***Laments effect of bad roads on transportation business
By Ayo Alonge (The Sun)
Ace businessman, Sam Onyishi Maduka, is the Chairman of Peace Mass Transit Limited, one of the leading transport companies in Nigeria, which boasts of several thousands of buses shuttling major routes across the country.
Having started out as a bus driver and a spare part dealer, earlier in life, Maduka believes that his company is a force to reckon with in the sector, although a litany of challenges ranging from inflation to bad roads now greet the transport business in Nigeria.
He also tells his success story and his future plans for his entrepreneurial endeavour.
I am the Chairman/Managing Director of Peace Mass Transit Limited. I would like to say that I am a hard working Nigerian who likes working for every kobo that I earn. I don’t play lottery, I don’t play gamble, I don’t play pool, and I am not planning to start tomorrow. I am not a contractor. I am just a man that works under the sun 24/7 and God has been blessing my efforts. I believe in Nigeri. I believe in spending my money here in Nigeria and I don’t own any house elsewhere, apart from Nigeria. Everything I have is in Nigeria. I believe using my money here to develop my country. I believe in creating jobs and by the grace of God, I have over 4,000 jobs in my different businesses. It is not because Nigeria is the safest but because this is my country and if I can’t use my money to develop Nigeria, who am I expecting to do that for me? I started business the moment I left secondary school, although I did some apprenticeship after leaving school. I am a professional. I started as a bus conductor, bus driver, a labourer in a company and a motor spare part dealer, and today, a bus operator by God’s grace. You know a bus has one driver, so when you have 3,000 buses that is 3,000 drivers and 3000 jobs. We also have workers who are on the field at the bus terminals and I have other businesses that I employed quite a number of people, making it over 4,000 jobs.
Well, as a road transporter by divine guidance, it is not like I sat down and wrote a business plan or said I wanted to go into road transport. I came into road transport out of hardship. I was a bus operator, bus driver, motor part dealer, but didn’t know God was preparing me for a big operation. I thought I was undergoing hardship. I thought I was working to help my mother because I am the first out of seven children and my father died early when I was in class one. After secondary school, I couldn’t go to the university immediately so I went into business to support my mother and I didn’t know God had a project for me. I came into this business by divine guidance and since I realised that it was a calling from God, I see it as a ministry and I approached it from the point of view of service to God and humanity. I see transport as my ministry and I use it for service delivery. Peace Mass Transit is over 23 years old now. For us, our passengers see and, I think, know us as a transport company that uses the best of buses, the newest buses, all the time; the best quality brand new tyres and we give fares at encouraging tags. We are among the best because we take safety very seriously and I am proud of what I am doing.
I am an ethical operator in the sense that I mind my business. I don’t do anything to undermine other people’s businesses. I do my competition by working on the roadworthiness of my vehicles by making my firm friendly and I believe in making money through turnover. That is when my profit is low and my turnover is high. I do my competition on the road while some people do theirs on the social media. When your vehicle is involved in an accident, they go and edit it ten times and use it as breaking news. Every day, they post our vehicles as being involved in accidents. We have suffered a lot of social media campaigns.
The edge I have is that my customers believe in us, despite all this social media campaign. It is because these people have tested our service for many years and they know who we are. We are not going to join them in this social media campaign because if we do, we are going to kill this sector. We are the largest flight operator in Nigeria. It can be investigated. By the time you check Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, then you know who is who in Nigeria. That is why I am encouraging the Federal Road Safety Corps to come up with a clear term of assessing safety of transport companies and publish it yearly. The road safety officials are trying but I want them to do more by coming out with a clear way of assessing transport companies. I delivered 30,000 passengers safely everyday and out of our 30,000 buses, we have over 2,000 everyday on the highway. Each bus carries 15 passengers and 15 passengers times 2,000 buses gives you 30, 000. That is simple arithmetic. I deliver 60, 000 trips every month and we are still the safest. There are ways that these things can be checked. Anybody that cannot guarantee safety should leave the business. We have to use our local drivers and the effect of inflation is affecting everybody. It is even difficult recovering your investment in the country today. If the condition of the roads should continue, I tell you, there is no road transporter in this country that would be able to buy just one bus. The prices of vehicles have doubled and depreciation has increased due to the bad roads. Cost of spare parts has also doubled.
I don’t believe in getting loans. I have people that give me buses without any interest. Chief Mike in Victoria Island discovered us over 19 years ago and has been supplying us buses. His post-dated cheques have never bounced for once. Yes, another name for Sam Maduka is integrity. I want to have a minimum of 10,000 workers before I retire. My children and staff are there always there to continue. God willing, I will like to take the business to the Stock Exchange.
They just have to come in immediately. Government should make roads available and that is killing the business. We are contributing to the economy of Nigeria and government should not forget us. Another major challenge for us is electricity. We run a workshop and an assembling plant licensed by the Federal Government. I find it difficult to accept that a country that prides herself as one of the oil producing countries in the world is still importing petroleum products. That is one area we also need to work on. When we import everything, we are breeding unemployment and that, in turn, breeds militancy.
I believe that we can achieve greater feats through hardwork, but success does not come from hardwork alone. I have always believed in God. My drivers have all been good, if not, how did they grow the business from two buses to over 3,000 buses? How come they grew the business to make us the best in the country? As at today, we remain the first to bring in the speed limiter into this country and we took it to the FRSC. They adopted it. The former Corps Marshal, Osita Chidoka, came to commission it for us then. PMT remains the first transport company to train over 2,000 drivers in the Road Safety Academy. Passengers should also respect the drivers. If passengers see a driver as a friend, the driver would assume he is carrying his family. Peace Mass Transit has not changed. Our years of experience should only help us change for the better. Profit or no profit, I will continue to give the best. The price of buses has increased.
A bus which used to sell for N7.2 million now sells for over N15 million. The price of tyres has skyrocketed too. I want to be one that would give Nigeria a safety standardisation process. If Peace Mass Transit is not among first two in this country, I will close tomorrow. I look beyond Nigeria because I travel a lot. If you are number one in Nigeria, then you are number one in Africa. I don’t compete locally. I believe in ethical competition. I am not going to be a party to a job that goes about killing Nigerians in the name of making money. To do what with the money?