The recent removal of subsidies on fuel has taken a toll on commercial drivers and Okada riders in Benue State, with low patronage plaguing the transportation sector. The drastic increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) has resulted in a decline in customers for these operators.


In interviews with several Okada riders, including Terna Yawe, Ocheme Elaigwu, and Oryina Denen, they expressed their frustration over the soaring fuel prices. Previously, they were able to work throughout the day after purchasing fuel for N1000 or N1500. However, with the current price of N3000 per liter, they struggle to make enough money before running out of fuel.


The impact of the subsidy removal is evident as more people opt to trek rather than use commercial vehicles or Okadas. The increased transportation fares, with rides now costing N200, have deterred passengers. Only for short distances do riders consider charging N100. This significant decrease in passengers has severely affected the earnings of these drivers, particularly those who do not own their own motorcycles.


Terna, who shared his experience, highlighted the dire situation faced by many Okada riders. Previously, he was able to save money through daily contributions and support his family. However, with the removal of subsidies, his earnings have plummeted, making it difficult to provide for his wife and two children.


The impact is not limited to Okada riders alone. Tion Jembe, a commercial driver in one of the parks, lamented the effects of subsidy removal on his profession. With fuel expenses skyrocketing, drivers are unable to cover their costs, and some have even returned to farming. The decline in travelers, attributed to the higher fares, has made it financially unsustainable for drivers to continue their services.


As our correspondent visited motor parks and Okada stations, a noticeable decrease in passengers was observed, with fewer commercial vehicles operating along the roads, especially in the Wurukum area. At some stations, such as Benue Links, taxis and union members were absent. Okada riders, including Saamoyol and Agber, expressed their fatigue with the business due to the lack of passengers but continued as they had no alternative livelihoods.


Efforts to speak with union executives proved unsuccessful, as they were unwilling to comment, lacking the authority to reinstate the subsidy.


The removal of subsidies on fuel has had a significant impact on the transportation sector in Benue State. The scarcity of passengers and the financial strain on drivers and Okada riders emphasize the need for the government to address the hardships faced by these essential service providers. Finding ways to alleviate the economic burden and ensure sustainable public transportation becomes crucial to prevent further suffering among the common people.