By Moses Akaigwe
The N10bn Federal Government bailout fund approved to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on transportation and reposition the sector is setting off ripples as some of affected operators allege that they have been sidelined in the disbursement.
It was learnt that among those who have been asked to submit documents for verification were inter-state bus owners, under the aegis of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA).
Having lost billions of naira during the 98-day lockdown that followed the outbreak of the pandemic, the transport owners say they had expected that the bailout would be deployed expeditiously to enhance the recovery of their businesses, but they lamented that, till date, the succor is yet to reach them.
In a letter dated March 28, 2021, signed by thed eputy president, Emeka Mamah, PTONA appealed to the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, to ensure the verification of two key issues concerning the fund.
First, the association appealed to the minister to correct apparent confusion in treating the N10 billion COVID-19 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 to its members to prevent imminent collapse of inter-state passenger transport companies in Nigeria.
According to PTONA, efforts made to secure an appointment to pay a working visit to the minister to discuss issues relating to the delay in disbursing the fund to road transporters were fruitless.
“However, in your reply to our letter dated March 3, 2021, 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 and Investment, since the intervention fund for the transport sector had been released to the ministry by the Federal Government,” the association stated in the letter.
Lamenting further, PTONA insisted that the N10 billion approved by the Federal Government was totally different from an aspect of the N60 billion MSME Survival Fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
The transport owners’ body further argued: “The N10 billion 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 the pandemic”