IT was all joy for drivers, workers and passengers involved in interstate travels in Awka, Anambra State capital as interstate travels to curtail the spread of coronavirus became operational yesterday following the federal government’s approval of interstate movements outside of the curfew hours.
According to our reporters who monitored operations in various motor parks in Awka, life has returned to most of the parks like Eastern Mass Transit, and others at UNIZIK Junction and Aroma conveying people to closer states like Enugu, while almost all vehicles moving to far places like Lagos, Abuja and others left for their destinations before 7am.
Expressing his feelings over the lifting of the interstate travel ban, Manager of Okeyson Motors, Awka Branch, Samuel Nwozor, stated that as a commercial transport manager, he is happy that the ban has been lifted as they have been out of business for four months and could not make money. He explained that there were customers who were in the park as early as 7 o’ clock in the morning, and that two of their buses left for Lagos as early before 7.30 am.
According to Nwozor, there is an increase in the prices of transportation, due to measures in respect to social distancing to curtail the spread of the dreaded virus.
“We now transport nine passengers instead of 15, but we were collecting N5000 before but now we are collecting N8, 000. We make sure that all our customers wash their hands and wear their face masks. No mask, no seat.”
He however explained that their park appeared to be empty as at the time our reporters visited because of the rainy season and yesterday being the first day of ease of lockdown. He was confident that there will be increase in passengers by today.
At Peace Mass Transit Park in Awka, there appeared to be no activity as they were yet to start operations.
Director of Peace Mass Transit, Awka Branch, Mr Valentine Ugwu expressed joy over the ease of interstate travel, saying that he personally has been waiting for such news as they were not able to engage in any activities and had difficulties in raising money for their families.
On the aspect of customers responding to the news, he said that a lot of them have been calling the company to book their tickets. “ A lot of our customers have been calling for enquiries for prices and also, some are booking tickets for their travel. They are responding well, but unfortunately for some of them, we are not yet operational neither are our prices fixed yet as we are supposed to have a meeting with the Commissioner of Transportation”.
He also said that the branch would be fumigated later in the day as they will begin to function properly today.
Activities were observed in Eastern Mass Transit Park as buses were loading and offloading as at the time our reporters visited., The Manager, Eastern Mass, Awka Branch, Stephen Ajah Egbue confirmed that the park has been engaged for the day.
“Passengers have been coming out and turning up but it’s not like before the lockdown. As you can see, this bus is just coming from Enugu while the other one will soon be leaving. Only four passengers from Enugu unlike before when we used to have a full bus.”
Mr Egbue also boasted that they are strictly enforcing the directive on use of face masks by both management and passengers.
On the number of passengers per seat, he said:” What we used to collect before is N500 each but for the fact that they are staying two passengers per seat, we now collect N800 from each individual going from Awka to Enugu and so, we are begging the government to allow us continue carrying three passengers per seat because even with the three passengers, there is also room for social distancing so that it will lessen the amount of money to pay.”
A driver of Anambra Flight Land Transport, Sunday Nakwuzie was grateful to the people responsible for the lifting of the ban. He said, “we are expecting two buses from Lagos today and we are expecting two buses from Abuja today. Although only one of Sienna has hit the road today as early as 7: 30 am but we are sure that with time, we will start seeing passengers from here.”
He also assured that his motor park has been fumigated and social distance and wearing of face mask are being observed.
The Manager, Anambra First Comfort Line, Kingsley Mafile, was happy about the ease of the interstate travel ban.
Although his park was empty as at the moment visited, he claimed that four of his vehicles had left for Lagos and three had left for Abuja before 7am.
On the prices, he said, “well I won’t say the prices has increased because usually, we do carry seven passengers to Lagos and Abuja at the rate of N7000 per passenger, but now we carry five passengers at the rate of N10,000 “.
Mr Mafile also gave his assurances that all passengers were on their face masks.
Mr Monday Ezekiel Ajah of Libra Motors, also explained his lockdown experience. “We just came out of the new market yesterday when we heard that the road will open on July1, being today. That’s why we came out due to the fact that we have not been happy since the lockdown and if not for God’s intervention then, hunger would have killed us; so I thank the government”
When asked about the prices and how many passengers he carries, he said, “it’s only two people per seat and nine people per vehicle and N500 each to Enugu just as we used to during the lockdown. My vehicle gets filled up before 30 minutes due to the fact that we are collecting a fair amount but some other transporters are collecting N1500 per passenger but here, our manager said we should be collecting N500 each. So that is why they came out here en mass and everywhere is filled with passengers because of the cheap rate and we went to Enugu in peace without any problem. We also made sure all our passengers are on their face masks”.
GIG Motors was almost a shadow of itself as no buses and few staff were seen.
According to one Mr Stephen who happens to be a cleaner,” operations are yet to begin as we are planning to fumigate here. But operations may resume as early as next week. The manager and drivers were unavailable for comments.
Pacpin and ABC Transport Companies were not operational at the moment, as both staff, customers and vehicles were not on sight.
A passenger who boarded an Eastern Mass bus from Enugu, Ugochukwu Chinecherem, expressed his happiness concerning the lifting of the ban.
“As you can see, I’ m one of the four passengers that came from Enugu. I have been waiting for this day for a long time. I have been stuck in Enugu for over three months but we thank God. The social distance was respected. I had my face mask on and other passengers did too. I paid N500 which is the normal amount being paid before the lockdown.”
He also stated that there were security personnel on the road that monitor vehicles along the road.
Another passenger, Justin Obinna on his way to Enugu with the same Eastern Mass said, “it is about time to lift this ban. Countries who have recorded death cases at a higher rate have eased the lockdown such as Italy, Spain, etc. So we have been waiting for this moment for a long time”.