THE Transport Track, which was launched in December 2020 by the Federal Government as part of its Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) to cushion the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country is expected to provide a one-off grant of N30,000 to 4,505 qualified beneficiaries operating in the transport sector in the country. Though discordant tunes trail the process in some states, Daily Trust on Sunday tracks the beneficiaries of the one-off COVID-19 relief grant the Federal Government announced for transporters in Ogun State and reports. – From Peter MOSES, Abeokuta
A five-week lockdown imposed on Ogun, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja due to the outbreak of COVID-19 dealt huge blow on the economy of those states, especially the transport sector in 2020.
In a national broadcast on March 29, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the “cessation of all movements” for two weeks in the three states as part of moves to stop the spread of coronavirus.
After subsequent reviews of COVID-19 nationwide, the federal government extended the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states until it was finally eased on May 4.
And at the end of the lockdown, transporters began to count their losses. An indigenous public transport and infrastructure development company – Planet Project Limited, puts the loss at N3 trillion.
The company’s Managing Director/Chief Executive, Biodun Otunola, quoting the findings of a lockdown study on public transport his firm’s research unit conducted, said the transport sector’s loss “is mind-boggling” noting that “Nigeria has over 80 million people that use public transport on daily basis.”
The programme is under the National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Survival Fund and Guaranteed Off-Take Stimulus Scheme.
The Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Maryam Katagum in March this year (2021), said that as of January 17 this year, a total of 155,920 beneficiaries in the Transport Track had been approved for payment, while 9,109 pending cases were being processed for payment.
Tracking beneficiaries in Ogun
A total of 4,050 eligible self-employed public transport operators were marked as beneficiaries across 20 local government areas of Ogun State.
The State Commissioner for Transportation, Gbenga Dairo, told Daily Trust on Sunday that of the 4,050, about 70 per cent were captured and benefited from the scheme. The Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Riders Association of Nigeria, (ACOMORAN) confirmed this, saying 350 (70 percent) of 500 of its members that registered for the scheme got paid.
But the figures given by other transporters differ. While the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) said 40 per cent of its 700 members that registered for the scheme got paid, the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) said that 94 per cent, that is 470 out of 500 of its members that registered got paid.
Daily Trust on Sunday findings further showed that the slots were allocated to the various transport unions in the state, including the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN) among others.
In February, the leadership of the unions under the supervision of the State Ministry of Transportation conducted a data capturing exercise for all the beneficiaries of the N30,000 one-off grant in their various offices in Abeokuta, the state capital.
The State Chairman of NURTW, Mustapha Ismail Adewale, said “the grant would bring a big relief to our members. N30,000 is not a small amount of money. You will realise that some people are struggling to get N10,000 to start their petty trades. So, for our members, the N30,000 will bring great relief to their businesses.”
The State Secretary of RTEAN, Tiwalade Akingbade, explained that the union selected “the most vulnerable members and women” to benefit from the 500 slots allotted to the association.
Akingbade said “We are all transporters and we all felt the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown. But we tried as much as possible to locate and identify the most vulnerable among our members, that is the elderly, the women among us. That was the criteria we used in selecting the beneficiaries.”
More than 15 transporters interviewed across the sections of the state confirmed receipt of the payment through their banks between March and April this year. But 10 others who spoke with this reporter said they took part in the data capturing, but they are yet to receive the payment.
How we spent our grants – Transporters
A number of transporters across the state who confirmed receipt of the survival grant said they spent the fund on feeding, children’s school fees and repairs.
Alhaji Yaya Ajasa Makinde, a member of ACOMORAN in Abeokuta, said “it brought a huge relief to me because I used it to pay my children’s school fees, it came at the right time.”
In Sagamu, Adesiji Dabiri, who is a commercial driver and member of RTEAN, told this reporter that he used part of the money “to pay my children’s school fees, while I spent the balance on feeding.”
Miss Ibiyemi Titilayo, a receptionist at RTEAN office Abeokuta, confirmed to have benefited from the grant. Although she works with a transport union office, a receptionist does not fall under the category of beneficiaries.
She said “I received a credit alert of N30,000 from the federal government, I wasn’t expecting it. I could remember I bought some foodstuffs and sent some of the money to my younger siblings in school, so the money went a long way.”
In Ifo, a female transporter, Mrs Elizabeth Olufunke Aderibigbe, confirmed receipt of the grant as well as four of her “boys” who she helped in securing slots in the scheme.
“I benefitted from the COVID-19 fund, I received the alert. I was given about 4 or 5 slot, which I distributed to my subordinate and they all received their credit alerts. The money brought relief to us, at that time everybody knew things were hard, at least that money did something and we all appreciate it. Some people have not received the money, but all my boys received theirs,” Mrs Aderibigbe said.
Taiwo Isiak, who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday in Odogbolu, said “I have benefitted from the grant and I used the money to feed my family.”
In Ilaro, Adebiyi Sunday, a commercial driver, said “I spent the money on vehicle repairs because a number of us have been using old vehicles. I didn’t spend a dime on feeding, vehicle repairs took all the money.”
The State Chairman of NURTW equally hinted that a number of the beneficiaries have started small scale businesses with the grants.
“During the Ileya festival when I hosted my members, some of the beneficiaries who went into the sale of the sachet (pure) water were the ones who supplied me with pure water. They used the money to establish small-scale businesses. Many used it for their children’s school fees. We appreciate the Federal Government and we are still expecting more,” Adewale said.
Clashing biodata, bank details: Hundreds awaiting payment
Findings by our correspondent corroborated by the oral evidence of the union leaders revealed that a number of those who are yet to receive the payment submitted conflicting personal data or used their colleagues’ bank details.
Sesan Tanimowo, a unit leader of ACOMORAN in Odogbolu, Ogun East Senatorial District, said he filled the form and underwent data capturing but “has not been paid up till this moment.”
When asked why he has not been paid, Tanimowo responded “I don’t know.”
Like Tanimowo, another transporter in Abeokuta, the state capital, Nurudeen Adebayo Owowole, said “I have not benefited from the COVID-19 survival fund. I have not received the alert but some of my friends who were shortlisted through my influence have benefitted, they’ve received the alert of the payment but I am yet to.”
Adewale told Daily Trust on Sunday that out of the 700 beneficiaries who are NURTW members, only 40 per cent of them have been paid.
Akingbade said out of 500 beneficiaries in RTEAN, over 470 transporters have been paid, leaving about 30 behind.
Kayode Showunmi, the State ACOMORAN chairman, said “In my view, I believe it may be a network challenge from some of the banks. Also, some of the beneficiaries filled out wrong account details and while cross checking it did not tally with their personal data. A number of them filled out their colleagues’ bank details. All these may create issues,” Adewale told this reporter.
Any hope for ‘unpaid’ transporters?
The Ogun State Commissioner for Transportation, Gbenga Dairo, in a terse statement made available to our correspondent via WhatsApp, confirmed that “out of 4,050 eligible transport operators spread across 20LGs in the state, 70 per cent were captured and benefited from the scheme.”
He, however, failed to respond to questions on the fate of those marked as beneficiaries, but are yet to be paid.
When contacted, the State Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs Kikelomo Longe, asked the reporter to route his questions through the press officers in the ministry. The reporter sent the list of questions as requested, but for over a week, until the time of filing this report, there was no response from the ministry.
The State Chairman of NURTW, however, expressed hope that the outstanding beneficiaries would get the payment.
“Our headquarters have demanded for the list of the people who are yet to receive. We have already sent the list to them. I am very sure that those who are yet to receive it will get it.”