It is now over one year since the federal government announced the lockdown of movements and businesses in the country as part of measures to curb the spread of the dreaded covid-19. And due to the harsh aftermath of the lockdown, the government has been rolling out palliative measures to businesses. One of such is the N10bn Covid-19 bailout to transporters.
Being handled on behalf of the federal government by the Minister of State for Transport, Gbemisola Saraki, checks show that despite several promises, the fund is yet to be released to any of the transport operators.
According to findings by the Nigeria Auto Journalists Association (NAJA), it was gathered that the huge fund is causing ripples as some operators are alleging that they were side-lined in the scheme.
It was learnt that among the operators who have been asked to submit documents for verification were the interstate luxury bus operators under the aegis of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA).
It would be recalled that the inter-state transport operators were the worst hit because while the city bus operators were providing skeletal services, inter-city operators lost billions of Naira to the abrupt stoppage of their operations.
According to a letter dated March 28, 2021, and addressed to the Honourable Minister of State for Transportation, Federal Ministry of Transportation and signed by the Deputy President of PTONA, Emeka Mamah, the group pleaded for the verification of two key issues as it concerns the fund.
The group which represents the interests of inter-city transport operators, pleaded to the Minister to correct apparent confusion in treating the N10 Billion covid-19 palliative fund approved for Road Transporters as MSME Survival fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
The group also asked for immediate disbursement of the N10bn Covid-19 palliative fund to their members to prevent the imminent collapse of interstate passenger transport companies in Nigeria.
According to PTONA efforts make to secure an appointment to pay a working visit to the Honourable Minister to discuss issues relating to the inordinate delay in disbursing the fund to road Transporters was not granted.
“However, in your reply to our letter dated 3rd March, 2021 (a copy is attached) our request for the visit was neither approved nor rejected. On the contrary, you simply advised our Association to redirect its inquiry regarding the fund to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment since the intervention fund for the transport sector had been released to the ministry by the Federal Government”, the group stated in the letter.
According to PTONA, the N10Billion Covid-19 Palliatives Fund approved by the Federal Government is totally different from an aspect of the N60Billion MSME Survival Fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, adding that “the N10Billion Covid-19 Palliative Fund was meant to assist road transporters to resuscitate their businesses that were on negative income throughout the 14 weeks that the country was on complete lockdown for all interstate passenger movement due to Covid-19 Pandemic.
“On the other hand, an aspect of the N60Billion MSME Survival Fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is a one-off grant designed to support vulnerable Micro Small and Medium Enterprises in meeting up their salary obligations under the Federal Government’s National Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP)”, PTONA added.
In addition, another transport body, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) also claimed it has not benefited from the fund.
However, when the Spokesman of the Ministry of Transport, Eric Ojiekwe, was contacted by Transport Day, he advised that we write formally to get further information or visit the ministry.