drivers. He said government will buy back the Danfos from them which will become the seed money to make them eventual owners of those buses in the years the facility is spread.
The state Governor disclosed that they have been working on the project in the last one year and they are now at the advocacy process, with the intent to begin educating people at bus parks.