[Updated with more students, Sub Dean and Union reactions]
By Chima Osuji
Operators of the minibus campus shuttle popularly called “korope” at the University of Ilorin have refused to convey Unilorin students to the school campus over the alleged refusal of the Student Union to endorse their proposed hike in transport fare.
Based on this, the transporters are currently on a peaceful protest in what seems to be a calculated attempt to prevail on the Union executives to yield to their demand.
Lanre News can confirm this development as the buses of the protesting drivers were parked at their designated terminus in the Tanke area of Ilorin, with many students stranded and bound on a collision course in a free-for-all rush at any available cab willing to convey them to school.
In a chat with one of the protesting drivers who pleaded anonymity, he vehemently stated that neither he nor his colleagues would convey any student to and from campus unless the Student Union accede to their demand by signing the agreement on the proposed increment.
However, one of the operators was ignorant of the development. He claimed he was not informed by their transport Union of the said protest, neither was he giving the benefit of hindsight on the move.
In his word,” I have not been to Terminus this morning, my turning point has been Okeodo, therefore I am not aware of that. All other buses are at Terminus but then I’ve noticed that there are few buses entering school. He concluded that maybe they just came up with it this morning.”
A student, Omo-Akin in reaction to the protest said: “Student reaction to this isn’t funny. Nobody wants to pay 70naira
“We will be forced to give them 100 naira. They won’t have change. They’ll expect you to leave your 30 naira.
“It’s an indirect act of extortion. There wasn’t increment in price of fuel or anything. There is absolutely no justification to this proposed increment.”
As at the time of writing this report, the President of UNILORIN Student Union is yet to pick his call.
Sub Dean Holds Talk with Transporters, Addresses Students
The Sub Dean of Student Affairs, Dr Alex M. Akanmu, was also sighted at the scene of the crisis prevailing on the protesting transporters while charging the aggrieved students to show understanding and be considerate as regards the plight of the drivers.
He informed the students of the outcome of his bargain with the drivers and that they had agreed to convey students at the original rate of #50 but hinted that such would only be obtainable for the day.
By implication, he told the students to prepare their minds for the new bus fare of #60 which is supposedly a win-win for all the parties.
However, Lanre News learnt that the term of the temporary agreement brokered by the Sub Dean was not kept as most of the drivers conveyed students to campus at #60 and worse still, none of them was available to convey students on the evening of 4th November 2019 back to their respective destinations.
Korope (mini bus) as it is often called, is basically a seven-seater bus whose operators are regulated by the Student Union. They are a necessary evil to Unilorin students and their relationship with the students can be likened to a marriage of convenience—with the students always at the receiving end when the chips are down.
In addition, Korope drivers have constantly offered students of the University a bitter-sweet experience right from the word go. While they are no doubt, the transporters who serve the students mostly by operating till the late hours of the night, yet some of them have persistently exploited students during peak periods by not covering the agreed distance from campus.
With the teeming population of Unilorin students, most are left at their mercy with little or no option than to spend more than their budget going back home.
Students board the mini buses to and from the campus in pain and discomfort for want of space.
The sitting arrangement would ordinarily have a single passenger on the front seat, with three passengers each occupying the first and second rows.
However, at the University of Ilorin, the sitting arrangement is different—two passengers would have to share the single front seat, with four passengers each occupying the first and second rows—a decision, according to the transporters, justifies the abnormal sitting arrangement.
Unfortunately, due to inflation, uncontrollable market forces, and the high cost of maintenance, the drivers had to make a fresh demand for an upward review of their charges which snowballed into the ongoing crisis being experienced on the Unilorin campus.
Earlier in the month of October, the Student Union had issued a press release in which it gave its members a situation report on the outcome of its meeting with the leadership of the concerned transporters as regards their proposed increment.
The said press release apprised students of the concession reached between the parties in which the usual #50 bus fare was agreed upon as the official rate for passengers alighting at a bus stop called “Sanrab”, while #60 was agreed as the fixed price for destinations terminating at the school terminus in Tanke.
Unilorin Students React
As the most vulnerable group in the ongoing crisis, Unilorin students have aired their opinions on the issue, with most outrightly condemning the action taken by the transporters while a minute fraction proposed a way-forward while reasoning with the operators but preferred the proposed maximum fare of #60.
Omo-Akin: “Student reaction to this isn’t funny. Nobody wants to pay 70naira
“We will be forced to give them 100 naira. They won’t have change. They’ll expect you to leave your 30 naira. It’s indirect act of extortion. There wasn’t increment in price of fuel or anything. There is absolutely no justification to this proposed increment.”
Zaenab Ilesanmi: “Let Unilorin Partner with Opay and start letting tricycle come in too. Our population is increasing massively and eventually will be left with no option than to succumb to Korope Driver’s decisions.
“It’ll be better to put security measures in check so as to expand the current scale. There would always be an excuse really.
“But it’s okay if bikes are not allowed. Trike won’t be a bad idea. In fact, indirectly Unilorin will be increasing employment.
“It could serve us better you know, not everyone plies the road at the same time. Besides, it has always been rowdy. But it will at least stop putting one at the mercy of Korope drivers being price determinant.”
Ifedibasia Oli-Nwa: “The increment is not the problem, (May God forgive me…) but you will still see some useless set of drivers that will not go to Tanke, saying Okeodo and Sanrab is their last bus stop. It’s very annoying.”
Sophia: “So transporters will keep ordering SU around, tomorrow dey will say 100naira and SU will still sit in a meeting with them. Why not work on getting more intervention buses, let’s see if they will still stay.”
Student Union Speaks on the Crisis
After the ugly situation that ensued yesterday the 4th November, the Unilorin Student Union have issued a press release today the 5th November on their stance on the matter and efforts made so far in tackling the matter headlong.
The press release seen by Campus Life was endorsed by the President and the Public Relations Officer of Unilorin Student Union. The statement reads:
KOROPE TRANSPORTATION FARE; MATTERS ARISING
Firstly, we sincerely apologize to all students for the situation at the park yesterday evening, after which the Korope Transporters refused to convey our members out of school to their various destinations.
The actions of the Korope Transporter was simply their reaction to the stand of the Student Union, which was simply to protect our members from unnecessary exploitation.
It is important to remember that the Korope had initially requested for a 100% increment on their fare and the Student Union refused instantly.
However, negotiation was initiated, and the outcome was pegged at #50 from PS to Sanrab and #60 for bus stops after Sanrab, which was pended for possible implementation.
Prestigious Unilorites, the protest of the Korope Transporters yesterday morning left us with no option if we don’t want to heap avoidable transportation stress on students and disturb academic activities on campus, than to work out the implementation of the initial #60/#50 agreement; which we did.
But however, the Korope Transporters, after seeing the situation of the park yesterday evening, went haywire and bent on exploiting our students by insisting that all bus stops *from PS is #60*, which was never discussed on the negotiation table.
This inconsiderate decision led to the vehement refusal of the Union to compromise, which was why no Korope was allowed to operate, and we must thank the members of the Union for their show of solidarity yesterday.
In conclusion, the Union was in talks with the leadership of the Korope Transporters yesterday and the *#50 From PS-Sanrab/#60 to bus stops after Sanrab* fare has been discussed and agreed on.
There is going to be a meeting between the Student Union and the Leadership of the Korope this morning to clearly highlight the terms of the agreement and to further state our conditions!
We implore our members to bear with us on this development. Moreover, the School-owned buses will be available to convey students from Terminus to School and vice versa at #30 only.
Our members should also note that the Union is not folding hands at the moment, as we are working on possible alternatives to our present means of transportation.
We beseech the better by far students to be peace-loving, calm, and strong, as we embark on this journey to rebrand the value system together.
Interview credit: Christiana Peters