…most operators yet to get disbursement
Operators in the the Nigeria Auto Industry have queried the disbursement of the N10bn COVID-19 palliative
released by the federal government as intervention fund to cushion the impact of the coranavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
on their operations.
Investigations by the Nigeria Auto Journalists Association (NAJA) revealed that the fund which was expected to rescue ailing companies and firms as well as re-position the Sector has erupted ripples as some operators alleged that they were side-lined in the disbursement.
It was learnt that among the operators who had been asked to submit documents for verification were the interstate luxury bus operators under the aegis of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA).
NAJA learnt that having lost billions of naira due to the 98-day COVID-19 lockdown, they had expected they would deploy the Palliative to beef up their business but up till today they were yet to benefit.
In a letter dated March 28, 2021 addressed to the Honourable Minister of State for Transportation, Federal Ministry of Transportation and signed by the Deputy President, Emeka Mamah, the Group pleaded for the verification of two key issues as it concerns the fund.
First, PITONA pleaded to the Minister to correct the apparent confusion in treating the N10 Billion COVID-19 Palliative fund approved for road transporters as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
The Group also asked for immediate disbursement of the N10bn to their members to prevent imminent collapse of interstate passenger transport companies in Nigeria.
According to PITONA efforts made to secure an appointment to pay a working visit to the Honourable Minister to discuss issues relating to the inordinate delay in disbursing the fund to road transporters were fruitless as no appointment was granted.
“However, in your reply to our letter dated 3rd March, 2021 (a copy is attached) our request for the visit was neither approved nor rejected.
“On the contrary, you simply advised our Association to redirect its inquiry regarding the fund to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment since the intervention fund for the Transport Sector had been released to the Ministry by the federal government,” the Group stated in the letter.
Lamenting further, PITONA insisted that the N10bn COVID-19 Palliative approved by the federal government is totally different from an aspect of the N60bn MSME Survival Fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, adding that “the N10bn Palliative Fund was meant to assist road transporters to resuscitate their businesses
that were on negative income throughout the 14 weeks that the Country was on complete lockdown for all interstate passenger movement due to COVID-19 pandemic.”
On the other hand, an aspect of the N60bn MSME Survival Fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is a one-off grant designed to support vulnerable MSMEs in meeting up their salary obligations under the Federal Government’s National Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP),” PITONA added.
PITONA had earlier in 2020 estimated a loss of about N200bn in revenue just in 10 weeks of the lockdown.
A major operator who spoke under anonymity said that when they approached the Federal Ministry of Transportation, they were directed to go and enquire from the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment.
On getting to the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment, the source disclosed that they were told that the money had been disbursed to Keke-Napep riders.
In addition, another transport body, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) also claimed it has not benefited from the fund.
Confirming their position, the National President of RTEAN, Alhaji Musa Muhammed, said he was not aware of the fund.
“I am not aware of any N10bn Palliative. We have not seen anything. The only money which some of our members got was the N30, 000 each as MSME fund and not many people got the money,” he said.
Efforts made to reach the Director of Press in the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Eric Ojiekwe, proved abortive as he neither picked nor returned calls made to him and he also did not reply a text message sent to him.