By Dirisu Yakubu
On the heels of the abysmal performance of the road transport sector in the second quarter of 2020, Q2’20, the federal government has approved the injection of N10 billion into the sector to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, in its Q2’20 Gross Domestic Product, GDP, report earlier in the week reported that road transport under ‘Transportation and Storage’ category of the nation’s GDP, contracted by -51.37 percent against the 2.83 percent growth recorded in Q1 2020 and 8.21 percent recorded in the corresponding period of 2019, Q2’19.
Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, disclosed the stimulus package while playing host to a delegation of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association, PTONA, led by its President, Engineer Isaac Uhunwagbo.
She said the fund which is intended to cushion the sufferings encountered by road transport workers and operators as a result of COVID-19, was domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment.
Saraki said the Federal Ministry of Transportation was already working on the modalities for its disbursement. While noting that more than 90 percent of Nigerians travel by road, the Minister said President Muhammadu Buhari’s government was devising strategies at revamping the sector for the benefit of Nigerians.
Reacting to challenges operators face from state governments and other stakeholders, the Minister gave the assurance that she would discuss the issues through the National Transport Commissioners Forum, adding that talks were ongoing with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing on the concessioning of some routes, to increase revenue generation for government.
In his response, Engr. Uhunwagho said the visit was to keep the Minister abreast of the challenges confronting the association and commended her effort since her appointment by President Buhari.
He also demanded COVID-19 financial palliatives for members of the association to prevent their businesses from folding up, even as he noted that PTONA members felt the impact of the pandemic the most due to the ban placed on interstate travel by the federal government to prevent the spread of the virus.
He further lamented that despite PTONA members being major investors in the transportation sector, it was ironical that their companies are the prime target for state and local government authorities who impose taxes, levies and other ridiculous conditions, while leaving the general motor parks.