By Stephen Olufemi Oni, Ilorin
The Kwara state chapter of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) and its National Union Road Transport Workers (NURTW) counterpart have debunked claims by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the 50 mini-buses recently disbursed to their members by Self-Reliance Economic Advancement Programme (SEAP) through the state government were unserviceable and a scam.
The PDP in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Prince Tunji Moronfoye, had described the scheme as “another state-backed scam in the long line of scamming schemes by the Kwara state APC regime. A close inspection of this Trojan horse exposed the fact that the much touted ‘serviceable vehicles were junkyard vehicles hastily assembled to be sold at a price of N3.7m to unsuspecting innocent transporters.”
Reacting in a joint statement signed by the two transport unions’ Chairmen, Abdulrazak Ariwoola (NURTW) and Abdulrahman Onikijipa (RTREAN) on Monday, the transport unions countered PDP’s claim, stating that all the 50 mini-buses were thoroughly inspected by the Unions’ leaders and were certified to be in good condition, wondering how “saboteurs and blackmailers crept in to paint a negative picture of the Kwara state government’s genuine and noble gesture”.
The unions said they bought the vehicles and supervised their conversion for use by their members, adding that the cost is mutually agreed because of the unique Suzuki brand they opted for on their own.
“The transporters made a passionate request to the Governor for 25 mini buses per union via a letter dated 25th August 2021. This came shortly after a sister Union TOAN had the opportunity of getting 100 tricycles. We, therefore, approached SEAP that gave the facility to TOAN to do same for NURTW and RTEAN that requested for 25 buses each to make 50 in all.
“Part of the conditions precedent to draw down were equity participation, guarantee and other charges. We paid all and even offered a buy-back guarantee through a business entity.
“As at the time of negotiation in December 2021, each bus was N2m. We, the transporters, insisted on Suzuki Carry 1.3 model. There are about five or more brands of the Suzuki mini bus but we insisted on Suzuki Carry 1.3 model. It is what we wanted that the state government guaranteed for us through SEAP.
“As at June 2022 when all processes had been completed, the price of the vehicle had gone up as high as N2.5m. We bore sundry costs like steering conversion, seats and window. We equally engaged technicians that converted for us. The overall cost amounting to N3.7m as a result of bank interest has nothing to do with the government at all. It is purely a transaction involving us, the bank while the goverment facilitated it for us with its own support of equity funds,” the statement explained.
They added that the two unions NURTW and RTEAN set up a committee that sourced and purchased those buses from Lagos, Ibadan and Osogbo, denouncing any wrongdoing on the part of the Kwara State Government.
“We also want to inform the general public that no member of the two unions was forced or cajoled to buy the bus. Everything was done purely on mutual understanding. It is regrettable how some people reduce everything to politics,” the statement added.