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Road transport companies call for special govt intervention, regular consultations on the economy

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Constrained by the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its operations and the larger economy, the Association of Private Transport Companies of Nigeria (APTCON) has called on the Buhari-led administration to consider a special stimulus plan for the nation’s transport sector.

It also demanded the inclusion of its members in the several arrangements being made to return normalcy to the road transport sector.

Arguing that road transport companies had borne the greatest pain of the nation-wide lockdown, Mr Audu Gaddo, spokesman of the association, said on Sunday that its members had suffered huge revenue losses and faced imminent job cuts in the wake of a month-long lockdown of Nigeria’s transport space, and a further revelation by the Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi, that federal authorities had unanimously resolved to implement an additional 14-day inter-state lockdown.

Gaddo, in the press statement titled, “Save Nigeria’s Road Transport Sector”, said that government intervention had become necessary because road transport companies, in furtherance of government’s effort at containing the pandemic, will be forced to carry less passengers without significant increases in fares, in addition to other unavoidable operating costs.

He noted that, as one of the nation’s highest employers of labour, the challenges confronting APTCON were compounded by the fact that members were still obligated to meet their commitments to government by way of payment of taxes and levies, even in the face of enormous sacrifices already being made.

Gaddo, therefore, called on the Buhari administration to, among others, urgently consider a regime of tax waivers, access to cheap funds, and special grants to assist the sector return to meaningful operations and overcome the fear of massive layoffs.

He also urged the government to be deliberate and strategic in forging a united response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the organised road transport companies made an integral part of the stakeholder team, and regularly consulted on the way forward.

The statement quoted him as saying:

“Our industry has come off worse as Nigeria battles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are forced to do less than our regular capacity as part of COVID-19 protocols, making it difficult to generate enough revenue.

“Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in our employ risk job losses with its attendant implications for societal wellbeing.

“We call on the Nigerian government and its agencies to urgently consider implementing tax waivers, access to cheap funds and special grants for APTCON members to assist us overcome the economic meltdown triggered by COVID-19 pandemic.

“To do otherwise will amount to throwing the sector into unfathomable crisis, the result of which may radically alter the sector’s growing contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”

Gaddo argued that, of the about 2% transport sector’s total contribution to GDP, road transportation had more than a 90% share and, therefore, deserved a greater look-in than the aviation sector that had enjoyed more interventions without commensurate returns to the economy.

Notable road transport companies, among others, that dominate the country’s transportation landscape include God Is Good Motors (GIGM), GUO Transport, The Young Shall Grow Motors, ABC Transport, Chisco Transport, EFEX, Peace Mass Transit, Edegbe Motors, Benue Links and Rivers Transport Company.

APTCON’s statement was addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr Sunday Dare; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige and Central Bank Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele.

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Gaddo further said: “It is over one month since the Nigerian government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, ordered a partial lockdown of the country following the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning with Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“The shutdown of the economy has since affected other federating units, practically bringing the movement of persons, goods and services to a halt.

“The transport sector, particularly the road segment which holds more than 90% of the about 2% contribution to GDP, has come off worse, with concerns raised over massive job losses.

“We commend Federal Government’s planned intervention through a N50bn Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Targeted Credit Facility but consider it not far reaching to reposition a very battered road transport sector.

“Being the sector that has experienced the worst form of disruptions, APTCON urgently calls on the Nigerian government to structure an immediate economic intervention plan for the road transport sector, a major driver of the economy and employer of labour.

“We are convinced that, by so doing, Nigerian citizens can more quickly restart their businesses and reunite with loved ones across distant territories through a mode that has been adjudged the largest and cheapest carrier.

“APTCON wishes to reassure Nigerians and the President Buhari-led administration of its unequivocal commitment to helping rebuild the nation’s troubled economy.”

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