Stakeholders urge government to develop transport policy to boost development
These were the views of stakeholders who spoke with The Guardian in separate interviews while assessing the infrastructural goals of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Previously, Nigeria faced transport infrastructural decay characterised by inadequate maintenance, poor service delivery, monopoly of transport enterprises, poor road maintenance, and the precarious state of rail and maritime sub-sectors.
Some of the shortcomings identified in the nation’s transport system include: the absence of a template or national transport policy for multi-modal integration and coordination, poor policy control where such policies exist, disintegration of rail for both intra and inter urban travels, mass transit, inland waterways, and poor inter-connectivity.
Also, the road system has been in bad shape with attendant official and unofficial checkpoints, insecurity, kidnapping, robbery, overloading, and very little progress in the use of inland waterways.
However, lately, there have been some improvements in capital projects. For instance, the maritime sector witnessed the concession of major terminals to private operators for enhanced service delivery and port facilities management.
There is also the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge and coaches in the rail sector, for which the Nigerian government had received coaches and locomotives, while the University of Transportation is being established to support manpower development.
Despite the challenges, stakeholders however commended the government’s efforts on rail modernisation, noting that if well-coordinated will reduce the burden on road transportation while boosting the movement of goods from one region to another.
Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said the approach of the Buhari administration is basically the development of physical infrastructure. The flagship of this being the Lagos-Ibadan rail, Second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road and rail; Abuja, Lagos and Enugu airports.
While saying these are commendable, Odewumi however criticised the total reliance on the Chinese for the execution of most of these projects. This is more so given that they are mostly funded from the same China loans, which terms are said to be opaque, and given the experiences of other African borrowers, could be very detrimental to national interest.
“There is no subsisting transport policy; there has been a draft since three years ago yet to be ratified. The policy draft is already getting obsolete without becoming operational. If you don’t have a policy, you can only proceed on disjointed incrementalism with costly errors of reviews and reverses as witnessed on the Lagos-Ibadan rail.
“My take is that there must be in place a Transport policy that will guide the sequence of development. Secondly, a local capacity should be encouraged for Transport infrastructure construction and maintenance,” he submitted.
Also commenting, Prof. Callistus Ibe of the Department of Transport Management Technology, Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), said the present administration has done well in rail transport development, but must be connected for it to have the desired impact.
Ibe said the Inland waterways must be developed and be made functional; adding that for intermodal transport to happen there must be a practical railway and inland waterways. The road mode would then connect all for seamless integration and intermodal development, and must be accompanied with a deliberate policy on intermodal transport.
“So far, rail development is receiving the desired attention. It must be connected with seaports and airports and stadia for effective development,” he said.For Professor of Transportation and Logistics Planning, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Iyiola Oni, a nation’s transport development is her capacity to deliver a responsive, affordable, accessible, reliable, efficient, safe, structurally coordinated and integrated transport system for the benefit of all.
To achieve this, Oni said the transport sector should be capable of meeting the needs of a modern, competitive, industrial economy and livelihood.
“Despite all these, the transport system in Nigeria is still very weak, as the available modes are still working in a piecemeal manner. Whereas, they must work together in an integrated and coordinated manner: road, rail, water, inland and coastal, pipelines and air.
“The intermodal approach involves how individual modes can be connected and managed as a seamless and sustainable transport system. The objective of intermodalism is to integrate all the modes into an optimal, sustainable and technical system.”
Oni said all the available transport modes should be integrated and coordinated to the fullest benefits derivable, adding that there is a need for advanced information and technological systems for shared mobility and services.
To build a high quality integrated multi-modal system, integration in terms of infrastructure, operations, information, and fare should be operational, he said reforms should open doors to public-private partnership (PPP) while the government concentrates on policy regulation, supervision, and control.
He added that government should be concerned with eliminating all barriers to private sector participation.
Secretary General, Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR), Segun Esan, said there is no doubt President Buhari has done well in winding back the infrastructure deficits in Nigeria in the rail transport industry.
Esan noted that the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge track system is almost ready and a number of locomotives and coaches brought in, ahead of the opening of services to passengers on the new line.
Beyond this, he said it is also commendable that the present administration has taken a step further with the Ibadan-Kano standard gauge, and if completed, will further entrench Nigeria’s socioeconomic integration.
He said: “Our road network will last longer as heavy goods are now taken by rail. The road will be accident-free and more pliable and more long lasting. Maintenance of these roads will be affordable and the road will last longer.
“The only area I personally will want President Buhari to pay attention to is the general welfare and salary regime of the railway workers in Nigeria. Presently, railway workers salaries are very meagre and not any encouraging. The poor salary regime in the rail transport is making the railway industry so unattractive to young and employable Nigerians.”
“Salaries need to be reviewed in the railway so as to complement the huge financial commitment of the federal government to repositioning the Nigerian Railway Corporation. This is very necessary and important so as to encourage and motivate the workers and also to make young and employable Nigerians build a career in the railway,” he added.