Kwara Express has been in place for quite some time now, what would say is giving your establishment the edge over other transport companies in the state?
Actually, this organisation formally known as Kwara Express Transport Corporation has been in existence since 1958 and by then I think the organisation was actually enjoying the monopoly in the transportation of goods and people. However, at that point in time, it was difficult for individuals to establish a transport company. But as time went on, individuals,cooperatives are coming into the business and we have some of them all around now. Even today you see somebody or two people coming together to buy vehicles just for the purpose of doing business in transport sector. So, about what gives us the impetus to maintain the lead over other competing companies; first, we have the experience and good assets.
Assets in terms of people and vehicles, our drivers are very good and well trained. If you board our vehicles from here in Ilorin to far as Kaduna I can assure you that you will get there safely without any problem because in our premises we donít allow people sell alcohol and we donít allow our drivers to drink not to talk of even smoke marijuana. It is not matter of somebody will come to say what she sells is Agbo Jedi or all of that. So, as a result of that, we subject our drivers to regular training for two or three times a year and this is because what the drivers know today might be so useful tomorrow, hence the need to give them regular training.
And you know what,driving is not for lazy people; it is a real job and we have taken it as such. So we give them training, and we used to send them for training with the Federal Road Safety Commission,(FRSC)as a modern partner. And aside that,we have good vehicles,as we speak we have new 42 hummer buses at our disposal which I donít think there is any organisation, not even in Kwara State alone but all over Nigeria can afford to have such a number of brand new vehicles at a goal for commercial purpose.
Also, as we speak we have a fleet of vehicle very close to 70 in our premises and we intend to get more. So those are our strong points. And Iike I said earlier that we assure you of safety when you board our vehicle, if any of our vehicles develop a fault on the road, we have always have a backup, all the driver in charge need to do is give us a call that the vehicle develop a fault and immediately, we will dispatch another vehicle.
Not many of the other transport companies can do the same and I don't think any of those in Kwara State can afford to do that. As a result of that what some company will just do is that,okay my Oga has collected the money I left the motor park, so everybody should find his way. We never do that and we will never do that, even if the place is too far. Take for instance, if a vehicle is going to Abuja and it got fault at Lokoja we have a loading point at Lokoja and if by that time we cannot get vehicle for the passengers in Lokoja, then we will put them in a hotel and the following money we will take them to Abuja. Those are our strong points.
What are those roots that your company is covering in the country today?
Right now we have segmented our roots into three. We have in the North,we have in East and we have in the West. In part of the north,we travel to Kaduna, Zaria, Kano, Minna, Jos, Borno, Keffi, Abuja, Kebbi and Markudi particularly in the North. In the South,we travel to Onitsha, of course, the moment you are going to Onitsha you pass through Asaba that is Delta State, Anambra State, Imo State, then Aba, in Abia State. Then in the West, we go to Lagos, Ado-Ekiti, and Akure; those are the roots that we are plying right now.
As a subsidiary of Harmony Holdings Limited which is the Kwara State Governmentís agency, what would you say Kwara Express is doing differently from other transport companies in the state in terms of discount on transport fare for passengers?
Yes, it is our responsibility as a state government's establishment to make sure that our price is always cheaper compared to others. In fact, not because our quality is cheaper but because we are government-owned outfit, people look forward to us that things are supposed to be cheaper than private ones. But in terms of service, our company is superb and our prices are very affordable.
Considering the proliferation of private commercial transport companies in the state, does your firm try to maintain a lead in the transport services?
We will definitely continue to maintain the lead. Like I said, we are number, we have the people, we have the assets; the material is there. So, if you go other competitors, by the time you count one or two that will be the end, you remember how many new vehicles I told you are at our disposal, I donít think you can see all that in other competing transport firms. No one of them can ply all the roots that I reeled out to you earlier on,so the moment people are aware that you have the capacity to ply all those roads, they will come. That gives us advantage over all our competitors and that has been our way over the years.
Are there any challenges that your company is confronting with?
The challenge we are facing is not peculiar to us alone. For example, the major challenge that any transporter is facing presently in the country is in the area of fuel scarcity. We have been struggling to buy petrol as high as #200 per liter but with all that, our principle remains that we will never close up. We will still continue to do our work because people will move and we will continue to satisfy them. We will not say because the price of petrol is #230 that we will not be able to go to the road, no. We will continue to do something that consumers will be able to afford and that is what we have been doing. But I donít want to say that the current price hike on petrol should continue because itís a very good opportunity for us as we are leveraging on it to do better business because everybody is now trying to find his level. So, the truth of the matter is that the challenge facing us is not peculiar to us alone. And apart from the issues of fuel, most of the road are not good, but we thank the Federal Government, particularly on the Jebba-Ilorin-Bode Saadu road. Before now, the roads were very bad and like I said that also is not peculiar to us and most of these challenges are from the government,I mean the government at the centre; that is the Federal Government.
Is the current economic meltdown not affecting customers' patronage to your company?
At the same time this is not also peculiar to us but there is a change now because in the past, there was no means of communication on mobile phones which is now common among people and if you want to pass a message, then you will have to go and deliver the message but today, the advent of mobile phones, definitely this has affected transportation,particularly the transportation of people. This reason is that if I want to speak with someone in London now I don't need to be there in person. So, all these are affecting transport services, but all the same in Nigeria today, transport services is still expanding. People will still have to move because we have to move goods, we cannot transport goods likes through mobile phones, vehicles will have to convey them to the destinations where they are meant to be used.
What are other essential services that your company renders to passengers aside those you have just mentioned?
I said earlier that we have comfort and safety for our customers. And then, other essential services that we also have for customers include hiring bus for an occasion, be it for wedding, house warming, birthday for elderly persons in the village and any other ceremony. Any kind of social activities you want to organise and you want to move people we are ready to render service to anybody at a reasonable and affordable prices.
What are you going to do differently in your company to attract more patronage?
Well, what we are going to do differently to add better value to our services; better value in the sense that transport business, I don't think it is different from going to the airport to board a plane. So if you have an experience going to the airport to board a plane, you will see that a lot of things that we do there are things that can add value. If we are able to repair our environment, because that is what we are planning to do, for example if you come here with a lot of goods you will be allowed to drop your goods in the cab, that is adding value. Also don't forget that I said that our personnel are well trained, the way they relate with our customers is another way of adding value to service, because when they come our workers give them warm embrace, they make customers feel very okay, and I believe that that alone will generate more passengers for our vehicles.
Okay in some years to come where do you see Kwara Express to be in terms of expansion?
In the nearest future, Kwara Express is not only going to be a road transport business but we are also of even rail transport, ferry or boat and even air transport. There is nothing wrong in saying Kwara Express or Harmony Airline. So, those are the things we are trying to do in future but you know that the journey of a thousand miles will normally start with a step. For now we will consolidate more on this road transport and fortunately for us, we have gotten the experience of about 28 years and by the time we will move on those experiences will be translated into use to set up other business in the transport sector. And you know there is little or no difference between either road, water, rail, or air transport because all of them encompass movement of people and goods.