Building Sustainable Transport Infrastructure in Nigeria

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If the federal government implements recommendations at the national transportation summit organised by the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria, it will help Nigeria to build infrastructures that will sustain its development, writes Eromosele Abiodun

Sustainable transportation is any means/mode of transport that does not impact negatively on the society or the environment but enhances economic growth, promotes trade opportunities, and improves access to basic facilities. The United Nations defines it as a transport means that better integrates the economy while respecting the environment. For a transport system to be reckoned with as sustainable, it must be economically, morally, socially, and environmentally friendly.

Transportation infrastructure in Nigeria includes road and highways, railway, canal and navigable waterways, seaports and lighthouses, airports, mass transit systems, bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways and ferries. Transportation infrastructure is very essential for the economic and social development of all countries as well as for supporting regional and global co-operations and economies. However, poor transport infrastructure and lack of access to safe and effective transport infrastructure,constrain development in many developing countries. These problems are exacerbated or exasperated by population growth and urbanization.

At independence in 1960, Nigerians inherited a vibrant, buoyant flourishing and efficient system from the colonial administration. Although, the single-tracknarrow gauge network train diagonally across the country, it was well able to haul all the agricultural products growth in the far north to the seaports at Lagos and Port Harcourt. Sadly, that is not the story today. Nigeria, a country of over 200 million inhabitants and an annual population growth rate of 2.6 per cent according to the World Bank, faces several transportation challenges.

Lagos, Nigeria’s most populated state is home to over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s transport problems; a population of over 18million people and 7 million passengers per day, who get the limited roads congested and the air polluted from transport activities. It is also the economic hub of Nigeria yet, suffers from limited transportation facilities and produces half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

However, efforts are now being made to address the several challenges.
Leading the charge is the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria (CIoTA).
Since last year, the institute has been working to bring experts together to fashion out ways to remedy the situation. Last week, the institute held its annual transportation summit where experts proffered solution to transportation challenges in the country.
The summit was tagged, “Building Sustainable Transport Infrastructure in Nigeria: Opportunities, Innovation and Technology.”

Gowon advocates PPP
Speaking at the summit, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (retd) advocated Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement between the government and private sector to bridge Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit and transform the nation’s transportation sector.
Gowon, who was the chairman of the summit, said development of Nigeria’s transport Infrastructure shouldn’t be left in the hand of the private or public sector alone.

He said critical stakeholders in the transport sector, policy makers and technical experts must think deeply on how to evolve and create innovative strategies to advance the transport system in the country.
According to him, “The task of advancing the transport system cannot be left to government alone. It requires partnership between the public sector, the private sector, civil society and the general public. Public participation, confidence and support are paramount in this campaign of building a virile transport system in our country.

“We must embark upon an intensive campaign to make more public and private sectors accountable and performance oriented, with a view to provide the citizenry with proficient transport system. We must inculcate code of ethical conduct, transparency and accountability into the whole of the transportation system for national development.”
“May I therefore, at this juncture implore all the critical stakeholders in the transport sector, policy makers and technical experts at this summit to think deeply on how we can evolve and create innovative strategies to advance the transport system in the country, ” he charged.
He, however, charged transport experts at the summit to unveil additional strategies for the nation’s transport system to improve.

“I leave this to the transport experts present at this summit, who will help us to unveil these strategies at this summit for implementation for our transport system. It is worthy of note that the summit is designed to provide a platform for critical examination and participation on the way forward of the concept of the economy that affects all other sectors for national development.

“Therefore, we all have to be involved in finding ways to improve the transportation sector in our country, and not to destroy what we have as recently happened in Lagos during the #EndSARs crisis when over 150 Lagos buses were destroyed. I think the citizenry; the public have really cautioned themselves not to repeat this sort of thing,” he said.
“The nation must embark on a realistic and honest assessment of our national transport system in Nigeria and reposition the transport sector. Unfortunately, the nation has come under the burden of economic challenge of Covid-19 pandemic and the dwindling oil fortunes , which marred critical impact we ought to have made , in order to revitatlise our transportation system in the country,” he stated.

Also speaking, the President, CIoTA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said the crux of the discussion at the summit was on how to improve nation’s transport infrastructure through PPP.
“The brain of the summit is how we can improve our infrastructure. Not necessarily rely on Government but the PPP arrangement. You can look at Lekki expressway to Epe. Now we have numbers of tollgate for the investors to recoup their investment.
“We can now venture into other means of creating extra bridges maybe across Tin Can port or Apapa to other side where we can be able to park containers and then move easily in terms of planning, which is what we are thinking is the best way to fast track infrastructure development, “he said.

Value of road assets
Also speaking, Prof. Damidele Badejo said Nigeria is losing a whooping N250 billion annually in value of its roads assets and motor vehicle operating costs.
The university Don stated this while delivering a paper Titled, “Transport Infrastructure and Smart City Development in Nigeria.”
Badejo, who is of the Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Science, Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, added that Lagos State is suffering far greater losses than other states because of the commercial activity in the state.

He said: “The road mode is the dominant mode of transportation in Lagos, it accounts for about 95 per cent of all movements by transportation both for goods, passengers and services. Transportation in Lagos state can therefore be described as unimodal, predominantly used by cars, buses, motorcyclists, bicycle and pedestrians.
“Furthermore, the strategic road network in Lagos can be described as primary, distributor and collector roads that more than 650km. Available information indicated that more than 300,000 vehicle and over 400,000 motorcycle are registered annually in Lagos, with very high deteriorating and depreciating rate.”

He stated that the challenges associated with road transportation system in Lagos is very glaring in the daily commuting of over 10 million passengers between Lagos mainland and Lagos Island using about 60,000 unregulated mini and midi informal buses, which are operated predominantly by the private sector in addition to less than 1000 BRT buses in use.
The university don said smart transport infrastructure should be designed to be valuable.
Badejo said a smart city would change the governance of a city as it influences the cooperation among stakeholders acting in the transport field.

“Smart city, smart transport and smart transport infrastructure appears to be a promising evolution but can also bring about potential reinforcing inequalities segregation effects. San Francisco is one of the top-ranked in smart mobility challenge were high vehicles ownership and congestions such that drivers in the waste an average of 150 hours every year in traffic, having realised the effect of mobility change of the efficiency of the city, “he stated.

Also speaking, Chairman of the CIOTA Summit Intellectual /Technical Committee, Prof. Innocent Ogwude, advocated competitive environment for transport sector to attract more investment in transport infrastructure.
Ogwude added that following global trends, Nigeria had embarked on a programme of transport sector reforms since 1999, adding that the reforms were ongoing to rebuild the transport infrastructure base of the country.
He reiterated the need to create competitive environment in the transport market, which could be achieved by unbundling of the existing monopoly structure, represented by the Nigerian Railway Corporation.

Ogwude, who is also the President and Chief Consultant Socent Management Consult Limited, said that there was need to unbundle the monopoly structure of Ministry of Works, Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) as well as Federal Air Port Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to enable fair trading and enhanced private sector participation in the industry.
According to him, “Until the transport industry transforms onto a truly market economy, with legislative institutions on technical as well as economical and economic regulation adding that opportunities for innovation and technology in sustainable transport infrastructure development would remain challenged.

FG’s investment
In his speech, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, said President Muhammadu Buhari was committed to transforming the sector hence the investment in railway across the country.
He said Buhari will inaugurate the newly constructed Lagos-Ibadan rail line by January 2021.
Amaechi said Buhari is a committed reformer and is determined to change the face of transportation in the country.
He noted that the rail project had been delivered, but its usage would commence before the official inauguration. He also disclosed that he had approved the fares for the route.

“I just got the mandate from President Buhari that he would inaugurate the Lagos-Ibadan railway in January 2021. However, they should have been operating even before that time. I also have approved the cost of transportation by rail from Lagos to Ibadan. We just transferred the cost, as that of Kaduna, which we think is quite fair,” he said.
Amaechi stated that the Buhari administration was committed to reviving and improving the entire transport infrastructure in the country. He stressed that there were already many visible changes, especially in the aviation and maritime subsectors of the transportation industry.

The minister stated: “In the transport sector under this government, a lot is going on, like working to complete the terminals under aviation. I am sure you would have seen changes at the Port Harcourt airport and Abuja. I am sure the Minister of Aviation will tell us very soon when the airport in Kano and the one in Lagos would be completed.”
While commending the activities of CIoTA under the leadership of Jamoh, Amaechi stated that the Federal Ministry of Transportation would partner with the Institute to encourage professionalism in the transport sector as well as ensure seamless and effective transportation across all modes.

In his remarks earlier, Jamoh, who is also Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), lauded the effort of the federal government to upgrade the transport infrastructure.
He said CIoTA was promoting professionalism and training to aid the government with the right manpower to man the transport infrastructure.

“The journey for the Institute has begun. We are building on broad policies anchored on a tripod of professionalism; education, research and development; and advocacy.”
To ensure professionalism, Jamoh said CIoTA was working hard to empower members with the required skills, knowledge and expertise to man the country’s transportation infrastructure.
“The Institute is also working with universities and other tertiary institutions to try to build professionalism in the transport sector from the undergraduate level, he said, adding that committees have been set up to follow up on policy recommendations from CIoTA to ensure their implementation,” he said.