In June 2019, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) announced its plan to introduce the NURTW digital Passenger Manifest Scheme (PAMS) effective from August.
The new manifest scheme which was announced in collaboration with Universal Insurance as well as a healthcare partner, Silvernest Healthcare, is expected to guarantee the safety and healthcare of drivers and passengers of Inter-state bus services in case of accident.
In November, three months after it was scheduled to come into effect, the union finally announced the implementation of the scheme. According to reports, internet-enabled mobile manifest capturing devices will be distributed to NURTW motor parks across the country (excluding the southeast and south-south regions).
This new manifest has the PAMS Serial Number and before starting a journey, drivers are expected to send this along with their vehicle number plates to a dedicated USSD Code for activation.
Coming at a time when high amounts of traffic are expected on the roads due to the December/end of year rush, it was a welcome development. I took to NURTW inter-state motor parks to find out how effective the implementation has been.
First thing I noticed was that the motor park operators haven’t heard of the NURTW Passenger Manifest Scheme or any new manifest scheme for that matter. And because many of them are anything but digitally savvy, they quickly became irritated at been asked about something so technical.
At the NURTW motor park in Mile 2, the operators showed me the old manifest they’ve always used and said that’s the only manifest they know. When quizzed about a manifest capturing device, they became puzzled and promptly told me they can’t be of any more help.
The situation wasn’t much different at Oshodi NURTW Park. They don’t know of any new manifest and even became more puzzled at the mention of a manifest capturing device and ‘PAMS’.
“We don’t have any order to use a new manifest,” a middle-aged man who refused to give his name told me in Yoruba. “If we receive order from our bosses at the headquarters then we will comply but the order has to come from them.”
In a nutshell, while the NURTW PAMS scheme may have kicked off on paper, in the parks and garages around Lagos, the scheme sounds very strange. The old manifest system is still very much in effect and any talk of a digitised system leaves the park operators bewildered.
To understand why the scheme isn’t in effect in the parks as it is on paper, I called the contact number on the Lagos NURTW Facebook page and one Comrade Famoritade Segele, a senior member of NURTW Lagos picked. But as it turned out, he himself doesn’t really know about the new manifest scheme.
“We have our normal manifest which we have been using,” Comrade Famoritade who operates from Ikorodu told me.
“We also have insurance but I can’t remember the name of the (insurance) company right now. But this new manifest you’re talking about, I don’t know about it.”
The realisation that many NURTW operators don’t know about the PAMS isn’t quite surprising. For one, these are mostly men who want to do their transport business, earn a living and take care of their families.
Secondly, many of them are not digitally savvy and wouldn’t want to be bothered by such technical stuff. It however calls to question whether the NURTW has done anything to sensitise and educate its members and operators about the novel development.
To complete my query, I made my way to the new NURTW Lagos headquarters in Oko Oba, Agege. First thing I noted was that the place was guarded like a garrison. Dangerous-looking men manned the gates and did not let anybody in unless you could call someone else to identify you. And so I had to state my mission at the gate.
Having stated my mission, the men at the gate said they didn’t know of PAMS but I could write a letter of proposal if I wish to collaborate with the NURTW and introduce a new manifest. The response was puzzling. Does it mean anybody can waltz in and introduce a new kind of manifest?
The NURTW digital Passenger Manifest Scheme was launched in collaboration with Wifisoft Technologies and Blackblock Limited. Wifisoft supplied the mobile capturing devices while Blackblock was meant to generally run the operation.
To find out if the scheme had indeed kicked off and to which NURTW parks their technology has been deployed, I reached out to Ukeme Okuku who doubles as both the CEO of Blackblock and Chief User Interface (UI) Designer of Wifisoft Technologies.
While he promised to provide a response to my query, I’m yet to get any several days after he promised to deliver.
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