THERE are certain social services that define the character of a nation; and this begins with its transportation system that conveys the first line of impression to a visitor, since on arrival at port, the latter has to access conveyance to place of residence.
The others, security and telecommunications will, we contend, also offer a window into the daily behavioural dynamics, since it is interactive and reflects the human content. But transportation is a constant necessity, since it is minutely needed by the public, particularly those without the means of personal conveyance.
Through the years, beginning from its advent in the very late 1980s, the minibus, the main conduit of public transportation in this nation, has been the subject of national, verbal criticism. So much so, that there is what is now referred to as the minibus culture. And not without good reason.
Reckless driving and excessive speed that have resulted in multiple deaths and maiming injuries; grossly discourteous behaviour to commuters; sexual assault; assault and battery; loud and obscene music; and other outrages that define the general minibus, daily operational schedule. Anyone who has travelled via this system would have observed/ been offended by any of these incidents.
Of course, not all minibus operators are of ill –behaviour. There is a reasonable number and their operators that offer a courteous and pleasant public service. But, they are few.
Since minibus conductors are the journey directors, they are responsible for accepting passengers on their respective vehicles. Therefore, their role as a contributory factor to the sordid minibus culture should be examined.
Their manner of this transportation function is highly questionable. They should be guiding commuters, especially females into their buses; but not touching them inappropriately, using the cover of the rush hour for such sexual gratification. So many females have been victims of these predators cum bus conductors.
The well-known ploy of seating females next to the driver is another avenue for this sexual attack. How often has it not been observed that drivers on the pretext of changing gears, deliberately brush their hands against the thighs of females seated next to them? Such acts are undeniably blatant, and we recommend strongly to the traffic department that guidelines be issued regulating the conduct of public transportation, especially minibus conductors.
What about the treatment meted out to senior citizens, the disabled/differently abled, and young children by the operators of these buses? Senior citizens are often refused entry on the cruel pretexts of being “smelly” or “too slow’’; those who are disabled/differently abled are also similarly branded; and children, refused on the grounds that they do not offer the required fare, or none at all. No doubt, the sight of our schoolchildren being made to stand for very lengthy periods on the roadways, waiting on the humanitarian and kind- heartedness of a minibus operator to rescue them, especially in the afternoon. It is a daily occurrence on our roads.
The reasons for non-transportation of the two categories may be true, but not sufficiently good reasons not to offer them transportation to their destinations.
We urge that some limited form of public transportation be made available for assisting senior citizens, the ably challenged, and children to their destinations. They are very much human after all.
Finally, two equally vexed issues that although intermittently attracting attention from the law still persist, because of their deep entrenchment in the daily operational manual of the minibus – touting and playing of loud music.
Loud music is a declared public nuisance – an environmental threat. Add the lewd lyrical content, and we have a blatant disrespect for the travelling public. How often, have many of the latter been verbally abused, even threatened because of their objections to lewd and loud music played by minds that do certainly reflect depravities? Why should our young children be exposed to such profanities?
Notwithstanding the competitive nature of public transportation, why should passengers be the centre of tugs-of- war to fill a minibus?
These are serious incidents that have with the passage of time, come to characterise the minibus service offered to the nation. They are perpetrated on commuters with impunity, every day. Such ought not to await the coming of oil and gas, before they are remedied. The law must act now, in a decisive and consistent manner. Our system of public transportation needs to be cleaned up; but not through periodic campaigns.