Transport owners task govt on disbursement of N10 billion palliative
•Decries rising kidnap, robbery cases on highways
The Governing Council of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA), has called on the Federal Government to expedite disbursement of the N10 billion COVID-19 palliative funds to enable members achieve the set objectives.
The Council said the call became imperative due to the long delay in disbursing the funds approved by the government to beneficiary transport owners affected by the ravaging global coronavirus pandemic(COVID-19), amid harsh operating conditions that are critically affecting members.
Recall that during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, interstate and cross-border transport operators were directed by the Federal Government to suspend operations till further notice, during which the members suffered huge revenue losses.
At a six-hour brainstorming meeting in Lagos, the Council reviewed the challenges confronting members’ business operations, and also evaluated exhaustively the negative impact of COVID-19, and noted the followings:
They decried the worsening economic hardship caused by discriminatory policy in implementing the social distancing safety protocol of COVID-19 on interstate passenger-buses across the nation by security agents, including incessant armed robbery attacks and kidnapping of innocent passengers for ransom from buses on the highways.
PTONA decried that during the lockdown spanning a period of 98 days; it was only its members that were on negative income, as there was a total ban on interstate movement across the country.
There was also the depletion of its fleet of buses and the high cost of maintaining the existing fleet due to social distancing and safety protocols of COVID-19 on the buses.
While noting with pleasure and gratitude the Federal Government’s approval of N10 billion palliatives to road transporters to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, members however frowned that the fund is yet to be disbursed.
It also made a passionate appeal to the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, and the Inspector-General of Police, to immediately stop the discriminatory policy in implementing the 50 per cent seating capacity on members’ interstate buses nationwide. This, they said, would eradicate the sufferings of road users plying major highways in Nigeria.
The Council insisted that it is only its member-branded interstate buses that have been observing the guidelines in their buses, while other unorganized interstate buses, including all the airlines have since been loading full capacity without following the guidelines on social distancing.
Despite the efforts of the security agencies to improve security in Nigeria, PTONA said the incidence of robbery attacks and kidnappings on the highways has actually escalated leading to the attacks on its members’ buses that have now reached a frightening dimension especially at the Obajana Junction in Kogi State.
The Council also called for the scrapping of curfew on the highway roads nationwide, while raising concerns on traffic hubs like Ojota swarming with thousands of passengers at early hours of the night due to traffic delay on all roads.
PTONA argued that the PTF on COVID-19 is simply giving security agents more room to illegally extort money from commuters and transport operators.
The Council also called for 24 hours federal highway patrol by the Police at places like the Obajana Junction to tackle the menace, and other hotspots in the country, which it can provide the Inspector-General of Police with.
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