Abuja – President Goodluck Jonathan has launched the first phase of mass transit support scheme involving 110 buses, in fulfillment of his promise on palliatives for the fuel subsidy removal.
In his remarks during the launching in Abuja on Sunday, Jonathan said besides ameliorating the suffering of commuters, the scheme would help develop a mass transit culture for the country.
“There is the need for the country to have a robust mass transit scheme to bring down the cost of transportation as it is obtainable in developed countries,” he said.
Jonathan disclosed that there were various programmes in the offing by the government to subsidise the transport scheme in the country.
The President however said the buses would not be managed by government as perceived in some quarters.
“The scheme will be run by private transporters, with government subsidising the scheme to bring down transportation cost,” he said.
Jonathan disclosed that the three tiers of government, namely the federal, state and local governments, were also involved in the scheme with the support of the transport operators.
The President also used the occasion to re-assure Nigerians that the deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector was in their overall interest as government could not inflict pains on the masses.
“I urge our people to ignore the campaign of calumny against the policy by some group who have politicised the issue,” he said.
Earlier, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, had said the federal government approved N15 billion for the mass transit scheme at zero per cent interest rate.
“The buses will be handed over to mass transit operators in order to make transport available and affordable,” he said.
Aganga disclosed that 50 per cent of the buses were sourced from local manufacturers with a 10-year maintenance agreement.
The Minister said government’s decision to patronise local manufacturers was to encourage industrialisation and provide job opportunities.
“Government is partnering with local automobile manufacturers to increase their capacity to about 5,000 units in the next eight months,” he said.
Aganga also said government was working on a new automotive policy to encourage Foreign Direct Investment in the sector.
The National President, National Union of Road Transport Workers(NURTW), Alhaji Usman Nazif, led his members and leaders of affiliate unions to the event.
Nazif said the union identified with the federal government on the removal of fuel subsidy.(NAN)