The Chairman, Board of Directors of the Institute of Road Transport Workers, Chief Adewale Adeyemi, in this interview with Kayode Fasua, reveals how the institute intends to transform the lives of commercial drivers through some welfare schemes. Excerpts:
What is the micro-bus empowerment scheme all about?
The Micro-Bus Empowerment Scheme (MES) is a project devised by the Institute of Road Transport Workers (IRTW), as a training-incentive package of diverse economic and social benefits for the personnel of the road transport profession in Nigeria. By design, the scheme is a device by which the Institute attracts mass patronage among the large population of practising and prospective road transport practitioners, in its bid to revolutionise the sector, through the filling of the knowledge vacuum that traditionally characterise and plague the sub-sector and the Nigerian nation in general. On the whole, the scheme integrates multiple platforms by which multitudes of Nigerian road transporters, biometrically registered as its beneficiaries, can access credit purchase of buses and housing units as well as gain access to health and life assurance benefits, while undergoing compulsory on-the-job training at the Institute of Road Transport Workers. Meanwhile, the status of the official bankers to the project is a major status that seeks to confer Sterling Bank and lately Jaiz Bank, with partnership involvement in the project. In essence, the banks hereby proposed are co-promoters of the scheme, alongside the Institute of Road Transport Workers and respective state governments of varied states of implementation.
In general terms, what is the vision of the IRTW?
We are a company incorporated as a platform of human capacity development and reorientation in the Nigerian road transport sub-sector. Our mission is to empower road transporters with knowledge and social benefits, in a bid to enhance safety, productivity, peace and social security in Nigeria, through human capacity development, social investment and advocacy. In the same vein, in terms of mission, we aspire to become the engine-room of public-private partnership on the reform of the human resources and environment of road transport in Nigeria.
But how justified is your new project, in view of the plethora of similar initiatives in the past?
The conception and establishment of the institute is premised on the need to rescue the road transport sub-sector from the infamous status of being a dumping ground for social dropouts and miscreants, which has been responsible for persistent, high rate of avoidable road accidents, lawlessness and other criminal acts in Nigeria.
For your information, our pilot operational network covers six states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Delta, Imo and Kano States, being our initial centres of operations, coordinated from our temporary headquarters in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Kindly shed light on the micro-bus empowerment scheme
The MES is a public-private partnership project designed to innovatively improve sanity, security and safety on Nigerian roads and in the society generally, through tactical introduction and sustenance of knowledge-based reform of road transport personnel, using a multiple inducement strategy.
Simply put, the scheme is an all-encompassing package of social and economic benefits, aimed at developing and sustaining knowledge acquisition, professional efficiency and life-benefit programmes for road transport practitioners in Nigeria. Under the scheme, every beneficiary undergoes a comprehensive medical check, driving training/recertification course, and then biometric registration, to qualify for credit acquisition and operation of a unit of micro buses, while undergoing a mandatory on-the-job training at the Institute of Road Transport Workers.
In addition, he or she is entitled to benefitting from the micro-bus empowerment scheme’s Home Ownership Programme, health insurance programme and life assurance programme.
What is the micro-bus going to look like?
It is a seven-passenger bus type, mostly produced by Suzuki and popularly referred to as Korope in the South-West of Nigeria. It is a specially branded vehicle that wears the official white and brown colour and logo of the Institute of Road Transport Workers. And it is an owner-operated commercial vehicle. The micro-buses would be procured through periodic supplies by accredited suppliers, based on orders duly issued by the Institute.
Why have you classified your project as a social security initiative and not necessarily a private business concern?
The most fundamental rational for the conception and introduction of the scheme lies in the urgent need for some concerted and dynamic efforts at rescuing the Nigerian populace from the claws of psychological and physical insecurity, largely caused by the degeneration of the road transport sub-sector, which has now lapsed into a vast refuse where ‘social wastes’ of the nation get freely dumped.
At the economic front, there is the need for a revolutionary risk-reducing strategy of wooing some significant fraction of the sprawling populace of the Nigerian road transport operators from their characteristic informal domain to the formal segment of the economy. This necessity becomes the more compelling in view of the potential monumental expansionary benefits its success holds for the economy, particularly the banking sector.
What is your operational module like?
Well, targeted beneficiaries, mobilised by the institute, are biometrically registered and subjected to preliminary driving training or recertification cum medical checks to qualify for credit purchase of units of the micro buses; mandatory module-based, on-the-job training that entails a once-a-week lecture; coverage by the MES Health Insurance Programme; acquisition of a two-bedroom apartment housing unit under the MES mortgaged home ownership programme, and then, participants are to benefits under the MES Pension Scheme.
How do you intend to regulate bus acquisition cum repayment system, to avert defaulting?
The purchase of units of buses by beneficiaries of the Micro-Bus Empowerment Scheme is planned to take some formats aimed at ensuring that nothing goes amiss. One, we’ll form Micro-Bus Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria (MOOAN). Under it, all prospective beneficiaries, mobilised and registered by the institute, are enlisted as members of the MOOAN, being an organisation specially formed by the Institute of Road Transport Workers as a platform of group identification and cooperation among the beneficiaries of the scheme. Then we will constitute the MOOAN units into cooperative societies.
The unit level of the Micro-Bus Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria is projected as the engine-room of multiple cooperative societies. Each cooperative society to emerge from the hierarchy of MOOAN, being a duly registered platform, and it is projected as the channel of bank borrowing for each of its members. Again, each individual beneficiary will make an equity contribution of a minimum of N100, 000 through his or her project account with our banker. While a bus costs an average of N850, 000 for instance, the balance of N750, 000 would be paid to the bank, through daily e-payment to the MOOAN levy collection agents. Credit facility guarantee is also projected to take the forms of group and cross membership guarantee. The Group Guarantee will entail indemnity undertaking by the MOOAN, at the unit level; while the Cross Membership Guarantee, on the other hand, will imply that two other members of a sponsoring MOOAN unit shall stand as sureties for every beneficiary member under a non-exclusionary arrangement.
By non-exclusionary arrangement, I mean that no individual member guarantor of the Micro-Bus Empowerment Scheme’s credit is projected for credit prohibition, as long as he or she is able to secure two other member guarantors from within the same unit of the association. It is projected that each beneficiary would be availed with a moratorium period of one month by the project Bankers, in-between the date of bus collection and the commencement of instalment repayment. During the moratorium period, every beneficiary would be mandated to deposit a minimum of N30, 000 into his or her project account. It is projected that the moratorium savings would serve as advance cash reserve for regular repayment in instalments, at the end of the moratorium. Then, it is projected that every beneficiary will be allowed a period of 16 months, including one-month moratorium period.
What is your repayment mode?
The repayment mode will be through direct electronic payment by every beneficiary. The receiving accounts will be the various corporate accounts of MOOAN units with our respective banks. A daily mandatory debt repayment levy of N2, 500 will be paid by each beneficiary. Again, compulsorily, the means of payment will be a credit card issued by our banker, in connection with every beneficiary’s project account. The collection agents are unit officials of MOOAN who would be specially trained for effective performance.