Samuel Bello

In line with the dictates of the Bible that there is time and season for everything, the Christmas festive period was really a harvest season for Cap drivers in the FCT as they enjoyed unprecedented fare hike.

There was no dull moment for the drivers as patronage was never in short demand from families flocking shopping mauls, party venues and gatherings to enjoy the beauty of the season. They made fortunes from the boom period.

However, the boom for the cab drivers was doom for the residents as they had to pay through their noses to secure their services to access the fun venues at the city centre. The situation was worse for the residents in the suburbs as there was either no cab or the prices of the ones available were at rooftop.

Recounting her encounter with a taxi driver, 22-year-old, Sanyo Obafemi, said: “I have been in my house for days and decided to leave the house to celebrate Christmas with a Christian friend. That was how a black sad looking man in an unpainted taxi took me to town.

“This man carried me from Airport Road, Fort Royal Estate, and had to drop me at Asokoro. We agreed N2,200; the mistake I made was I came down to give him N3000. As I was waiting for my change, he just zoomed off. It was painful. All he had to do was ask and no problem. The family gathering, rice, chicken and drinks were what calmed my nerves. I followed the excitement and enjoyed myself.”

A resident of Kubwa, Eddy Ekpeyong, narrated how he had to swallow pride to avoid paying huge sums of money to convey the bags of rice he got from his office:

“I was given two bags of rice at my work place. One bag for me and the other for my colleague. I needed to get a taxi to take the two bags home. My colleague lives close to me. To my surprise, the driver charged me N4000.

“Nobody told me to take El Rufai bus and break my journey carefully. Somehow, I got to my safe abode and slept well. Apart from all these outrageous charges here and there, all commercial drivers will always beg that passengers should do Christmas for them.”

A taxi driver, Tony Utah, confirmed that event and recreational centres were their major prioritized spots, especially during late hours of the day: “There are several parks and places many people always crowd to spend time till it’s almost dark. From 8.00pm, we double the price. Some people accept the price because of the excitement and celebration.

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“Some people don’t patronise us, but those that patronise us far outweigh the ones that are uninterested. Millennium Park, Silverbird Cinema, Ceddi Plaza, City Park, Next Cash n Carry, Shoprite among others are places we hunted for customers.”

Uber driver, Silvestre Ezenwa, admitted that the high demand for drivers inflated the price of transportation: “When everybody is travelling for Christmas, people tend to forget that drivers also have families and relatives.

“When some travel, I look out for crowded places where people go with families. On Christmas Day, I was roving around Silverbird and Millennium Park and was making my money.

“The only problem I encountered was the hold up around Silverbird. Millennium Park on the other hand and National Council for Arts and Culture favoured me. Families and relatives took time to enjoy themselves. Some were generous enough to tip me very well. Those that came with food also gave me in take away packs. I had more energy because of the food I ate and was still roving till 11.00pm.

“The decrease in drivers in Abuja and higher demand for movement would definitely increase price of services. Families now hire me for some hours to do errands. I charge between  N5,000 and  N7,000 for errands, especially when the places are not close by.

“Sometimes we bargain price without the Uber Application. We just agree like every normal taxi and do business. Most of these customers usually plan ahead. Some are those I have some sort of relationship with and some I don’t.”

Hilary Uko, who often boards taxi, popularly called ‘along’ confirmed that there has been an increase in prices even before Christmas day, emphasising: “From Gudu to Banex, Wuse 2, it used to be N100, now it is N150. Sometimes you will be forced to leave change with them.

“It is not as if there is fuel scarcity or anything remotely affecting us, so I don’t understand why these people should inflate prices even before the celebration started.

“You hardly see clean taxis on the road now. It’s mostly these rickety cars that ply the roads. They probably didn’t travel because they needed to save and get something better.”