…Frowns at rising kidnap, robbery cases on highways

The Governing Council of Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA) has called on the Federal Government through the Minister of State for Transportation to use her good office to direct for quick disbursement of the COVID-19 palliative fund.

The PTONA Governing Council is made up of trustees and executive members. PTONA members are among other road transport operators expected to benefit from the palliative.

The Governing Council of PTONA said the call has become necessary due to long delay in disbursing the N10 billion palliative approved by the Federal Government to beneficiary transport owners affected by the ravaging global corona-virus pandemic.

Recall that during the heat of coronavirus outbreak, interstate and cross border transport operators were directed by the Federal Government to suspend operations till further notice, during which PTONA said, its members encountered huge revenue loses.

During the six-hour brainstorming meeting, the governing council critically reviewed the challenges of confronting members’ business operations.

Council also evaluated exhaustively the negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic and armed robbery attacks and kidnappings on its business operations nationwide and noted the followings.

Worsening economic hardship caused by the discriminatory policy in implementing the social distancing safety protocol of COVID-19 on interstate passengers buses across the nation by security agents including incessant armed robbery attacks and kidnapping for ransom on our buses and innocent passengers on the highways.

That during the lock-down spanning a period of 98 days, it was only its members that were on negative income as there was a total ban on interstate movement across the country.

The depletion of its fleets of buses and the very high cost of maintaining existing fleet due to social distancing and safety protocols of Covid-19 on the buses were also highlighted and thoroughly evaluated.

The Council also noted with pleasure and gratitude that the Federal Government has approved N10 billion palliatives to road transporters to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic. PTONA, however, frowned that, the fund is yet to be disbursed.

The Governing Council of PTONA having reviewed and discussed exhaustively the above issues also made a passionate appeal to the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic and the Inspector General of police to come to their aid and to the aid of the other Nigerian road users who are daily suffering untold hardships on the nation’s major high ways in the following ways.

These include an immediate stop of the discriminatory policy in implementing the 50 per cent seating capacity on PTONA members interstate buses nationwide since the measure was introduced till today.

Members reminded the government that, it is only its branded interstate buses that have been following and observing the guidelines in their buses. Other unorganized interstate buses, including all the airlines, have since been loading full capacity without following the guidelines of social distancing.

Council regretted that in spite of the efforts of the security agencies to improve security in the country, the incidence of robbery attacks and kidnappings on the highways has actually escalated leading to the attacks on our members’ buses that have now reached a frightening dimension especially at Obajana junction in Kogi state.

Council also called for the removal of curfew on all inter-state highway roads or scrap the nationwide curfew altogether.

It also raises concern on traffic hubs such as Ojota swarming with thousands of passengers as late as early hours of the night due to traffic delays on all roads.

The Council Meeting also called for 24 hours Federal Highway Patrol Police at places such as Obajana junction to tackle the menace, as well as some other hotspots in the country which PTONA members said it can provide the Inspector-General of Police with.

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