The transport sector plays a critical role in driving other areas of the economy. Across the globe, no serious government treats the sector with levity.
Considering its pivotal role, governments usually invest huge funds in the industry, while the management of the human and material resources is strictly left for experts to handle. This is targeted at making life easy for the masses while boosting the economy and ensuring adequate returns to all stakeholders.
But this is usually not so in Nigeria. The business has since been majorly taken over by those who shouldn’t be found near the sector. Commercial motorists are often harassed and coerced into paying levies that are, in most cases, without evidence of payment or documented anywhere. There have been persistent fracas between commercial drivers and these levy collectors that usually end in death or permanent disability for the combatants.
There have also been concerns that the revenue generated by those handling it goes into private pockets of certain individuals who are friends to those in authority. And the cycle has continued for years, from one political dispensation to another.
The poor road network, gully-filled roads across Nigeria, rickety vehicles, unregulated and inconsistent fares as well as lack of political will, has further done more harm to transportation business in the country.
Many Nigerians have expressed concern with the sheer chaos that has characterised public transportation in Nigeria over the years. Also perturbed is Mr Ayo Owolabi, an engineer and public transport specialist based in the United Kingdom, In his view, Owolabi, a digital transformation consultant with Transport for London, noted that from his experience, there were many things lacking in Nigeria in terms of organisation and management. Owolabi spoke as special guest on Journey Thus Far, an online interactive engagement initiated by Christ’s School Ado-Ekiti Alumni Association, Class of 87.
He revealed that the UK transport network is one of the largest and most advanced in the world, boasting a large number of paved roads, modern railways, luxury buses, airports and so on. This robust system, he asserted, is backed by centuries of consistent investment from successive governments, regardless of political affiliations.
He stated that value for customers has always been the number one priority while running the industry. Many people have agreed that this is lacking in Nigeria, in companies run by both the government and private entrepreneurs.
Owolabi said: “Due to the vastness of UK transport, it was divided into four regions for effective management. We have Transport for London (TFL), Transport for Scotland, Transport for Wales and Transport for Northern Island.
“I work for TFL. In the last two decades, TFL has been understudying their customer journeys, customer pain-points in all their touch-points with a view to adding more value to these customers that bring an average of £5 billion in yearly revenue. Hence, it has been making significant investment especially in the bus sector with the introduction of TFL’s iBus system.”
He explained that the iBus system spans vehicle location, passenger information, payments data collection, traffic light signalling and more. He added that it also uses a combination of on-bus computers, GPS, a wide- area network (WAN), and a smartphone app to provide real-time bus location information to passengers and depots, as well as a wealth of data to TFL.
In his words, this particular investment has made life very easy for the customers and makes the capital’s bus network more attractive and easier to use. He said that anyone coming to London for the first time could travel by public transport easily and without any assistance from anyone all the way from the airport to their eventual destinations just by following the directions on an IOS or Android app.
“Also for the visually impaired or for those travelling in new parts of the city, it has proved to be a fantastic resource. It has improved the accuracy of next bus countdown signs and has laid the foundation for the delivery of bus information direct to mobile phones or the internet,” he informed.
On how Nigeria could improve its transport system, Owolabi advocated the establishment of an effective and functional National Planning Ministry in Nigeria to be run by seasoned technocrats who are apolitical in their decision making.
Owolabi’s recommendations: “Successive governments must learn to stick to policies and developmental plans of previous governments regardless of political affiliations. Political grandstanding must be discouraged at all cost. Nigeria governments must double its infrastructural spending which currently stands at five per cent of its gross domestic product.
“The Nigerian society, especially the civil service, needs to purge itself of corruption. Nigerians must be bold enough to hold their government accountable and demand better infrastructural development on a regular
basis. “We must get rid of tribalism, which had plagued the country for decades. I will encourage the private sector to get involved in the transportation sector, as well as introduction of cost cutting measures to better manage the meagre income even as adequate and genuine support from the Federal Government is also a must.”