Transport owners call for lifting of inter-state travel ban
From left— Executive Director, Izu Chukwu Transport/Financial Secretary, PTONA, Nonso Ubajaka; MD, Famous Motors/PTONA PRO, Valentine Uduebor, and Chairman, EFEX Executive/PTONA President, Engr. Isaac Uhunmwagho, at the PTONA press conference hosted by Efex Executive/Efosa Motors, Yaba, Lagos, on Friday, June 12.

By Theodore Opara

TRANSPORT owners on the platform of Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association, have appealed to the Federal Government to lift the ban on their operation.

The bus owners, comprising luxury coaches and minibuses, bemoaned the financial losses so far suffered by their members since the ban came into effect as part of the measures preventing the spread of COVID-19, put their losses in the region of N200 billion.

The bus owners recalled that for almost four months, their vehicles have been parked which is dangerous to the state of the vehicles.

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They, therefore, called on the government to intervene with a special fund to save their already battered businesses, even as they drew attention to the debilitating concomitants of the ban on the travelling public and the economy generally.

The transporters made the appeal in Lagos, explaining that road transport accounts for 90 percent of movements in the country, and deserves priority consideration in the prevailing situation.

According to the National President of PTONA, Isaac Uhunmwagho, the transporters are saddled with heavy burdens and need incentives to enable them revive their businesses after the ban.

They had earlier forwarded a  request for a bailout in form of a N20 billion intervention fund through the office of Vice President and Chairman of the Presidential Economic Sustainability Committee on COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, in April.

The association, however, warned that the adverse effects of the ban on inter-city travels are so dire that many of the transport firms and businesses stifled by the consequences “are bound to go bankrupt” if the prohibition is reversed without bailout.

According to PTONA President, “COVID-19 will not be gone in the next six months. We need to learn how to live alongside COVID-19 and apply all necessary measures.

“The longer the ban on inter-state travelling lasts, the more will be the number of small and big businesses that will die permanently. The earlier the ban is lifted, the sooner some businesses will be able to recover.”

The transporters stated that aside the billions of naira in losses inflicted so far, there would still be heavy challenges even after lifting the ban, because operators will need to first restore to sound motoring condition the buses grounded for months, reduce the number of passengers admitted on board when they re-start, as well as spend money on sanitation and health facilities.

They, however, warned of an imminent increase in fare given the fact that the vehicles would only take 50% of its built capacity to create physical distance inside, the buses.

Uhunmwagho said: “If a vehicle takes 50 percent of passengers, simple arithmetic will dictate that the transport fare will have to double. The airlines have already come up with a similar answer.

“The question is can the Nigerians, whose average level of income has been adversely hit by the effects of COVID-19, be able to pay significantly increased transport fares?”

Vanguard

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