Passengers travelling by road should brace up to pay higher fares as transport fares following the lifting of the ban on interstate travels by President Muhammadu Buhari last Monday in the federal government’s response to check the rising number of coronavirus infections in the country.
Speaking with BusinessDay hours after the pronouncement by the federal government, Val Uduebor, public relations officer of Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA) and managing director Famous Motors said the piece of good news is a welcome development that will enable its members return to business while observing all Covid-19 related healthy and safety guidelines a set out by the federal government.
Recall that about two weeks ago, PTONA members called on the federal government to open the road for interstate travels to save its members from the huge loss it has incurred following the ban on interstate travels.
An analysis of the statistics of permanent losses due to the ban on commercial transportation made available to BusinessDay by Isaac Uhunmwagho, president of PTONA a result of the government ban on interstate travels shows that for the first four, eight and 12 weeks, there was estimated loss of N50 billion, N120 billion and N200 billion respectively loss to the national gross domestic product as a result of the ban.
To cushion the effects of the Covid-19 affliction upon their return to the roads, PTONA wrote to plead for financial assistance and palliatives to the Economic Sustainability Committee headed by vice president Yemi Osibanjo.
PTONA asked the government should face the challenge of ensuring that Nigerians comply with the guidelines and protocols which will be introduced for long-distance travels, as well as encourage strict adherence to every guidelines as contained in the Covid-19 rules and regulations.
Asked if there will be an increment in transport charges by the operators, Val Uduebor said, his association can only increase charges when the carrying capacity is reduced to 60 percent in observance of social distancing principles without any palliative extended to them by the federal government.
The PTONA image maker explained that operations in the first few days and weeks by PTONA may be on a skeletal scale in readiness to full operations while a number of operational protocols and safety guidelines that will be put in place will be followed religiously.
He disclosed that part of the reasons for the planned skeletal return to business is to enable its member company’s time to service the vehicles in its fleet that has been parked for many months which have undergone wear and tear.