May 12, 2021

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COVID-19 PALLIATIVE: Transport Ministry Ready to Disburse N10bn, Aviation Ministry Still in Limbo

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The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki, has announced that the ministry does not want any iota of delay in the disbursement of the N10billion earmarked as palliative for road transport operators and their workers.

To that end, she said the Ministry of Transportation had constituted a committee to draw up guidelines for the disbursement of the Federal Government’s N10billion palliative.

She said members of the committee were drawn from the Ministry of Transportation and all other relevant stakeholders in the transportation sector.

The Minister of State for Transportation, said this in a statement by Eric Ojiekwe, Director of Press and Public Relations of the ministry over the weekend, in Abuja.

Saraki made this known while receiving on a courtesy visit to her office, in Abuja, the immediate past National President and the incumbent National President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Alani Najumdeen Yasin, and Prof. Tajudeen Lawal.

She urged the unions to close ranks and work assiduously towards having one recognized national body that the Ministry could deal with for proper and speedy disbursement of the fund meant to redeem some of the losses suffered during the total locked-down occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The minister emphasized that it is very important to avoid delay in disbursing the fund, as procrastination might undermine the intent and purposes of the palliative to that critical sector of the national economy.

She congratulated the new President of NURTW for his election, noting that the task before the new executive council members was daunting but not insurmountable and urged him to continue to steer the union’s affairs in the right direction and for the greatest good of the greatest number of members and the general public which the union serves.

Saraki commended the leadership and the entire members of NURTW for their perseverance during the lockdown as their livelihood was disrupted by safety protocols put in place by the government to curb the spread of the pandemic.

She appreciated the fact that the sector had continued to thrive through sheer efforts on the part of members.
She added that the government was now positioned to improving the conditions of service as over 90 per cent of Nigerians travelled by road.

Earlier, the former NURTW President, Yasin, said the purpose of their visit was to officially present the new National President of the Union to the Minister.

He urged the minister to disregard the numerous associations posing as representatives of road transport workers and operators.

He said that the NURTW, which had existed for 21 years was the only recognized representative of road transport workers and the Ministry should do well to exclusively work with it.

The new President of the union, Prof. Tajudeen Lawal, while thanking the Minister of State for granting them audience, said NURTW members suffered directly and indirectly during the pandemic and prayed that the Ministry concede a larger portion of the palliative to his members.

AIR TRANSPORT PALLIATIVE

In the same vein, the air transport arm which is superintendent over by the Ministry of Aviation has been economical on information regarding the modus operandi for the disbursement of yet to be confirmed sum of N27billion rumored as earmarked for palliative to the broad spectrum of operators in aviation, that suffered over 90 percent of losses at the heat of the lockdown

Among other numerous people and corporate organizations that had added their voices to the issue of modality for achieving equitable distribution of the paltry sum purportedly earmarked for the disbursement of the stimulus, was the President Saber West Africa, Dr. Gabriel Gbenga Olowo.

A renown economist and a distinguished aviation manager who also is the President of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, ASRTI. Dr. Olugbenga Olowo, in an abridged submission, noted that $58.7 million dollars touted as stimulus, “is a paltry sum to cushion total negative effect of Covid-19 in Q2 & Q3 2020 only, and may not sufficiently address Airlines & Its Allies loss of business”

Dr. Olowo, suggested seven critical project elements the much needed palliative must address if at least, a modicum of impact on the industry is expected from the palliative to be disbursed.

He posited that the tenor of the facility to any beneficiary should be for twelve months while the seven project element the fund should be utilized for he chronicled thus:

  • Extend grant support including payroll to the aviation industry including airlines, handlers, caterers and related services.
  • Provision of single digit soft loans, with long term repayment plans.
  • Deferred payment of taxes and filing dates.
  • Ensure the removal of value added tax, VAT, from airline tickets as approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC.
  • Provisions of COVID-19 test for all passengers and crew.
  • Waiver of airport rent fee to airport operators for the duration of the lockdown plus one month.
  • Begin processing for the establishment of a private sector-driven national carrier, which will create activities in the wider economy for suppliers, importers, exporters and manufacturers.   

According to the case note, Olowo averred that the gesture would save existing organizations in the aviation industry and jobs through a targeted stimulus package. The gesture if diligently implemented he opined that it would strengthen the aviation sector so that it survives. And creates job opportunities and support and create general economic activity including transport logistics.

Olowo reiterated that ALL the seven project elements are KEY to a robust Aviation sector in Nigeria. He however added a caveat that, individual projects ( not Covid-19 related) should attract special focus and special funding.

He warned that, industry needs must be equitably prioritized and for a proper assessment of would be beneficiaries he suggested that, a ministerial committee on appropriation should be guided by monthly loss of business by stakeholders evidenced by tax payments during same period during 2019.

Dr. Gabriel Olowo added another caution that in view of the paltry sum for the stimulus, project elements should not be ambiguous but clearly defined.

“THE URGENCY OF N0W”

The Vice President, VP, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had early in the week declared that, the economic distortions and hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic required the relevant ministers and stakeholders to expedite action on the plan adopted to mitigate the effect of the crisis on the economy

He made the statement at the First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat, a forum for Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, while delivering his key note address titled “The Urgency of Now”, where he appraised the Economic Sustainability Plan of the federal government.

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo

The VP noted that more than 60 days had passed since the stimulus packaged was decided, and lamented that, “Nothing is going to happen by magic, we have to simply do this stuff. We got to ensure that we have the money and ensure that day by day, we are measuring our achievements and trying to ensure that we do the things that we need to do. And we simply are not favoured by time, every single day the poverty situation and the economic distortions deepen

Speaking further about the importance of implementing a stimulus plan, the Vice President said there was no other way of correcting the distortions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said, “I think that if we are able to implement this faithfully, if we are able to ensure that we bring in the resources, then we certainly will be able to turn around, the economic fortunes of Nigeria.

“The truth is that, if you look at stimulus packages all over the world, what has happened is that, in many economies that have been able to lessen the impact of COVID-19, the funds have been provided and they have been provided at great pains”, Prof. Osinbajo declared

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