Steve Agbota, [email protected]
Nigeria’s lack of investment in infrastructure over the years has come back to hunt it as the hurdles of transportation system in the country continues to expand.
Consequently, the country has not been able to link or connect its transport modes to fast track economic development across board.
With apparent lack of connectivity in Nigeria’s transport system, cost of doing business has continued to escalate especially at the nation’s seaports across the country making possible for shippers and importers to turn to neighbouring seaports to do their business.
Moreover, Nigeria’s road network remains one of the most overstretched due to the inability of successive governments to link the rail and other modes of transportation system in the country.
Ironically, out of the over eight seaports in the country, only the Apapa port is connected by rail, while cargoes in the remaining seven can only be evacuated by roads and in rare instances by rail. Again, looking at the cargo section of the airport across the country, only Abuja airport is connected by rail while other airports in Nigeria are independent of other modes of transportation.
However, having failed to build intermodal transportation system and developing more transport infrastructure to connect various transport modes to ease evacuation of cargoes around its two major economic gateways, Apapa and Tin-Can Island seaports, Nigerian government had inadvertently killed many businesses with the traffic gridlock that had come to be associated with Apapa ports over the past few years.
Already, the lack of connectivity of its major transportation modes including the rail, pipeline, air, water and road transport, recently compelled the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to score Nigeria very low on ease of doing business.
This became possible as the failure to invest in transport infrastructure pushed up the country’s production cost by 46 per cent a major reasons Nigeria ranked low in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking.
But in order to integrate all the transport systems under one model, the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration (CIoTA), which regulates transport sector, held a summit in Abuja where experts advocated inter-modalism of all transportation infrastructure.
Speaking at the summit, the President of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration (CIoTA) Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, said that the Institute was set to professionalise all aspects of transportation industry in Nigeria for sustainable development.
He added, “with the recent assent of Mr. President recognising the Institute as the sole professional body in the transport industry, CIoTA will engage all stakeholders to ensure that all those involved in transport administration in Nigeria are certified to enhance professionalism. He also disclosed that the institute’s plan to engage some graduate youths already mobilised for the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) as transport administration volunteers.
According to him, the volunteer group will also work with other relevant government agencies like Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) in carrying out its activities, saying that CIoTA would conduct research aimed at solving most of the transport challenges in the country.
Standardisation of Transport training geared towards enhanced professionalism, according to Jamoh, will be done by the institute through upgrading curriculum of transport training schools and partnership.
Also speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Shippers Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, decried the absence of seamless links in the country’s transport infrastructure, while commending government efforts at getting things fixed. Bello said there must be a link between economy and transportation in Nigeria if it must move faster with its peers.
According to him, CIoTA holds the answer to several of Nigeria’s lingering transport issues since it is organised, devoid of unhealthy rivalry and not having any distraction like leadership tussles.
Nigeria, Bello said, is in the era of diversification of national revenue sources and the transport sector is supportive of other businesses including creation of much needed employments.
He said Apapa and Tin Can Ports that had 24 million metric tonnes capacity for cargo handling, presently handles over 89 million metric tonnes which gets them overstretched, adding that linking the ports with rail and pipelines would bridge existing gaps in cargo delays and address the perennial traffic in Apapa area of Lagos.
The NSC boss therefore, suggested that the whole of Apapa should be handed over to Nigeria Ports Authority as a way of getting it organized, noting that the NPA, should determine who does what and in which area of the port environment. He argued that an issue as sensitive as transport should not be left to non-professionals since it connects people and businesses and should be a thing of pride to citizens.
Bello lamented that Nigeria is the only country whose crude is carried on Free On Board (FOB) mode leading to huge loss of freight components amounting to billions on Naira.
Concerned by the state of the nation’s transport infrastructure despite increasing trade volumes, the Chairman, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, and former Minister of Interior, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho, urged the Federal Government to expand the nation’s ports infrastructure, access roads and provide connectivity to the hinterlands.
Iheanacho stated that the nation had to improve transport infrastructure to meet the 4 per cent annual increase in world trade volume, which has also affected Nigeria.
He stressed that the shipping industry has played a significant role in taking millions of people out of poverty around the world and therefore urged the Nigerian government to invest more in infrastructure in order to create wealth and allow the citizens feel the impact of the enormous opportunities in shipping with improved infrastructure.
Noting that Nigeria’s revenue base has grown as a result of crude oil sale over the years, he warned that it would be wrong to continue spending such revenue on imported goods, rather than improving the size of ports available in the country.
He said, “Remember that we have to maximise these ports for our need as well as to serve landlocked countries like Chad. Nigeria should look at the trade needs and develop ports to serve those needs. The demand factor we should focus on is the underlying trade. How do we compare the volume of trade in 1959, 1969 and consistently over the years? If the trade has doubled over this period, then there is need to have ports infrastructure improved proportionally.”
Despite the numerous transport infrastructural challenges in the country, he urged CIoTA to see the annual 4 per cent growth in world trade as an opportunity to explore avenues to position the nation’s transport sector to benefit from the trade.