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Remote Work: Increased Transport Cost

Since hourly wage is being discussed during political campaigns for the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, now is the time to bring this 2020 article back. 


By now, it is no longer news, that a 46% increase in transport fare increase has been approved by Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos; this applies to buses operated by Lagos Bus Services Limited (LBSL). This will take effect from August 1, as announced by Kolawole Ojelabi, the assistant director, of corporate communication, at the Lagos Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMATA). The reason for this, he argued that LBSL is utilizing only 14 percent of the busload factor with only 20 passengers per trip in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Lagosians have called out the governor for being inconsiderate but the hard reality is for citizens to find a way to survive without any guaranteed increase in income. The spread of coronavirus has left many economies struggling to survive different shocks. 



Leaders from across the world are doing what they know best to manage the situation with limited resources. Many countries were not exactly prepared for the pandemic which was played down at the very beginning. Countries with large populations of poor people and dilapidated infrastructures like Nigeria became exposed putting everything on hold. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigerians spend a large percentage of their income on food (which is 56.6% of total expenditure) more than healthcare (₦2.4 Trillion), transport (₦2.5 Trillion) and telecoms (₦2.2 Trillion). An increase in transport fares in a place like Lagos would mean more people would become hungry as they would have to spend more to get around. It could also mean, more people will be compelled to buy cars when they weigh how much public transport will cost compared to fueling their car.


Lagos, Nigeria’s famous economic hub generating 29.88 percent of the total internal revenue for Nigeria for 2019, faces a problem of population rise and massive vehicular traffic leading to air pollution. The high revenue generated has not translated to well-being for many residents, who seem unbothered by the chaos and bustle of the city. Sources of air pollution in Lagos include road transport, industrial emissions, and power generation. A World Bank report published in November 2019 showed that “air pollution causes 11,200 deaths every year” with health costs of over N 600 million and the highest in West Africa.


Lagos, a city with such a big reputation that precedes it battles a rising population, a double-edged sword that creates new avenues for economic activities, and more revenues yet is the greatest challenge of the city. As more people come to Lagos, the already limited infrastructures are being stretched, overwhelmed that some break down without any replacement. This includes state-run public transport. Economic policies that look beyond remain the way out of the crash the world presently faces. Every policy that puts profit before human beings will be resisted and is not sustainable in the long run as we have witnessed globally in this pandemic. Increasing public transport may not have been the right choice for Lagosians but It is what it is. A business must make money to survive; profit at any cost.


That is the pain of capitalism!! Sustainability is never the goal but keeping the business afloat. This is a global issue, prices have gone up, and inflation rising but income remains the same putting the poor in a more vulnerable situation.

“This crisis shows that if we fail to bring equity into the policy toolkit, many will fall further behind. This is particularly important for the ‘new necessities’ of the 21st century, such as access to the Internet, which is helping us to benefit from tele-education, tele-medicine, and to work from home,” Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP.


After all is said and done, what can Lagosians do going forward? The best way to manage this new transport fare increase is to embrace remote work. Remote work is now something compulsory that must be embraced across the world because waiting for things to get back to normal is no longer guaranteed. This is the new normal; trying to get things done where you are with the resources available to you. Aside from the hike in public transport, the main route between Lagos Island and the mainland, the Third Mainland Bridge will be under repairs for the remaining part of 2020, giving commuters only limited route options.


REMOTE WORK IS NOW A MUST

For businesses to remain productive, they need their workers but putting workers through grueling hours of long commutes in typical traffic needs to be reviewed. Employers must encourage remote work by designing a system that holds employees accountable to deliver goals and targets, instead of insisting everyone come to the office without increasing salaries. The typical Nigerian working environment burns hours of diesel running to a couple of thousands and even millions to keep offices functioning at optimal levels. With remote work, there will be less need for power and work still gets done.



The logic of enforcing that everyone must be physically present for things to be done is why Nigeria’s educational system can’t move ahead despite the Coronavirus like their counterparts in other parts of the world. We must embrace remote work and learning. This pandemic offers the opportunity for Nigerian business owners, and employers to explore the benefits of remote work and how to maximize these benefits considering cost-cutting to stay afloat is now a need. Job functions can be reviewed to focus on the 20 percent task that yields the 80 percent to keep businesses running and encourage the majority of the workforce to work from home while only those who must be physically present in the office can come. 



Once we can embrace this possibility of remoteness, we can think of ways to make it work. Just saying it’s not possible will continue to hold us back. Since the government has decided to increase transport fares to keep up with the cost of running its business, every business owner should likewise think of ways to cut costs without rendering employees jobless. This is simple logic. The first avenue for cutting costs should not be sacking people who depend on that income for survival.


Besides, remote work will not only help in cutting down overhead costs but also cut down environmental pollution and crazy traffic in Lagos. There will be fewer people on the road, less traffic, less commuting hours since people can now work remotely and with rules to deliver on targets, people will still do the same work they do while they sit in the office. We must open our minds as Nigerians. The “Business as Usual” modus operandi is no longer sustainable on many fronts.

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