NIGERIA: Silverbird boss advocates N300bn transport subsidy

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Ben Murray-Bruce, Chairman of the Silverbird Group, Monday, called on the Federal Government to set up an urban mass transit system policy that will see it investing N300 billion annually, in subsidising transportation and upgrading of key transport infrastructure.

Murray-Bruce also advocated the spending of N900 billion by the government on strategic national projects across the length and breadth of the country.

The funds, according to him, would be sourced from money saved from the partial and total withdrawal of subsidy.

According to him, the government said last year that removal of the fuel subsidy would allow the N1 trillion spent on fuel subsidy in 2011 to be used for improving electricity supply, health and education; instead, it should spend N200 billion on transport subsidy annually.

Also, N100 billion, he said, should be spent on annual investments in buses and taxis, infrastructure — bus shelters, bus terminals, bus depots, roads; and institutional, regulatory and legal strengthening, among others.

He maintained that other sectors, such as agriculture, aviation, textile, among others, have intervention funds, but wondered why same cannot be extended to the transport sector.

He said: “After the fuel subsidy protests, the government backed down and reduced the subsidy, raising fuel prices to N97 per litre.

“As a result, last year, we spent an estimated N1.2 trillion on fuel subsidy. We believe the fuel subsidy is basically a transportation issue, and the solution therefore has to be transport driven.

“After worldwide consultation with public sector and urban transport experts, the identified solution is an efficient and subsidised public transport system implemented as social policy, much like health and education.

“In other nations worldwide, oil price increases do not translate to an increase in transport fares because subsidised and efficient public transport systems exist.”

He noted that no individual, irrespective of the social status, should spend more than 25 per cent or 35 per cent of their take-home pay on public transportation.

He added: “We do not have a transport policy, that is fundamental. Historically, every time there is a price increase in transportation, the government will rush and provide buses for Labour and transporters. Providing buses in a crisis, does not solve anything.

“Half of those buses are put to personal use, most of them end up only in Lagos, because the economy makes Lagos the most viable place to run transport. The buses will not be in Sokoto where people are poorer and cannot afford the cost of transportation, market value cost as in Lagos.

“So the policy of providing buses when there is a crisis is fundamentally wrong. Transportation is subsidised all over the world. In Ethiopia, when there is a crisis, you do not see people going over the street rioting because transport is subsidised.

“When anybody in Nigeria gets on a plane and goes to London, he catches a bus, but how many people in the bus know the price of a litre in England? No body cares! It is like that also in New York, South Africa, among others, why do people care in Nigeria?”

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