Members of Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA), have lamented the loss of about N200 billion following the 12-week ban on inter-state travels by the Federal Government.
Indeed, the Association also decried additional loss of about 400 human lives, and another 35 per cent recorded cases of now collapsed businesses due to the ban. President of PTONA, Isaac Uhunmwagho, who gave the figures at a press conference in Lagos, pleaded that the ban on inter- state transportation be lifted as soon as possible.
According to Uhunmwagho, the issue of ban on inter-state transportation is something that affects everyone, and called on the government to come to the aid of the transportation industry.
The President informed that PTONA had already written their plea for financial assistance and palliatives to the Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC), headed by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo.
He also appealed that government should ensure that Nigerians complied with the guidelines and protocols that will be introduced for long-distance travels, as well as abide by all other COVID-19 rules and regulation.
Explaining the negative effects of the lockdown, Uhunmwagho pointed out that “the longer the ban on inter-state travelling lasts, the more will be the number of small and big business that will die permanently,” adding that “the earlier the ban is lifted, some businesses will be able to recover.”
Warning that some operators will go bankrupt, the transporter equally advised government to extend financial support to the sector to forestall owners transferring the entire burden to the commuters, whose purchasing power has already dropped significantly on account of rising inflation and the effects of COVID-19.
Explaining further, he said the inability to continue paying salaries to staff has been the plight of many transporters, due to paucity of fund arising from the ban on inter-state travels.
He added that thousands of vehicles have been parked in the garages for almost three months, noting that the cost of restoration of these vehicles will run into be millions of naira.
“The reliability of many of these vehicles will not be the same anymore. Vehicles were never designed to be left idle, and even if they may re-start, numerous mechanical, electrical and system faults are bound to arise, including tyres, and the transport owners have very little funds left to meet with these challenges. Some transport owners who rented their premises may be unable to continue using some of such premises.
“In the post-COVID-19 operating conditions, vehicles are expected to carry approximately 50 per cent of passengers as well as spend money on additional sanitation and health facilities. If a vehicle takes 50 per cent 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? He asked.
Uhunmwagho, however, assured that PTONA is working closely with the Federal Ministries of Transportation, Works, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Nigeria Police, as well as state governments to improve public transport travels. PTONA members are the owners of the majority of public transport vehicles in Nigeria.