17 March 2008 marked the beginning of a revolution in the mass transit sector in Lagos state.
That was the date that the first phase of the Lagos BRT was launched.
The introduction of the Lagos BRT significantly ushered the state away from the unenviable example of a classic urban disorder.
The BRT is a mass transit system that employs dedicated lanes, enabling buses to avoid traffic – and by extension, ensure shorter duration of journeys.
In its first year, the Lagos BRT transported an average of 200,000 passengers per day. In 2012, it carried 51 million passengers, averaging around 140,000 a day. This arrangement was very lucrative for the operator. However, in no time, the operator became overwhelmed by the patronage.
In 2012, the Lagos State Bus Asset Management Limited (LAGBUS), the company in charge of managing and operating the BRT service, began giving out franchises to private investors. Soon, 10 companies were licensed to acquire BRT buses and integrate them in the Lagos BRT scheme.
As of 2016, the number of BRT franchisees had increased to about 37.
In 2016, the Ambode-led government of Lagos state abruptly banned the operation of the LAGBUS-supervised buses including those under its franchise scheme. The reason giving for the ban was constant breaches of the franchise agreement the operator signed in 2007.
Over 36 BRT franchisees, together with the original NURTW-owned BRT buses were affected. The ban prevented them from plying the very lucrative BRT corridors to load or drop passengers. They could only use the road like other private vehicles.
On November 7, 2016, the sudden banned sparked off a protest by the franchisees.
The ground for their protest was that they still had a running contract with LAGBUS – and by extension the Lagos state government/LAMATA.
Then curiously, a certain private company – Primero Transport Services Limited – became the sole BRT bus operator.
Indeed, and just like the exclusivity accorded to companies like Visionscape and Alpha-Beta Consulting – buses owned by Primero Transport Services Limited were accorded the exclusive rights to operate on the BRT corridors in Lagos state.
Even more curious was that the details of the contract Primero Transport Services Limited signed with LAMATA remains shrouded in secrecy.
For instance, was there a terminal date for the contract?
What happens when the company fails in its responsibility of effectively fulfilling its obligations to the public?
In May 16, 2016, the Lagos State Government donated brand 50 new high-capacity Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicles to Primero Transport Services Limited. The reason given for the donation was to mitigate effects of new pump price of petrol on its residents.
Why should a state government donate buses to a private profit-making company?
Was the Lagos state government’s largess to Primero part of the mysterious contract they signed?
Primero Transport Services Limited was established two years ago to operate the BRT buses from Ikorodu to CMS.
Primero Transport Services Limited was launched on 12 November 2015 by His Excellency Mr. Akinwumi ‘Dapo Ambode
The company commenced its BRT services with 434 Youtong high capacity buses.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Primero Transport Services Limited is Mr Fola Tinubu.