By Theodore Opara
AS the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact on businesses across the country negatively, Inter State Transport operators in Nigeria under the umbrella of Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association, PTONA, has cried out to the Federal Government to set up a N20 billion COVID-19 intervention fund on a single digit loan of five percent interest to enable them to replenish their fleet.
The association in a letter to Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Chairman Presidential Economic Sustainability Committee on COVID-19 pandemic also appealed to the Federal Government to grant its members 10 percent special concession on import duties on buses as against the present 35 percent duty being charged on imported buses.
The association said the Federal Government should direct the Central Bank to prevail on all commercial banks to restructure terms of loan for businesses mostly affected by COVID-19 pandemic, especially the inter-state passenger transport.
The request titled: “An urgent appeal for policy incentive to mitigate adverse economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic on inter-state passenger transport in Nigeria” signed by the PTONA National President, Engr. Isaac Uhunmwagho and Secretary Mr. Frank Nneji lamented that the pandemic had negatively impacted on their business and would continue to do so.
PTONA, operators of long distance mass transport business in Nigeria represents over 100 branded public transport companies, employs over 500,000 workers directly and 1,500,000 workers indirectly.
The association lamented that following the outbreak of the pandemic in the country, inter-state passenger transport was in dire strait as the pandemic has inflicted severe economic hardship on the business.
The situation they said was further exacerbated by the complete lockdown of the country either by the federal or the various state governments.
With the total lockdown of the country, movement of passengers throughout the country has been halted or seriously affected with its attendant economic and financial consequences on our members. The statement said: “The result is that our members can no longer service the various credit facilities they obtained from commercial banks to procure the buses because of zero income. We are experiencing as a result of the lockdown. And even where the lockdown is lifted in future, our operating capacity and income will equally be impacted negatively because of the need to comply with the guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on social distancing which now implies spacing of passengers in our buses clearly.
“The above economic catastrophe unleashed on our members by COVID-19 pandemic is devastating and frankly beyond the capacity of our members to shoulder; hence our humble impact of the pandemic on our members.”