Experts urge FG on implementation of robust national transport policy
The transportation sector of a country has potential to stimulate growth and development. But for the Nigerian economy, experts in the sector have said that the nation has not innovated nor invented the right approach towards tapping the full benefits of the sector.
According to experts, there is a nexus between a visionary leadership and comprehensive national transport policy as the roadmap to salvaging Nigeria from the current dysfunction of the transport sector. They said Nigeria cannot make progress without improved transportation system and that the sector cannot advance without a well-planned public transportation system.
Speaking at a forum, recently, former Lagos State Commissioner of Transportation, Professor Bamidele Badejo, said that Nigeria’s transport and mobility quagmire “must be effectively settled. At macro or micro societal level and even not excluding individual family existence, mobility has truly become a great need.” Given the deplorable state of public transportation system in the country, the don said: “To what extent can we say that those bestowed with leadership and governance have evolved credible mechanisms -enduring policy, programmes and projects – to resolve the multifarious challenges?”
As a result, Badejo reeled out some recommendations, which he said, were critical to resolving crises of public transportation in the country. He cited the compelling need for Nigerian governments “to conduct an inventory or survey of all existing constituent parts of the public transport system along with the evaluation of the potentials.”
He explained that such an evaluation “is to determine what is available, establish the areas of their weakness and strengths, their potentials and prospects in designing a coherent, coordinated and comprehensive strategic development plan.”
Badejo, therefore, advocated the need to determine the investment and financial needs of the transport sector by the governments in order to have a functional and sustainable public transport system in Nigeria.
“This calls for government becoming better informed on the nature, characteristics and methodologies of running public transport business,” he said.
Endless Wait for Nigeria’s Transport Policy
Transportation in Nigeria is one of the many sectors that have not seen the needed development, advancement and growth. In fact, as a sector capable of absorbing a huge number of the country’s unemployed youth population, experts’ opinions indicate that the sector has remained largely untapped and unharnessed.
From marine, through land and railway to air transport, the minutest of infrastructural integration is seemingly lacking in the Nigerian transport system. The bulk of the blame is put on the existence of near-medieval laws which discourage, or outrightly disallow private sector participation in the country’s core transport investments.
About eight Bills on transportation are currently before the National Assembly, expected to have been forwarded for enactment by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) through the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Such Bills have been read, assessed and reviewed many times by the executive from one administration to the other, for over a decade and half, but failed to transform into acts.
Some of the Bills include the National Transport Commission Bill (2015); the National Roads Fund Bill; the Federal Roads Authority Bill; the Nigeria Ports and Harbour Authority Bill (2015); the National Inland Waterways Authority Bill (2015); and the Nigerian Railway Authority Bill (2015).
The latest heard of the Bills was in February 2015 when the FEC presided over by former President Goodluck Jonathan approved Bills for the nation’s transport sector.
Former presidential media aide, Dr Reuben Abati, had said the council had directed the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Muhammed Adoke (now former), to forward the Bills to the National Assembly for enactment into law.
Transport practitioners across the country continue to yearn for the enactment of these Bills which promise the foundation for the formulation or activation of an effective national transport policy.
The national president of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), Maj-Gen Umar Usman says Nigeria remains in dire need of a national transport policy that can define the extent of government and private sector involvement, build an effective inter-modal transport system, as well as clarify vehicular usage of the various transport infrastructures, among others.
To him, President Muhammadu Buhari will no longer have any excuse for not bailing Nigeria out of its current rot in the transport sector. According to him, the cheapest way for the new government to maximally harness the transport sector and its resources for millions of jobs creation and for a better economy is the formulation of a national transport policy and engaging the right people to execute and enforce the policy.
He says, “We want to urge the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the formulation of a national transport policy that would address the rot in Nigeria’s transport system. A situation where a country does not have a transport policy, developing the sector will remain a challenge. We urge the new administration to ensure that first and foremost, Nigeria has a robust national transport policy. At the moment, the nation has no transport policy that can address the nitty gritty, including transport infrastructure and the rest of the issues that have to do with transport regulation.”
Usman, who is also the vice chairman of the African forum of CILT urged the government to activate an inter-modal transport system that would see to the effective and efficient operation of all modes of transport in the country.
He explains, “Unfortunately, in this country, the roads are carrying far beyond their capacity and that’s why we have dilapidated roads all over. The railway that is supposed to carry the load off the road is still epileptic because what we have is the narrow gauge. What we need today is the wide gauge that can carry more load and travel longer distance.
“We also badly need an integrated transport system. Look at what is happening at the ports. It is horrible and it is unacceptable. The Apapa Port is the gateway and the core of the economy of the country. It is a shame on all of us. The incoming administration must look into these issues and address them squarely and not allow things to continue in this state of hopelessness.
“What is happening in Apapa is an eyesore and no responsible administration will sit and watch such things happen.”
The CILT boss stressed the need for the incoming government to have “the right people in the right places,” arguing that adoption of political considerations would leave the country in the current state of rot.
“If we are to make transportation a scale of one to 100, Nigeria is somewhere between 20 and 25. The reason for this is very obvious. A situation where the state of transport infrastructure is disappointingly low and where there is lack of inter-modality of movement, Nigeria is still absolutely dominated by roads which should not be. And across the world, it has not always been,” says Prof Kayode Oyesiku, Nigeria CILT’s deputy president.
According to him, another bane of transport development is the poor extent of professionalism. “In addition to the absence of a national transport policy, and to complicate the matter, there is no council of registration of those that practice transport in Nigeria. There is no Bill that has actually been enacted that can foster the development of transportation as a sector,” he said.
The institute has been on a Bill for the past six years moving from one committee of the Senate to the other. This is happening, as Nigeria is rated 127th among 144 countries of the world in global competitiveness of their transport systems. According to Oyesiku, who is a professor of transport studies at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, out of 100 per cent of what is taken out of the Lagos seaports, about 80 per cent is supposed to be handled by rail.
“Unfortunately, 99 per cent is handled by the road. This breeds inefficiency in the system and places cost implication of every second in delay on the movement of the goods and you can imagine what happens in Apapa that is often congested. It increases cost for the transporter, the importer, the freight forwarder and for the end consumer.
“So, the federal government can make close to 250 per cent increase of what it is presently earning, if only there is intermodality of transportation and making even the roads more efficient in taking the goods from the ports to other parts of the country,” he explained.
He said government policies have always been very rare and where and when they exist, two major issues would cripple them. He explained further, “the first is the issue of policy somersault when there will at a particular time, even in a particular regime, certain policies that within few months or years somebody comes up when the ministers are changed and start doing something else. With this the policy is endangered of what has been built in the past.
“The second and which is of more importance is the issue of lack of articulation of these policies. Virtually all the agencies are doing things haphazardly. On the same issue, sometimes you could have 10 to 13 policies coming from different agencies. It is important to have coordination. As far as transport is concerned, the federal ministry of transport should encourage coordination and have a unit where they can see that whatever policies that comes out from government, irrespective of their sources, can be put together and made it more functional. If you have a sustainable policy process which is backed by a gracious national transport policy which we don’t have up till now, I think many of these things will fall in place.”
Beyond enactment of transport laws, formulation of national policy on transport and inter-modal integration of transport infrastructure, experts believe involving transport professionals in the management and enforcement of the policy combines the essence of both inevitability and indispensability. Convener of the Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT), Hajia Aisha Ali Ibrahim, says although the government toed the right path in the recent concessioning of the seaports, its operations of the larger transport sector, including the roads, railway, inland waterways and aviation indicated government’s indifference to involve transport professionals in its operations in the sector.
She charged the new government of Buhari to show that it is a government with a difference and with foresight to involve professionals in developing the transportation sector.
“This is necessarily so, because everywhere in the world, you have professionals taking charge of operations of relevant agencies and parastatals. If the Nigerian government will allow professionals to come on board and draw up policies, everyone would clearly see the change,” she emphasized.
Need For an Implementation of a Robust Transportation Policy
The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) has urged the President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that a robust national transport policy is put in place in the country. According to Usman, who made this plea in Lagos, recently, a robust transport policy would promote growth in the industry and enhance economic development.
“We have a problem; in a situation where a country has no national transport policy, this is a challenge. We urge the incoming administration to ensure that first and foremost, Nigeria has a robust national transport policy. The moment the nation has a transport policy, all the problems associated with transport infrastructure will be addressed. Unfortunately, today in the country, roads are carrying far beyond their capacity and that is why we have dilapidated roads all over.
“The rail that is supposed to carry the weight off the roads is still epileptic because what we have is a narrow gauge. What this country needs today is a wide gauge that can be able to carry more and travel a longer distance.
“And of course issues that have to do with integration should be looked into. We do not have an integrated system. We need an integrated transport system,” he said.
He urged the federal government to have right people in the right places to perform maximally. “If we are to rate our transport and logistics on a scale of 100, we are somewhere between 20 and 25 and the reason for this is very obvious. First is the state of our infrastructure, particularly the lack of inter-modality of movement of goods and services.
“The second problem is the extent of professionalism.There is no council of registration of those who can practice transport in Nigeria, there is no bill that has actually been approved that can foster the growth and development of the profession. In Nigeria, and as could be seen in other countries, the place of logistics and transport in the economy of any country is always at the centre-point of the economic template of that country. This goes to suggest, therefore, that ethics and knowledge in the administration and running of logistics and transport operations in all its forms should be given prime attention. In an emerging economy like our own, we need to do more on traffic planning of our cities and city centers, as the issues of urbanisation and conurbation are fast overwhelming us,” he said.