NAJA Weighs in on the Controversial Auto Industry Bailout                                  


* Public road transporters claimed they have been sidelined

The Federal Government’s Covid-19 bailout seems to be creating tension.   While some industries have been seeking government’s bailout without success, the lucky ones are enmeshed in controversies over sharing formula and unnecessary delays in funds disbursement.

Even questions have been left unanswered on why the organised public road transporters was not involved in the disbursement of a certain bailout. It is gathered that the federal government released N10 billion Covid-19 bailout as intervention fund to operators in the nation’s auto industry which is expected to lift ailing companies and businesses. The fund seems to be shrouded in controversy.

Media intervention

Findings by the Nigeria Auto Journalists Association (NAJA) recently ascertained that the huge fund is, indeed, causing ripples. Some operators alleged that they were sidelined in the disbursement. The operators, it was learnt, who have 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 profits due to the 98-day lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the operators had expected they would deploy the palliative to beef up their business. But their hopes were dashed.
At present, they are yet to receive any such benefit. Thus, 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 prayed for the verification of two key issues as it concerns the fund.
PTONA asked the Minister to correct apparent confusion in treating the N10 billion Covid-19 palliative fund approved for road transporters as MSME Survival fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

The group also asked for immediate disbursement of the N10bn Covid-19 palliative fund to their members to prevent or collapse of interstate passenger transport companies in Nigeria.

According to PTONA, Efforts made to secure an appointment to pay a working visit to the Honourable Minister to discuss issues relating to the delay in disbursing the fund to road transporters was not granted.
The letter continued, “However, in your reply to our letter dated March 3, 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.

PTONA also insists that the N10 billion Covid-19 Fund approved by the federal government is totally different from an aspect of the N60 billion MSME Survival Fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, adding that “the N10 billion Covid-19 Palliative Fund was meant to assist road transporters to resuscitate their businesses that were on negative income throughout the 14 -week that the country was on complete lockdown for all interstate passenger movement due to Covid-19 Pandemic. Secondly, an aspect of the N60 billion MSME Survival Fund domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is a one-off grant designed to support vulnerable Micro Small and Medium Enterprises in meeting up their salary obligations under the Federal Government’s National Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP)”, PITONA added.

The association had earlier in 2020 estimated a loss of about N200 billion in revenue just in 10 weeks of the lockdown. A major operator who spoke under anonymity told our correspondent that when they approached the Federal Ministry the Transportation, they were directed to go and enquire from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. He said on getting to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment they were told that the money had been disbursed to Keke-Napep riders. transport body, Road Transport Interestingly, another transport group, 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 N10 billion palliative. We have not seen anything. The only money which some of our members got was the N30,000 MSME fund and not many people got the money,” Muhammed said.

Efforts made by NAJA to reach the Director of Press in the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Eric Ojiekwe, was fruitless. “Ojiekwe neither picked nor returned our call. Also a text message sent to him was not replied,” NAJA stated in a statement.

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