INTERVIEW WITH NATIONAL PRESIDENT
Self Employed Commercial Drivers Association Abuja (SECDAA).
Good morning Sir, it is a pleasure meeting you, may we know you?
My names are Chief Kenneth Eze, the National President of SECDAA. SECDAA is Self Employed Commercial Drivers Association Abuja.
If you could remember, we had a discussion on fuel crisis in Nigeria. Your position on this was that the problem would be resolved. Do you think the recent increase in fuel price by government is the solution?
Well, like I told you the last time, I told you that by the special grace of God, hopefully by May according to the petroleum minister y May they will end up this scarcity and you will agree with me that the scarcity has ended up; although they went ahead and removed subsidy. On our own we know definitely that we are in support of the removal of the subsidy, so that we will battle for it once; we did not expect it to come earlier and with the high increment in the prices of thing this time, we did not expect it to come now, we will not question government, rather we will give them support so that the policy they are trying to drive works out for the masses. SECDAA will give them 100% support.
You said you will not question the government’s decision. But the organized labour did not think this way; they organized for a nationwide strike to protest the increase. Do you think it was the right option?
Labour on their own, I will say, is not the best. Why do I say so? They did not consult widely; assuming the consulted SECDAA, we could have given them our own opinion, and that is why there was strike but there was still movement of vehicles because we were not in support; because they did not carry us along. If they had carried us along, we could have withdrawn all the vehicles on the road and made the thing successful but they didn’t consult us. As I told you earlier, as far as the policy is concern, we will give it the support it deserves for the sake of even our children yet unborn.
When you said, the removal of fuel subsidy will favour Nigerians in the long run, can you throw more light?
Yes, you see subsidy of a thing, is just into the hand of few Nigerians; I believe that when you travel by road, you will see that people are suffering. A journey that would have lasted for one hour to two hours is taking eight to nine hours due to bad roads and from what we are hearing, the subsidy is just circulating in few hands; with this subsidy of a thing, they will be able to provide infrastructure – roads, trains and so on. So we are seriously in support of it. And still, I will like to draw the attention of government, today if you can observe the previous government of Goodluck Jonathan, when the issue of palliative measures came up, he introduced the high capacity buses which he gave to unions and associations, it cushioned the effect, people did not suffer with t he aid of high capacity buses. We also expected this present government to do the same. Let them bring this type of vehicles and if they are bringing it, they should look properly the type they bring. If you can look critically, the one that Jonathan brought only few out of 100% are on the road, because of the quality of the buses they brought. They should avoid these china of a thing, they should go for Brazilian made. Innoson are trying but gradually they will get there. But right now what we are saying is that they should look for good vehicles so that it can cushion the effect.
Did you think the timing of this policy or decision by government is faulty?
Well, things are difficult as I mentioned earlier. But now that they have removed it, let us give them the support. Let us suffer this once and for all. So that in future, we begin to enjoy it.
How does it affect you?
Almost, all our state chairmen are complaining bitterly but we keep advising them, including the drivers, that is our SECDAA members are complaining that every money they get ends up in buying fuel. That there is no money to repair vehicle, no money to pay their children school fees, because all the money they get is ended up in buying fuel. You know, just as the issue of GSM network, initially my own line; I bought it twenty something thousand, that was when money had value. Today they are giving people free. By the look of things, now that fuel of a thing is competition, I strongly believe that all of us will smile over it. Let first be patient, let us be suffering as we are suffering. It’s just that whatever we have been consuming, we should minimize t but surely we shall get there.
Roads, what’s wrong?
Our roads that are bad, the budget is not yet in circulation and coupled with this crisis of fuel. That is making everything to be at a standstill. But as soon as budget start being implemented most of the roads would be fixed.
Abuja-Keffi Road has been in a worrisome state, governments come and go with no one having an answer to it, now with a new government in power, do you think it will fixed?
Yes, on the issue of the road, we tried all we could do. We cried to the federal government that is Goodluck and was able to award the Abuja-Keffi Road, of which they assured us that they will be doing it batch by batch but it happens that there is a change of government. What we normally do is that, once this government settles down for work, we will carry this idea and sell to them. That is what we are planning to do. You know the number of drivers we have loss on this road. So as soon as the government settles, we will take our proposal to them for something to be done on this road.
An association that is providing employment to Nigerians, is there any partnership you have with government?
Yes, we have started benefitting from government. Example the government having known our importance has given us a land of 3.6 hectares in City centre of Abuja, where we intend to build our secretariat. And this issue of taxies, we have got from government; wherever they are having stakeholders meeting they usually invite us there to provide or impact. And we so much believe that we will get there so that the issue of budget, they will be including us to enable us take care of our members and also employ more youths.
What advice do you have for your members?
That is why if you look at the whole situation of transport, that is why when we came in, we tried to reform the system. We tried to reform the system. They normally call transporters Agboro. That is why SECDAA is in existence to reform and sanitize the system. If you go round all the areas we operate, you see the forgotten items in vehicles are bought to our offices by the drivers. That is an indication of the good orientation given to our members. A passenger forgot cash like two weeks ago, one of my drivers came with cash, I went to Aso Radio myself and announced it. As I am speaking, we are waiting and looking for the owner to come and claim his money. We are into this system in order to eliminate this problem of touts or Agboro
How is your relationship with other agencies like FRSC?
We are relating well. Sometimes we are not friends and we are not enemies. Because when they are trying to do anything bad we raise alarm; we are not friends and enemies. We are partners in progress. Whenever we are having stakeholder meeting we attend together, when they are trying to intimidate like when you drop passenger somewhere, they will come to arrest you, they would ask you “ is this Jabi Garage?”. So does it mean apart from Jabi Garage,one can’t pick passengers again?
In that area, we do not agree with each other. That is why I said we are not friends and we are not enemies. Whenever they are doing any low, we raise alarm and try to control. You remember even on the highway, they try to collect money from our members, but we have stopped that whenever they try it, we take the matter to the highest authority.
Any advice to government?
I want t o draw the attention to the government the way they are gong; there is a lot of hunger in the country and they should do something fast so that they will not attract anarchy. We used to associate with big people and small people, and there is a lot of hunger in this country. Government should stop promise and fail, you promise this and that and you can’t implement anything. Look at the way people suffering and some few people are there, they hijacked the whole system. We will draw their attention to begin to put roads in place, engage the youths because there is a saying that an idle mind is the devil’s work shop.
Find attached the photograph of SECDAA national president,chief keneth Eze