Long distance road transport owners and operators across the country have made a case for members’ inclusion among the beneficiaries of the N100 billion to be invested by the federal government in the roll-out of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses between now and March 2024.
They made the submission recently under the aegis of the Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria (ALBON) when the members of the executive paid a visit to the Minister of Transportation, Senator Sa’idu Ahmed Alkali in his office in Abuja.
The ALBON executive was led to the Minister’s office by the President, Mr Nonso Ubajaka, where the visitors used the opportunity to congratulate the minister on his recent appointment and assumption of office.
Other ALBON executive members that met with the minister included the 1st Vice President Prince Samuel Ezeh; 2nd Vice President, Mr Egwim Obiora G; Honourable Secretary, Mr Frank Nneji (OON); former President, Sir Dan Okemuo; Treasurer, Engr. Chijoke Ojukwu; and the Executive Secretary, Ralph Eke.
The bus owners requested that the association’s members that run long distance passenger transportation in the country be favourably considered in the implementation of the 100 billion mass transit programme – an initiative of the present administration aimed at procuring buses that run on auto gas.
The executive members further appealed to the minister that in whatever form the government will implement the programne; whether by way of allocation of the CNG buses or grant of soft loans, that ALBON members who operate long distance mass transit buses, should be beneficiaries.
The visitors also urged the ministry not to focus only on intra-city mass transit, but to also accommodate long distance transporters whio incur higher costs and face more challenges in their daily operations across the country.
Welcoming the delegation, the Minister of Transportation,Senator Alkali, lauded the important roles the ALBON members have been playing in the road transport industry in the country and the economy generally.
Responding to the road transporters’ request, Senator Alkali promised he would discuss with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation ( SGF) on the issue raised and revert to them.
Earlier while receiving the ALBON team in her office, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, had disclosed that upon the receipt of their letter to participate in the N100b Mass Transit Programme, the ministry had decided to invite them to a meeting to discuss the issue further.
This, she explained, was with a view to knowing other areas ALBON as an organisation could collaborate with the ministry to make the road transport industry better.
The transport owners had in response thanked the Permanent Secretary for the meeting, stating that ALBON is a leading organisation in the road transport industry that has been in existence for nearly 40 years now.
It was formerly called LUBAN, later NLBOA, but later merged in 2005 to be called ALBON. With the Permanent Secretary at the meeting were the Director of Road & Mass Transit and other officials of the ministry.
The ALBON executive further recalled that following the fuel subsidy removal, the President had announced in a broadcast the provision of N100b mass transit fund to procure CNG buses as part of efforts to cushion the effects and help in reducing transport costs for both the transporters and the masses.
They argued that in view of the fact that the effects of fuel subsidy removal are felt by both the urban mass transit operators and the long distance transporters, the ministry should not focus attention only on the former, but also on the long distance transportation where ALBON is the leading organisation.
The ALBON leaders also drew attention to the fact that diesel, which accounts for the costliest daily input in their operations, is now about N1000 per litre.
According to them,this is a major indication that, “Both the urban mass transit and long distance operators bear the same burden occasioned by subsidy withdrawal, and therefore, have the same target of addressing the transportation needs of the masses of this country.”
Responding, the Permanent Secretary explained that an agency of the Federal Government, and not the Ministry of Transportation, is charged with the responsibility of handling the N100 billion mass transit fund.
On the issue of reducing the cost of running their buses, she disclosed that the ministry now encourages vehicles to operate with dual fuel tanks for both petrol/diesel and gas.
To this end, Dr. Ajani remarked, the Federal Government had initiated the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP) that is driving the conversion of the fuel systems of vehicles currently running on petrol or diesel, to be powered by CNG at a minimum cost of about 500,000 per vehicle.
Promising to link ALBON with NGEP, she affirmed that CNG is the future in terms of considerably reducing the cost of running their buses and maintaining a clean environment, even as she informed her guests that Dangote had already converted at least 10, 000 of its trucks to CNG.