The Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association have appealed to the Federal Government to lift the ban on interstate travel.
The bus owners cried out concerning the financial losses running in billions suffered by their members since the ban was incorporated as part of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The transporters said that aside the billions of naira in losses, there would still be heavy challenges even after lifting the ban, because operators will need to first restore to sound motoring condition the buses which has been parked for up to 4 months, reduce the number of passengers admitted on board when they re-start, as well as spend money on sanitation and health facilities.
They, therefore, called on the government to intervene with a special fund to enable them revive their businesses after the ban, even as they drew attention to the negative impact of the ban on the travelling public and the economy generally.
According to the National President of PTONA, Isaac Uhunmwagho, they had earlier forwarded a request in April through the office of Vice President and Chairman of the Presidential Economic Sustainability Committee on COVID-19 pandemic, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo for a N20 billion intervention fund.
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 much 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.”
They also warned of increase in fare since the vehicles would only take 50% of its built capacity to maintain physical distance inside the busses saying,
“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…?”