By Lucy Ogalue
Abuja – The Federal Government has approved N10 billion to cushion the sufferings encountered by road transport workers and operators as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.
Saraki made this known when the President, Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA), Isaac Uhunwagho, led the association’s National Executive Committee and Trustees to visit her in Abuja.
She informed the delegation that the fund was domiciled at the Federal Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment adding that the Ministry of Transportation was currently working on the modalities for its disbursement.
While appreciating the fact that 90 per cent of Nigerians travelled by road, Saraki stated that the Federal government would soon initiate a master plan that would reform the sector.
She therefore solicited the buy-in of all stakeholders in that regard.
On challenges operators faced from State governments and other stakeholders, the Minister gave the assurance that she would discuss the issues through the National Transport Commissioners Forum.
Saraki said she was also working with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing on the concessionning of some routes which according to her was the best way to go to increase government revenue.
She further, enjoined the group to avoid duplicity and formalise their structures in an organised manner for better engagements, with the ministry and other relevant agencies.
The National President of PTONA,Uhunwagho, stated that their visit was in respect to the challenges being faced by the body.
He appreciate the efforts of the Minister towards ameliorating the challenges PTONA has been facing since the pandemic in February, 2020.
He also commended the cooperation and protection which the Ministry was providing for public transportation in the country.
Uhunwagho said that with this, our future in the ‘one chance’ business is now encouraging.
The PTONA president appealed for COVID-19 financial palliatives for her members to prevent their businesses from folding up.
He said:”PTONA members felt the impact of the lockdown the most as their branded buses could not operate due to the ban on interstate travel.”
According to Uhunwagho, the general motor parks did not comply with the ban as their parks became a safe haven for flouting the ban and they enjoyed black market transportation boom.
He lamented that in spite the fact that PTONA members were major investors in the transportation sector, their companies were the prime target for state and local government authorities who imposed taxes, levies and other ridiculous conditions.
Uhunwagho said these challenges among others necessitated the visit on the Minister and expressed hope that their pleas would be looked into.