The maiden edition of the Shuttlers Smart Mobility Webinar Series aimed at bridging the communication gap between public and private sectors, provided a platform for major stakeholders to engage the State Government and to discuss the future of public transportation in Lagos. This all-important industry conversation featured six professionals who have carved a niche for themselves in the Transport Sector home and abroad.
The discussions were held via two panel sessions of three speakers each, with each of them sharing unique perspectives from their expertise and experiences within the industry. The first panel session discussed New realities of Urban Transportation in a pandemic while the second panel session dissected Partnership outcomes and Solutions: Policy, Technology and the Future of Transportation in a mega city.
In her remarks, Mrs. Adenike Ibirogba, CEO, Nikky Taurus Limited, painted a very vivid picture of the new realities for the transportation industry especially for private operators working in the road transportation network where she called on private sector operators and players to collaborate with the government for the growth of the sector. In her opinion, quick wins such as the opportunity to integrate technology will help with better control of traffic flow to improve journey management. In addition, technology will also play a key role to improve payment methods and even track incidents. The CEO who manages a fleet of over 400 vehicles in Lagos only, also highlighted the need for regulation and structure (especially for the informal sub-sector) for the industry as an incentive to encourage more investments in public transportation.
Ibirogba also highlighted some of the challenges plaguing the sector since the wake of the pandemic and how a proper synergy can mitigate some of these challenges. Whilst highlighting efforts undertaken to contain and respond to the spread of COVID19, Nikky Taurus quickly executed all stipulated protocols by fumigation of all fleet vehicles, distribution of face masks to drivers, awareness and sensitization exercise of the drivers and fleet managers on the signs and symptoms of the Coronavirus as some of the safety measures being implemented in her organization whilst lamenting on the negative financial implications of the reduction in number of commuters per ride following the ban on full capacity.
The MD/CEO of the Lagos Bus Services Limited (LBSL), Mr. Idowu Oguntona, who discussed the emerging challenges and new realities of public road transportation in a Mega City, posited that collaboration is the best way to solve public transportation challenges, adding that the Lagos state governor recently launched a single travel card courtesy of the collaboration between Lagos State Ferry Service (LAGFERRY) and Lagos Bus Services, to improve consumer experience and ensure convenience.
Mr. Oguntona further harped on the future prospects for growth through partnerships with the private sector and alternative forms of transportation already being utilized in some parts of the state. Whilst answering questions from participants, he called on Lagos residents to embrace public transport services as the state government will continue to invest in convenient mass transit buses.
According to Prof. Samuel Odewunmi, Dean, School of Transportation, Lagos State University (LASU), there is an urgent need to review past Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects to ascertain the reasons for their failure and deduce useful lessons for future prospects. The Dean also explained that such audits would inform the next steps or provide insight on what needs to be done differently in regulating public transportation in Lagos. According to him, there is also a need for a comprehensive, integrated policy which will begin with reviews of past activities in order to update existing ones developed in the recent past. This, he recommended, is achieved through the set up of a think tank to envisage future prospects, up to a decade ahead of the present day. He opined that running a government-led mode of public transportation is tough, as the government should serve only as a catalyst to provide the right policy and regulatory environment for success. He however concluded by listing Access to Jetties, Unsafe State of Jetties, Bad Routes and a Phobia for water as some of the major problems confronting water transportation as an alternative mode. He then made a clarion call for the need for stakeholders to address the dearth in infrastructure.
The second panel discussion discussed ‘Solutions, Outcomes and Partnerships: Technology, Policy and the future of transportation in Lagos’. During the conversations, the Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Transportation, Hon. Oluwatoyin Fayinka, disclosed a 20% reduction in the operating cost and license fees of commercial motorists and ride-hailing companies across the state. This was a development which took place only a few hours prior to the webinar and followed an earlier announced policy to regulate the operations of eHailing Transportation companies. The policy rescind also included a three-month grace period for drivers and motorists to obtain the required documents such as the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) number, vehicle plate numbers, driver’s license, vehicle registration documents and other stipulated requirements for operations.
Hon. Fayinka explained that the priority of the state government is the safety of drivers/riders, operators, commuters, as well as to foster the ease of doing business in the State.
When answering questions from participants about the closure of two bridges in Lagos – the third mainland bridge and Eko Bridge – Hon. Fayinka reassured Lagosians that the government is sensitive to their needs. He said, ‘Closing the bridges is not a pleasant thing the government wants to do, but it’s the right thing to do as there’s a need for timely intervention on the bridges. According to him, alternatives have been provided to commute from the mainland to the island through Surulere. He assured transport operators that the support of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) have been optimal to ensure motorists comply with the traffic rules. He explained that these officials work 24-hour shifts at three intervals – morning, afternoon and night – to ensure that the traffic is well managed. Most of the highways and bridges have also been rid of large trucks and trailers for ease of transportation in certain routes.
In his contribution to the discourse, Mr. Seyi Osiyemi, a Transportation Specialist, posited that the private sector can only participate sustainably in the transport sector when there is a proper framework and policy in place by any government. Asserting that for new private entrants in the transport sector, the big question to be answered is, ‘Are they willing to take the risks and compete with the informal sector?’. He added that ‘a lot of homework needs to be done’ and appropriate structure put in place to thrive in the sector. He also alluded to the opportunities in the public transportation sector to be explored by interested stakeholders and entrepreneurs.
In consideration of future alternatives and low-carbon alternatives for the environment, Osiyemi recommended gas-powered buses as the best port of call as an alternative to diesel buses presently in use to commute the over 10 million people in the Lagos metropolis. Whilst highlighting the challenges of carbon emissions and environmental sustainability, he recommended a hybrid model for adoption, one that leverages both gas and diesel-powered buses. Osiyemi however showed some ambivalence in the adoption of electric buses in Nigeria, citing concerns of irregular power supply which might mean overnight charging. In spite of these, he affirmed that sustainable impact in the transportation sector can only be achieved through public-private partnerships with the private sector leading the way.
The convener of the Shuttlers Smart Mobility Webinar series, who is also the Co-founder of Shuttlers, Damilola Olokesusi harped on the urgent need to leverage technology in the public transportation sector in order to build passengers’ trust and loyalty and further strengthen the sector. In addition, she poured encomiums on the recent development in the sector through the launch of the crystal card system by the state government, as a right step towards integrating technology. Olokesusi further buttressed this with a recommendation to also adopt the use of technology in contact tracing of commuters in a pandemic era. She further encouraged private sector operators to continue maintaining all stipulated protocols, expressing a strong belief in the return to normalcy within a year, and the consequent revival of lucrative prospects in public transportation in the state.
Many participants commended Shuttlers for the initiative to host the webinar series and encouraged the mobility technology organisation to sustain efforts to foster stronger collaborations and impactful partnerships to significantly improve the transportation sector in Nigeria