FG Moves to Streamline Road Transportation, Mass Transit Operations

Gbemisola Saraki

•Says only 17 of 76,000 trucks in Nigeria met set standard

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

The federal government yesterday said it planned to streamline and strengthen the regulation of road transportation and mass transit vehicles operations in the country, following complaints over the low quality of vehicles on Nigerian highways.

The Minister of State, Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, made the disclosure during a meeting with a section of automotive manufacturers led by the Chief Executive Officer of BKG Exhibitions Limited and Chairman, Organising Committee of the Abuja International Motor Fair, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Agwu.

Saraki noted that the decision became necessary in order to reposition Nigeria’s road transportation system ahead of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), to ensure that Nigeria fully benefits from the trade agreement.

She lamented that of the 76,000 trucks registered at the country’s port, only 17 supposedly met the set standard, stressing that even Lomé and Cotonou were complaining about the low standard of vehicles that come from Nigeria.

Saraki, however disclosed that arrangements were being put in place for the federal government to brainstorm with players in the automotive industry, including assemblers and manufacturers to find local solutions to the challenges.

The minister noted that the planned regulation became necessary as over 97 per cent of passengers’ movements in Nigeria are done on the road, hence the need to ensure proper restructuring for better service delivery.

“This afternoon I was in a meeting that the vice president chaired and we were looking at how best to tackle the issue of road transportation.

“I am sure you will agree with me that right now, it is unregulated. Anybody can put a vehicle on the road and call himself a transporter and they will start working. Funds are not coming, taxes are not paid, there is no consumer satisfaction, there is no feedback, it’s completely disoriented right now,” she stated.

She added that with the advent of the ACFTA, in order for Nigeria to compete properly, it needs to have a regulated road transportation system for commercial operators.

Saraki noted: “With the ACFTA coming, this morning it came out that we have a lot of substandard vehicles on the roads. I know that Lome and Cotonou have complained that the vehicles in Nigeria are below standard. Of the 76,000 trucks registered, supposedly, only 17 met the standard.”

The minister argued that unless something was done about the state of public transportation in the country, it would be difficult to have a sector that is 21st century compliant.

Earlier, Agwu reeled the problems bedeviling the sector, noting that even though it accounts for 15 per cent of those working in the country, it is largely everybody’s affair.

Agwu lamented that the auto sector was under heavy stress, mentioning that the lack of safety in movement of goods and services due to bad vehicles and policy inconsistency remain major challenges in the industry.

“Companies set up factories to assemble with billions of naira and the next thing you see is they change the policy and say you can bring in whatever you want. Where does that work? And that is why serious companies actually do not come to Nigeria,” he maintained.

He further decried the skyrocketing exchange rate of the naira to the dollar, stressing that the amount of money used in buying a car in Nigeria could build a house in the past.

He urged the ministry to also persuade the state ministries of transportation to support the motor fair to experience what is obtainable in the local market, regretting that some states go abroad to buy mass transit vehicles to the detriment of local investors.