N10 bln Covid-19 bailout fund yet to reach transporters, say operators
Transport operators across the country have urged the federal government to urgently disburse the N10 billion COVID-19 palliative fund to their members to prevent the imminent collapse of the sector.
The call came against the backdrop of the complaint by operators that the impact of the N10 billion set aside by the government as COVID-19 intervention fund to ease the economic pressure caused by the pandemic has not been felt in the sector.
Some operators in the transport sector are alleging that they were side-lined in the disbursement of the fund despite the fact that they applied for it.
It was learned 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.
However, the transporters who had expected that the fund would assist them support their business are yet to benefit from the disbursement.
In a letter dated March 28, 2021, addressed to the Minister of State for Transportation, Federal Ministry of Transportation and signed by the Deputy President, Emeka Mamah, the group pleaded the verification of two key issues as it concerned the fund.
First, PITONA asked the Minister to correct apparent confusion in treating the N10 billion COVID-19 palliative fund approved for Road Transporters as MSME Survival fund domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
The group also asked for immediate disbursement of the fund to their members to prevent the imminent collapse of interstate passenger transport companies in the country.
According to PITONA, its attempt to meet with the Minister to concerning the disbursement of the fund to its members has been futile.
“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 & 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.
PITONA insisted that the N10 billion COVID-19 Palliatives Fund approved by the Federal Government was totally different from an aspect of the N60 billion MSME Survival Fund domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, adding that “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 COVID-19 pandemic.
“On the other hand, an aspect of the N60 billion MSME Survival Fund domiciled in 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,” PITONA added.
In addition, another transport body, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, also claimed it had not benefited from the fund. Confirming their position, the National President of RTEAN, Alhaji Musa Muhammed, said he was not aware of the fund. “I am not aware of any N10 billion palliative. We have not seen anything. The only money which some of our members got was the N30,000 MSME fund and not many people got the money,’’ Muhammed said.