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RTC workers beg Wike to lift ban on franchise vehicles

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By Amaechi Okonkwo, Port Harcourt

Workers of the Rivers State Transport Company, RTC, under the auspices of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical & Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) have appealed to Governor Nyesom Wike to lift the ban he placed on the use of franchise vehicles by the company.

This is because franchise vehicles constituted over 90 percent of the vehicles with which the company has operated all the years. But Wike ordered end to use of franchise vehicles, which seriously hampers the operations of the transport company.

Belemasoye B. Dappa, chairman of the group, leading some executive members of the union, told Orient Daily in Port Harcourt that the ban on the use of the franchise vehicles was responsible for the company looking as though it was dead.

He explained that with only about 10 organic vehicles currently owned by the company, it could not make any more impact in the transportation sector in the state.

They also lamented that the revenue of the company had almost disappeared with staff salaries owed in backlog of up to 9 months now.

Dappa appealed: “We are appealing to the state governor, Nyesom Wike, to help us because, for the last 9 months, we have not been paid. Our children are out of schools; some of our staff have been thrown out of their homes because, they could not pay their rents. Some members have even died out of frustration.”

He added that before the ban by the governor, RTC was contributing up to N120 milion per annum as internally generated revenue, IGR, into the state treasury, stressing that the company was faithful in the remittance of the IGR until the ban on franchise vehicles.

Contributing, the secretary of the union, Tamunoimi Reuben, said that their travail begun with COVID-19 lockdown during which the governor saw some RTC marked vehicles outside the state and concluded that they were not obeying the state government’s lockdown, imposed then to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The secretary explained that contrary to the governor’s belief, some of the vehicles were franchise vehicles, which were already outside the station on different missions before the lockdown was announced and belong to individuals; therefore, the owners of the vehicles were using them at their own discretion.

He said consequently, the new board constituted by the governor could not generate income to pay workers salary or remit the monthly revenue to the government.

Reuben said: “If all the vehicles were organic (company owned) we would have been able to monitor them effectively.

He, however, added that all transport companies including federal government mass transit schemes, use franchise vehicles, saying that use of franchise was not illegal.

The fate of the union was part of the issues to be discussed by a tripartite committee proposed by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)  as part of the resolution of some labour matters when they visited the state earlier in the year, but the committee is yet to be set up by the government several months after it agreed to do so.

“We are not on government payroll, but generate money to pay about the 300 staff of the company through franchise. So, we appeal to the governor to restore our franchise vehicles or alternatively provide us with organic (government) vehicles as loans. We will surely pay back,” Reuben stated.

He added: “Lift  the ban on franchise, because, we don’t have vehicles. Allow us to operate to pay ourselves and contribute IGR to the state and help reduce the unemployment rate in the state”.

RTC, before its ordeal, was one of the most efficient government owned transport company with offices in most of the states of the federation, and operating over 850 vehicles; but with governor’s ban on franchise vehicles, operations of the company nosedived with only about 10 organic vehicles.

Their operations are gradually being overtaken by another company, Rivers Joy, which was allegedly floated by a former Commissioner for Transport, and where many of the former franchise vehicles diverted.

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