By Timothy AGBOR
Scores of transport workers in Osun State are yet to benefit from the Transport Track of the Transport and Artisans scheme under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Survival Fund that was launched by the Federal Government in 2020, The ICIR reports.
THE scheme was part of the Federal Government’s Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) to cushion the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country. The Transport Track is targeted at 4,505 beneficiaries in each state across the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and is expected to provide a one-off grant of N30,000 each to qualified individuals operating in the transport sector.
These include taxi, bus drivers, tri-cycle, motorcycle (Okada) riders and cart pushers. According to the Federal Government, nearly N5 billion has been allocated for the scheme.
Mr Yinusa Abdulrosheed, a commercial motorcyclist at Capital Junction, Osogbo, the N30,000 survival fund would have gone a long way in establishing his unemployed wife, if he had gotten it.
Abdulrosheed, who has been a motorcyclist for over five years, said he was not aware of the fund and therefore did not receive it.
The father of three said it was not easy fending for his family during the lockdown.
“It was very tough for me,” he said, “I had to risk my life working in the dead of the night just to be able to provide food for my family. It was more terrible because my wife was not employed”.
Before the pandemic, Abdulrosheed had been trying to save up to start a business for his wife. So, benefiting from the N30,000 grant, “would have gone a long way in making my wife to start a business of her own” he stated.
He said his family would have starved, but for the policemen who often asked him to take them to their duty post at night.
“I should not be working but I needed to do something to be able to put food on the table for my family. Instead of giving me N500 as my fare, the Policemen pay me N200, and I can’t reject it because if I do, they can even stop me from operating or even arrest me for flouting the lockdown order. So, it was really a tough situation.”
He added that the motorcyclists at capital junction are yet to get the N30,000 grant.
Investigation conducted across the three senatorial districts in the state; Osun Central, Osun West and Osun East, shows a similar pattern – the transporters and their leaders were generally not aware of the survival fund.
Transport workers and officials in Osun State, including bus drivers, Okada riders, minibus (Korope) drivers and Keke NAPEP riders who spoke with this reporter said they were yet to benefit from the grant. Some of those interviewed alleged foul play in the distribution as information on registration, selection processes, among others, were shrouded in secrecy.
It was gathered that certain number of beneficiaries were requested from some officials of transport unions in the state and that the lists sent to the Federal Ministry of Transportation by the affected unions were what the government considered in determining beneficiaries.
Privileged leaders of some transport unions were said to have selected some members to benefit from the scheme, thus shutting out majority of transport workers. The few beneficiaries in the state were said to have received their grant through the bank after their account details and names had been obtained.
Corroborating these findings, the State Secretary of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Comrade Morounkade Jelili, told the reporter that there was no registration of members for the scheme and that the Federal Ministry of Transportation requested for a specific number of beneficiaries.
He said the union collated the list of selected beneficiaries and their account details and sent them to the ministry. He however declined to disclose the number of the beneficiaries sent.
While speaking at the Union’s State Secretariat, Sadiat area, Osogbo, Osun Senatorial District, claimed that although his name was among the list that was sent, he was yet to receive the grant as of July 24.
The union official argued that about 50 percent of the list had been paid and that others were still expecting their payments.
“Some people have benefited from this Survival Fund. The Federal Government has done its best on the programme but we have a lot of people that are yet to benefit.”
“I am yet to benefit despite that I am the one handling for NURTW in Osun. But some transporters known to me have benefited,” he said.
Jelili could not state the number of those who benefitted as not everyone on the list they sent has received.
“Some people just received the alert of their payment about a month ago. It is being paid batch by batch and it’s very difficult for us to collate the total number of those that have received the fund. There are some people that collected that grant that failed to inform us. We are even the ones making phone calls to ask them if they have received it and this is not supposed to be,” Jelili said.
The Deputy Chairman of NURTW, Olorunda Unit II, Oke-Fia, Osogbo, Mr Michael Adebayo, said that he was not aware of the grant neither did he benefit. He said the state executive of the union was in the best position to tell our reporter details about the grant.
The Chairman of Nigeria Association of Cooperative Transporters (NACT) in Osun State, Alhaji Asimiyu Adesina, also said that he was yet to receive the grant. Adesina, the leader of the blue coloured minibus (Korope) drivers in the state, also said his members were yet to benefit from the grant.
This was corroborated by the association’s National Secretary in Osogbo, Mr Tunde Ilugbaju, who explained that the members filled the forms, which were submitted to the National Secretariat of NACT in Abuja, but nothing is yet to come out of it.
For Mr Gbenga Abiodun, who has been an Okada rider for over four years in Osogbo said he was aware of the support fund, but he did not benefit from it.
Abiodun who spoke in Yoruba said the knowledge made it even more painful, he is however still hopeful.
Another Okada operator who did not receive the grant believes that ‘connection’ might have been a factor. Mr Jonathan Okechukwu, a father of three, said “I didn’t get the grant. I was aware of it though. There are three Okada riders that told me they got the grant in Osogbo. I didn’t know how they did it because in the unit I belong at Ogo-Oluwa, nobody came to us. Maybe those who were lucky have connections. I am suspecting that some politicians assisted them. I will be happy if I can get too”
The Chairman of Motorcycle Transport Union of Nigeria, GTB Ogo-Oluwa Unit, Osogbo, Mr Sunday Olusayo, said some people came and registered some of his members purportedly for the grant but none has received anything. He urged the Federal Government to ensure that the grant reached Okada riders in his unit.
Keke NAPEP riders in Osogbo also said they didn’t benefit from the scheme. The chairman of Oke-Baale-Ona Babaona unit, Mr Mukaila Adegoke said they were not aware of the grant and that none of his members received the money.
The story was the same In Ikirun, Osun Central Senatorial District, as Okada riders and bus drivers interviewed claimed they did not benefit from the grant.
An Okada rider, Balogun Wasiu, said, “I am not aware of this thing you are talking about, and I haven’t received anything from neither the government nor my association.”
The Deputy Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Ile-Ife, Osun East Senatorial District, Mr Olayiwola Buhari, said neither himself nor any of his members received the grant. Buhari, who has been a commercial bus driver plying Ilesa -Ife for over 27 years, said the scheme was shrouded in secrecy and that none of the over 2,000 members of the union in Ile-Ife benefited from the scheme.
“I want to tell you categorically that neither myself nor any of our members in Ile-Ife NURTW, benefited from this grant. I have been in this transportation business since over 27 years now and there is nothing that comes into the union that I am not aware of; for this grant, we did not get anything,” Buhari stated.
Also speaking in the same vein when our reporter visited Ilesa garage in Ile-Ife, the Assistant Treasurer of NURTW, Akure Unit of the park, Mr Laja Babatunde, claimed that he did not get the grant. He also confirmed that none of the transporters in the unit did. Although, Babatunde claimed he heard of the grant for transport workers over the news, he was yet to benefit from it.
Mr Kayode Ogunkunle, the Chairman of Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN) in Mayfair area of Ile-Ife, disclosed that none of his members received the grant.
Ogunkunle, who spoke in Yoruba language, amid his colleagues, said, “Neither myself nor any of my members was aware that such a grant was being distributed. If the government is sincere about helping us with grants, it should go to each unit and zones. All members should write their names and their account details, and the money would be paid there. But once the government gives the money to anyone to give to us, it should be sure that it would not get to the targeted people.”
In Ilesa, Osun East Senatorial District, transporters at Odo-Iro NURTW park said they did not receive the grant. While some said they were aware of the scheme, others were not.
The Treasurer of Nigeria Association of Cooperative Transporters (NACT) in Ede, Osun West Senatorial District, Mr Ahmed Olayode, said the union was yet to receive the grant.
“If there is any grant, myself as one of the leaders of the union should have received before other members. For now, we have not received a Kobo from the Federal Government. Maybe they have been giving other unions, I can’t say, but for my own union. My union covers about 15 local government areas in Osun state alone and our number is overwhelming. For Ede-Osogbo garage alone, we are up to 50. We are in Modakeke, Iwo, Ilesa, Osogbo and so on. I know everything about the union and if any member was to get, I will be aware.”
“We were aware of the grant, and we filled the form. But, till date, we are yet to get anything. Since the Federal Government had announced that they are going to offer this financial grant to us, they should have ensured that it was done and made it general. We know that the grant may not go round but, at least, the leaders of various unions must be aware. The Government should channel it to appropriate quarters. Others might have gotten, but for us, we are yet to receive anything. The forms we filled we were sent to Abuja, but we are yet to receive anything,” he said.
When contacted, the Ministry of Works and Transportation in Osun State, said it was not involved in the survival grant for transporters. Speaking, the Special Adviser to the State Governor on Works and Transportation, Engr Toke Olaniyan, said the ministry was not involved in the scheme. But Olaniyan referred this reporter to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Cooperatives and Empowerment.
However, contrary to the two other officials, the Director of Commerce and Investment Promotion of this ministry, who doubles as Focal Point Person for the Survival Fund, Mrs Falode Ajibola, confirmed that the state was carried along in the scheme.
Falode said leadership of NURTW, National Commercial Tricycle & Motorcycle Owners & Riders (NACTOMORAS), RETEAN, ACOMORAN, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and others compiled some names totaling 4,850 and forwarded them to the ministry.
“When we got the list in January, this year, we forwarded it to the Project Development Office (PDO) of the Vice President in Abuja where enumeration of the transporters in the list was done at the separate secretariats of the unions. Some of the beneficiaries were paid two months after the compilation of their names but I can’t tell you specifically those who collected and those who did not because PDO didn’t tell us those they paid and those they did not,” she said.
* This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.