The plan by the Federal Government to build eight vehicle transit parks (VTPs) across the country is a good one. According to the details of the plan released by the Nigeria Shippers Council, the eight parks estimated to cost about N4 billion each are to be built at Obollo-Afor (Enugu State), Onitsha (Anambra State), Ogere (Ogun State), Port Novo Creek in Badagry (Lagos State), Jebba (Niger State), Ore (Ondo State), Lokoja (Kogi State) and Maraban-Jos (Plateau State).
This is not the first time the idea of modern bus shelters have been mooted in the country. The hope, however, is that the authorities, this time, are serious about providing this important road infrastructure. This would greatly increase the comfort of travellers on our roads, as the majority of our citizens depend on road transportation.
The planned VTPs, we expect, would meet international standard. They should have restaurants, guest houses, rest-rooms, mechanical and electrical workshops, medical facilities, security units and, indeed, all the support logistics road users require to make their journeys safe and pleasurable. This is the minimum that is required to reduce the frustrations many road users currently experience travelling all over the country.
With our decidedly very poor road network, travellers experience a lot of frustrations which include broken down vehicles, traffic snarls and accidents, which sometimes abort their journeys. The need to sleep on the roads at times becomes inevitable. Until now, our unsuitable motor parks provided shelters for such travellers. But it was a poor solution, as these travellers were often exposed to armed robberies, kidnappings for ransom and sundry violent activities by road marauders.
This is the very important gap the VTPs are expected to fill. Going by the details of the distribution of the eight proposed parks, they are not necessarily evenly spread across the six geopolitical zones, but nobody who travels a lot within the country will doubt the strategic importance of the eight locations that have been chosen so far. They are some of the busiest transit points in the road transportation network of the country and are well positioned to provide the volume that can support the capital outlay that is to be spent to provide the VTPs. About N32bn is estimated to be expended overall, and these sums must be recouped and the VTPs kept running optimally and efficiently if they are to serve their envisaged purpose.
Nigerians and all stakeholders must keep this point in view in determining the desirability of the proposed VTPs and their ability to adequately fulfill the desired objectives. Ultimately, the bad roads have to be fixed and their integrity secured. When the country can boast of adequate and efficient road network, some of the regrettable delays on the roads and the problems they bring would be completely avoided and eliminated.
Then, the VTPs would just be a welcome addition to the available road infrastructure in the country, not the critical facility that we urgently need now. It is almost unimaginable contemplating how the average road traveller has survived in the country thus far. The odds are heavily stacked against him and we urge the federal authorities and the Nigeria Shippers Council to work assiduously to provide the eight VTPs as quickly as possible.
When a success has been made of the pilot eight VTPs, the concept can be extended to the other geo-political zones not covered in this phase. Nigeria has a vast land territory and our almost over-dependence on road transportation means that the proposed parks and bus shelters are necessary and must be spread to adequately cover the entire country.