FOLA TINUBU: PIONEERING MODERN TRANSPORTATION IN LAGOS STATE ~ INN Nigeria

While transportation is an essential part of human activity, it is more important in Lagos, Nigeria’s smallest state (357,700 hectares), as commuters in the most populous city in Africa have been faced with challenges in the course of moving from one place to the other.

To contribute its quota in bridging the transportation gap in Lagos State, a group of investors led by Fola Tinubu, managing director of Primero Transport Services Limited, operator of Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), thought it wise to invest in the busiest city in Africa, in a bid to solve transportation issues.

Hence, in November 2015, saw the birth of Primero Transport Services. The entrance of Primero into the BRT scheme, as initiated by the Lagos State government, has seen the company grow to become the leading public transportation service provider in Lagos.

Primero Transport Services Limited prides itself as a privately owned company with an ultramodern facility in Ikorodu.

With a BA degree in Economics and Politics from the University of East Anglia in Norwich England and an MBA from the University of Stirling (Scotland), Fola’s leadership character at Primero – coupled with his good ability to strategise, has tremendously brought organisational growth and structure to the company within the space since Primero was established.

Universally, the BRT system has the capability of moving huge numbers of people from one place to the other at a time in a faster and more convenient way. The system operates on the concept of utilising dedicated lanes in areas where competition with highway traffic would be greatest while it makes use of existing highways and roads in areas that are less congested in order to reduce cost.

According to the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority (LAMATA), by 2009 the BRT system had conveyed over 52 million passengers. Since the implementation of the BRT scheme, it has become a reference point for other cities and countries.

It has been the toast of commuters in Lagos because it is faster, safer, more reliable, more comfortable and cheaper. More importantly, it has also led to the reduction of accidents. In order to enhance the service delivery of the BRT scheme, the Ambode administration launched over 400 air-conditioned buses on the ever-busy Ikorodu Road from Ikorodu roundabout to CMS.

Conceived in 2007 by the administration of Bola Tinubu, the then governor of Lagos State, the BRT is a transport option, which relies on the use of dedicated interference-free, bus-only lanes to guarantee fast and reliable bus travel. This system came to fore, under the Fashola-led administration, which kick-started the BRT scheme in 2008.

The BRT programme is a high-performance public transport bus service that works to combine bus lanes with high-quality bus stations, vehicles, amenities, and branding to achieve the performance and quality of a light rail or metro system, with the flexibility, cost, and simplicity of a bus system.

Meanwhile, the Primero capacity boasts of a fuel storage facility, an automated washing bay, a maintenance workshop, a warehouse, and a technology-driven control room that helps determine the status of buses and traffic.

This helps in either deploying more buses to where there are the most need or rerouting buses due to roadblocks. Primero began operations with roughly 434 buses, which operate from Ikorodu through to TBS in Lagos Island.

Offering affordable and convenient services, Primero’s buses take commuters as many miles away up to their destinations as the buses ride on the BRT lanes, skipping the Lagos traffic being faced by other motorists within the metropolis during peak hours – in a stress-less manner.

Even though BRT has not entirely solved the issues of traffic jam in most part of the busy city, a survey by transport analysts shows it has contributed its quota in easing the traffic challenges.

Prior to the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transit system on Lagos roads, commuters had gory tales to tell in the course of moving from one place to the other in the metropolis. While some had their clothes torn by rickety commercial buses and had to appear shabbily dressed for those all-important functions, others had to contend with saucy bus conductors, who have made it a habit to insult passengers whom they imagine are at their mercies.

Currently, estimated at roughly 21 million, the population of Lagos State is growing rapidly. The rural-urban migration to Lagos is consistent and steadily increasing, which puts even more strain on the state’s infrastructure.

As described by the United Nations, Lagos is the only megacity in the world without an organised public transportation system. Megacities are expected to have a balanced transportation mix comprising of rail transportation, water transportation and safe road transportation, with good road networks. Although Lagos prides itself as a megacity, it has failed in this regard.

Lagos public transport systems have been widely described as chaotic, inefficient, expensive, low-quality and dangerous, both in terms of road traffic accidents and personal safety. Lagos roads are largely ridden with rickety buses that regularly break down and are not considered safe.

Lagos is estimated to need at least seven thousand buses, however, the state currently has less than three thousand. The shortfall is apparent and having detrimental effects on the lives of everyday Lagosians.

Primero Transport Services Limited prides itself as having offerings that are unmatched in Nigeria’s mass transportation. Such offerings include the card system, a cashless system, which enables passengers to travel seamlessly and eliminates leakages that are often associated with cash transactions. Primero buses are fully fitted with air conditioners, TV screens and free Wi-fi access.

Since Primero Transport Services’ debut, the company has grown quickly, with further calls for the company to expand and increase its routes, in order to reach the demand of Lagosians who would like to enjoy safe, premium transportation services.

The company is said to be aware of these demands, and in response, have applied for the BRT corridor between Oshodi and Abule-egba, which, has now come to light.

The social impact of Primero’s initiative cannot be ignored as it has helped improve the transportation system in Lagos, and any improvement to infrastructure helps both people and commerce to thrive. On average, Primero Transport Services conveys just over one hundred and fifty thousand commuters to and from their places of business on a daily basis.

This is a massive contribution, but given the state’s populace, this is only scratching the surface. Beyond this, Primero Transport Services Limited has employed roughly one thousand employees, thereby contributing gainful employment opportunities to the state.

Lagos is currently the fifth largest economy in Africa, and with its quest to move up the ladder; likewise, any forward-thinking company operating in Lagos State. The Public-private Partnership will form a major growth driver for achieving this.

Often time, it has been posited that government has no business doing business other than creating a conducive environment, as Primero Transport Services Limited strives to change the narrative in the transport space, analysts believe its success will be a win-win affair for the investor(s), state and the citizens alike.

Apart from managing Primero, Fola also oversees the affairs of Maryland Wreckage as the managing director of the company.

Fola’s ability to balance the strong elements of his financial, managerial and business background with the company’s broader business strategies has helped him put both Primero and Maryland Wreckage on the global map.

Prior to joining Maryland Wreckage, Fola was the managing director/CEO of Greater Washington Mortgage LLC, one of the fastest-growing mortgage companies in the Washington area of the United States.

Fola worked through the ups and downs of the mortgage industry and exercised understanding of how to best serve a client’s needs. He has also worked for some top financial organisations in the US in senior positions; some of the firms are ITT Financial Services, Eastern Savings Bank, Dime Bank, and National City Bank. He is happily married with children.

Lagos public transport systems have been widely described as chaotic, inefficient, expensive, low-quality and dangerous, both in terms of road traffic accidents and personal safety.

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