Running a transport company could be very challenging. It is a business that requires a high level of dedication, trust and integrity. In August this year, Dr. Sam Onyishi made headlines for returning about N2.2 bn that was wrongly credited to his Unity Bank account by First Bank.
Ever since then, the level of integrity he has brought into the transport business in Nigeria has continued to attract attention to his flourishing mass transit business.
From a humble beginning, Onyishi, who rose from being a bus conductor, bus driver and motor spare parts dealer to become a university graduate is today, a successful entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist of repute.
Onyishi holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work and Community Development from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is the founder and Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Peace Mass Transit Limited. He is also, the Chairman of Peace Mass Transit Beijing Trade Ltd, Beijing, China.
He is on the board of a number of reputable companies including Peace Capital Market Limited (A member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange), Peace Express Service Ltd, Peace Bureau de Change Limited, Peace Aviation Limited, and Foton International Ltd (sole distributor of Foton mini buses in Nigeria).
Onyishi is a onetime Chairman of Enugu State Football Association and was also the former Chairman of Rangers International Football Club.
In this special interview with newsmen, he reveals what makes Peace Mass Transit, the first choice for travellers across Nigeria.
“We run the transport company like a ministry not like a business. From inception, our fares have been very competitive, given the quality of service that we render and the quality of vehicles that we use to render this service. Our fares have been very affordable because we see it as a ministry, as a service to God and our people.
“We have not used any of the opportunities we have had to exploit our people in terms of making money. That is one thing that sets us apart. The second is that we are core professionals. We started as bus conductor, bus driver, motor spare parts dealer and today, bus operator and by the special grace of God; we are among the leading operators in the country and beyond.
“Number three is that we are not just operators but dealers; dealers in vehicles and vehicle manufacturers, dealers in spare parts and other services concerning transport service. We are terminal loaders. All our vehicles are 100 per cent owned by us. These things set us apart and there are many more to the glory of God.”
When asked what safety means to him, Onyishi replied:
“Well, when you talk of safety in a transport business; that is the soul of the business. Without safety, there is no business. Transport business is something that has to do with confidence and the passengers must have trust in your operations to patronize you.
“So, over the years, people that have grown up knowing you and those who have been patronizing you; they do so as a result of confidence they have reposed in our services and for the fact that they believe in us over these 25 years. For us, safety is our number one priority. This is because if people pay you and you can’t take them back home, you have failed in delivery of the service and tomorrow you will not find them.
“Apart from that, they have paid you to take them home, not to go and die or to get stranded somewhere. In dealing with issues of crashes, you have to deal with the issue of the quality of vehicles. The roads are very bad but you have to take care of the human angle in other to make sure that we deliver our passengers safe and sound.
“So, we major in terms of training and retraining of drivers using the Federal Road Safety Corps and our own home trainers that are road training qualified. During employment, we make sure that we employ drivers who are qualified, who are healthy; have good sight and essentially people who will not get a stroke on steering.
“Again, we make sure that the people we employ are retrained by an approved road safety driving schools. You must have a current driver’s licence; the person must have a minimum of five years of commercial driving experience and you must be recertified by road safety compliant. In doing that, you ensure that drivers get enough sleep.
“We have special arrangements for them when they get to where they are going. We make sure they don’t take alcoholic drinks early in the morning before going to work. These and more are challenges but we will do our best so that we meet up with the expectation.”
Onyishi also spoke on the internal mechanism adopted by Peace Mass transit in sanctioning unruly drivers.
“The numbers we write at the back of our vehicles are also safety measures because when you get a call back from a passenger, it helps you to call in drivers who are offenders and give the appropriate punishments or caution. Also, because they are aware that the passengers can reach the management, they are also cautious of offending the passengers.
“It helps to make them control themselves. Also in terms of safety, we can say that our vehicles are always road worthy. We always make sure that our vehicles are road worthy. For instance, we don’t use fairly used tyres. Our tyres don’t do more that 30,000 to 40,000 kilometers before they are replaced.
“We don’t wait for them to get worn before we change them. We change them based on mileage. Also, we use quality products like brake pads, brake oil and so on. There are three angles to road crashes or accidents. First is the mechanical angel, which has to do with the quality of the vehicle and maintenance culture.
“Number two is environmental which include bad roads and other environmental factors. The number three is the human angle which has to do with the quality of driving and mistakes from human error and things like that. You have to come to a balance for you to have a good transport system.
“I’m not God. Once in a while, we have some issues here and there especially when you look at the volume we are having on a daily basis. Every day, we move about 30,000 passengers and we are hitting the road with over 2,000 vehicles.
“But ours is to do what we are supposed to do as professionals and leave the rest to God. If you don’t do what you are supposed to do and keep on praying. God has given us the knowledge that we should use and we are using it well. So, we are core professionals and we also try to meet up with the expectation.”
The business mogul also gave Nigerians travelling this festive season advice, saying
“Before you board any commercial vehicle, look at the tyres; the face of the tyres will give you an idea of what the engine or brake looks like. It’s likely that a vehicle that has brand new tyres is being properly looked after and such a vehicle is surely going to have good brake system; good engine and so, you’re not going to be abandoned somewhere along the highway”.