Luxury bus operators who ply inter-state routes have lamented the ban of interstate travel and urging the government for a bailout to enable them to return to business when the COVID-19 lockdown is fully lifted.

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The bus owners under the Association of Luxury Bus Owners lamented that they had been out of business since the arrival of COVID-19 in Nigeria in March.

The President of Association of Luxury Bus Owners and the 1st Vice Chairman, Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association, Prince Emeka Mamah, stated in a statement that they might not be able to recover from the ban on interstate transportation if the Federal Government failed to give them financial support.

He remarked on the crippling effects of the ban on inter-state movements on long-distance passenger transportation.

“In fact, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for inter-state transporters, whose thousands of buses have been ‘locked down’ for nearly two months, to recover without incentives, even after the COVID-19 measures have been relaxed,” Mamah stated.

He recalled that members’ buses had been parked at the owners’ stations since the restriction on inter-state movements was announced in March.

He said apart from losing daily returns, the vehicles procured on loans from banks were accumulating arrears of repayment and interests.

He maintained that road transportation which is the nation’s most economical means of movement, should not be one of the casualties of the global pandemic.

Mamah, who is also the Chairman of Ifesinachi Industries Limited, argued that to ground thousands of buses for many weeks without palliative measures had social implications.

According to him, every bus has at least a driver and other people directly or indirectly depending on its operation for their livelihood.

“Having been parked for weeks, these buses not only attract arrears of unpaid loans and interests, they are also incurring maintenance costs. And by the time they are to resume operations – and nobody knows when – we will need to spend heavily on replacing tyres and other items, before returning them to the road,” he stated.

He added, “Government should consider the fact that when the prohibition on interstate passenger transportation is lifted, we are still going to face the challenge of observing social distancing, which means carrying fewer passengers and its effects on the recovery of our businesses.”

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According to him, a situation where 15-seater minibuses will admit only seven or eight travellers, and luxury buses reduce their passengers from 59 to 25 or 30 to ensure distancing will hamper recovery from the effects of the lockdown.

PTONA also recently in a letter to the Vice President and Chairman of the Presidential Economic Sustainability Committee on COVID-19 Pandemic, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, appealed for urgent government financial support to avert a total collapse of their business.

The letter signed by the National President, Isaac Uhunmwagho and the Secretary, Frank Nneji, specifically urged the government to set up a N20bn COVID-19 intervention fund with the Bank of Industry to assist inter-state passenger operators nationwide.

The group also appealed to the FG to grant its members concession on import duties payable on buses from 35 per cent to 10 per cent.