This is write-up is a fallout of an experience my wife and I recently had on our trip to Accra, Ghana. She (my wife) was actually scheduled to write an exam there and we saw that as a great opportunity for a mini vacation. Our decision to travel by road was not only informed by the need to cut cost but also to enjoy a good ride through the different countries we will be journeying through, enroute Ghana.
As expected, the first thing we did was to make inquiries. We asked friends, acquaintances, church members etc and they all came up with suggestions – ABC Transport, Chisco, Cross-Country, other informal transporters etc. We logged on the internet and searched for any information that could be helpful. We were pleased to find out that some of the transporters not only have functional websites, but also made provisions for prospective passengers to book online. But then, we chose to go to the terminal of the Transporter of choice (actually a second choice) to pay physically, for reasons you and I know very well.
The next day, as early as 6:30am (as instructed), we were already at the station and … that was the beginning of our nightmare. There was no presentable waiting room for their passengers. We were holed up in a bus with some guys (motor park boys or tired drivers) who were deeply asleep. One of them was snoring and drooling saliva from his mouth. After about 2 hours, we were moved from the bus (which was about loading) to another. We were there for another hour (few minutes to 10:00am) when we were eventually informed by one of the staff at the motor park that the Ghana-bound bus will not be passing through Maza-maza because of the traffic. We were expected to join the bus somewhere around Igbo-Elerin (enroute Ikotun). So we crossed over to the opposite lane (towards VW – Alaba – LASU – etc). Sincerely speaking, I was expecting to see a company vehicle that will take us to there or the least, a taxi. Alas! The guy flagged down a commercial bus (loaded with commuters) and asked us to enter. I was hesitant for a while but decided to follow. I was glad when he told us not to pay. That would have been too much to bear.
After a terrible trip, we alighted and trekked (about 100 metres) to where we were to wait for the bus which was supposedly coming through Ikotun. He (The company staff designated from the park to take us there) requested to use my phone to call the driver of the bus, to which I obliged (he claimed he wasn’t with his phone). After making the call, he told us that the driver of the bus said he will be with us in 40 minutes. After about an hour, the bus was nowhere in sight. An hour turned to 2, and 2 hours to 3. At this point, my wife could bear it no longer. She let off her spleen and drew attention. The company staff was confused himself. No one knew what was happening. Exasperated and desperate, we asked to be taken back to their station at Maza-maza where we planned to request for a refund.
After another long trek and a hectic public bus ride (which I paid for) back, we arrived at their Maza-maza station. The request for a refund was greeted with a long explanation of why refund is usually a long and difficult process. It was in the midst of this explanation and counter-explanation that the company staff (who took us to the place we were supposed to meet the bus) came in to inform us that the driver just called and asked that we be brought back to the same place we left (igbo-Elerin), if we were still interested in traveling. The time was already 3:00pm.
After a quick deliberation with my wife, we decided to embark on the trip. Our reasons for this decision was (1) These guys don’t look like they are ever going to give us a refund (2) She had to be in Ghana for her Exams in 2 days’ time. Arriving earlier will give her ample time to read. So, we began our dreadful journey back to the waiting point at Igbo-Elerin. Before we got there, the driver (who was in constant communication with the cross-country staff with us, through my phone of course) informed us that he can no longer stop at the Igbo-Elerin because the passengers with him were already on edge. The traffic on the route was not helping matters. To cut a long story short, we eventually caught-up with the bus close to the border (at the Immigrations checkpoint). We got in and took our seats. A look at the passengers’ faces betrayed anger, frustration and regret (regret which I eventually found out was of choosing the transport company). In that tensed atmosphere, it was difficult to share your own frustration with anyone. We eventually got to know from the passengers (after tempers have cooled) that they actually left the Yaba Station at around 7:00am. But the bus developed a major fault within Lagos and was not fixed until around 3:00pm. This information was either not communicated to the staff with us or kept from us.
I would not bore you with the experience on the road. They are numerous. Is it the delays at the SEVERAL immigration, Customs and NDLEA checkpoints, the bad road between Benin and Togo border that can sink a luxurious bus or the sleep-over (in the bus) at the Lome Border because we could not proceed to Aflao (Ghana) border (usually closed by 10am). It is expedient to state that the longest and most frustrating delays (perpetuated by border officials) are usually experienced at the Nigeria – Benin (Seme) Border. Apart from that, every other aspect of the trip was quite interesting and enjoyable. On the road, you meet new people – the good, the bad and the ugly, taste new food and buy items you don’t commonly come across. You can’t do that if flying.
The journey back was not any less eventful. After another not-so-long wait, we left Accra by 10:00am in a vehicle I will readily qualify as a missionary bus (an obviously refurbished old coaster bus). Our legs were all cramped because there were no leg rooms. The luggage were piled underneath seats and passageway. The bus’ snail-like movement, coupled with the annoying delays at the borders and at the company’s park in Cotonou caused us to enter Lagos around 10:00pm.
We thought that was the end of our ordeal when another blow struck us. The left rear tyre of the bus (with its entire rim and shaft) came off on motion. We hurriedly alighted (after the driver managed to bring the vehicle to a bumpy halt) and scampered under a shed (because it was raining heavily). After about 90 minutes, another company bus came and moved us all to their terminal where we spent the night, seating on pews and plastic chairs. We left the terminal for the comfort of our home around 4:00am. I slept till around 1:00pm before waking up.
Professionalism, courtesy and sincere concern for the comfort and satisfaction of passengers is grossly missing in the service delivery of the transporter we used. A brief chat with other passengers and even company staff exposed a deep-rooted mistrust and dissatisfaction (even amongst the company staff) towards the management of the transporter. More so, the use of illiterates or semi-literate personnel contributes to this shortfall in service delivery. This was clearly evident in their approach to customer management and handling of issues. Let me empasize here that keeping the passengers (customers) informed and updated about an issue will go a long way to calm nerves and keep tempers from flaring. These illiterate or semi-literate staff knows non of that.
No be small thing.