Rage in Ondo over suspended free school shuttle buses
We are servicing them for better performance, state govt says
There is seething outrage and anger across the 18 local government areas of Ondo State from students, guardians and parents over the sudden disappearance of the free school shuttle buses. Since the resumption of public schools for the second term of 2019/2020 academic session last week, the public secondary school students, who are major beneficiaries of the Social Investment Programme (SIP) of the state government, have been largely stranded.
The major streets in the three senatorial districts of the state, which are the routes of these buses, have been free from their usual traffic jams and hustle and bustle from students who scamper to the bus stop every morning and afternoon for a ride, fuelling suspicion that the present administration of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu might scrap the initiative.
There are allegations that the operations of the 90 shuttle buses were suspended by the state government due to lack of fund to maintain the buses. Our correspondent gathered that the state Ministry of Transport had failed to settle outstanding debt incurred for the fueling of the buses since last year, which made the filling station owners to reject further debt.
The free shuttle bus scheme that was initiated in 2012 was said to be saving parents from spending about N113 million monthly and other unforeseen dangers. The immediate past governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who initiated the programme, disclosed this on the June 12 Democracy Day celebration in 2015, institutionalizing it to commemorate the welfarist policies of the late Chief MKO Abiola.
Mimiko stressed that the SIP initiative was saving the sum of over N5 million daily that many parents would have used in conveying their children to schools. The number of buses had risen to 90 against its initial 39 and had been distributed to 15 LGAs.
There are however indications that the total number of beneficiaries had skyrocketed between 2015 till date because the state Ministry of Education disclosed that the enrolment of students increased from 211,000 to 250,00 in 2015 alone. Confirming that the sudden disappearance of the buses is not limited to Akure metropolis alone, some sources who spoke with The Guardian in major towns across the state, said the free school shuttle buses have not been seen on the streets.
Some students who spoke with The Guardian lamented the unbearable pains meted out to them by the sudden disappearance of the buses, noting that they had to trek long distances to and from school. “My parents cannot afford to give me money for taxi or okada. So, I have to trek from our house in Sijuwade to my school located at Ondo Road. It has been so stressful and hard for me and my colleagues,” one of the students said. A parent in Akure, Mr. Ajayi Adegbenro, who described the situation as unfortunate, urged Governor Akeredolu not to allow the free shuttle buses initiative to die untimely.
While reacting to the development, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Transport, Mr. Tobi Ogunleye, refuted the insinuation that government had suspended or cancelled the free shuttle buses.Ogunleye noted that the non-operation was as a result of ongoing general maintenance of the vehicles. He, however, gave an assurance that the shuttle buses would return to roads hopefully this week.
But a parent, Mr. Dele Durojaiye, reacting, fumed: “What kind of stupid excuse is the Special Adviser giving the public? The pupils went on holiday for about one month and maintenance couldn’t be carried out on the vehicles until resumption?”Durojaiye, who is the SSANU chairman of the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), added: “These people should know that they are not addressing uninformed crowd in their village square. Must he talk at all if he doesn’t have any defence rather than talking trash?”
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