BusinessDay

Nigeria’s transport sector: Benefits of adopting better security and safety strategies

Nigeria’s transportation sector is a fulcrum to the growth of the nation’s economy, but unfortunately the sector has not been given adequate attention to fully explore and maximize its potential.

While it is important to commend the President Buhari administration who has done well in the sector especially in the area of railway, however one begins to wonder why the previous administration could not do much when our nation had more funds. Some reports have it that the inability of past administrations to do much is responsible for the poor state of transportation in Nigeria.

On this note, it is important to encourage Nigeria’s minister of transportation Rt.Hon. Rotimi Amaechi to continue the good works he is doing and translate the same energy to develop other modes within the sector (maritime, air, road and pipeline). If this is done, it will go a long way in achieving higher output for the sector.

Transportation is very strategic and upgrading its infrastructure and security architecture will go a long way to complement government efforts in building a stronger economy to address the current economic challenges. Doing this will also make the sector more competitive, attract more foreign investment opportunities, create more business and job opportunities.

In 2019, the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) piracy reporting centre reported that attacks in Nigeria’s maritime space took place mostly at night when vessels are within 30 nautical miles (nm) to 180 nm offshore.

Unfortunately, similar attacks were also reported across other modes within the sector (railway, road, air, and pipeline), but recently these safety and security challenges have extended to the road and railway sub-sector thereby posing great concern.

For instance, the attacks on Wednesday night and Thursday (21st October, 2021) morning where bandits detonated explosives on tracks serving the Abuja-Kaduna railway line left many passengers traumatised as the attackers also fired live rounds into the driver compartments.

The explosives damaged the rail track at a spot between Dutse and Rijana, an area that has recorded numerous bandits’ attacks along the Kaduna Abuja highway. In the past, series of attacks were experienced across water, road, and pipelines in different parts of the nation.

The maritime sector within the Niger Delta region especially south of the port and oil terminals of Brass, as well as off Togo, Benin, and Cameroon were also areas targeted for abduction of seafarers, theft of cash and personal belongings.

The kind of vessels targeted ranged from oil tankers to product tankers, bulk carriers, container ships and fishing boats to offshore support vessels.

No wonder, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in the first quarter of 2019 ranked Nigeria’s water as among the worlds’ most dangerous for merchant shipping – out of the 38 attacks recorded in 2019, 14 were off Nigeria.

It also stated that most likely other incidents in the wider Gulf of Guinea were carried out by pirates based in the Niger Delta of Nigeria – an area that has experienced civil unrest for more than a decade.

But unfortunately, Dr. Bashir Jamoh director-general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) stated that economic cost of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, GoG, currently stands at $793.7 million (about N422.2 billion) while the economic cost of piracy activity in Asia was estimated at $4.5 million (as of 2016).

He stated this in a presentation during the 2021 Chief of the Naval Staff Annual Conference (CONSAC) held in Kano, titled, Enhancing Collaboration amongst Stakeholders for Improved Maritime Security in Nigeria.

Additionally, he stated that the economic cost of maritime insecurity in Nigeria is very pronounced compared to other countries and observed that despite the rich potential of maritime in areas of job creation and revenue generation, and its vital role in facilitating more than 90 per cent of world trade through shipping, the sector was undermined by insecurity.

To buttress what he said, in 2021, Nigeria’s finance minister – Zainab Ahmed disclosed that Nigeria will borrow $1.76 billion from the domestic markets to fund the fight against insecurity. Meanwhile some of these funds could have been used to develop our transportation systems.

In the past, the Nigerian public (the customers) do not depend on the nation’s public transportation system because they are unreliable, unsafe, not secured, and unsustainable. Most of the customers also complain about the low quality of service.

Based on the above it is important to remind leaders in the sector on the need to draw up better strategies to help develop its security architecture as well as make it more competitive, efficient, safer, secured, sustainable and profitable.

With Nigeria’s population of over 200 million people as well as having the largest economy in Africa, under this administration, Nigeria’s GDP increased from an estimate of N70.01 trillion recorded in 2020 to N72.39 trillion in 2021. An efficient transportation system is the gateway to the economy of Nigeria.

Therefore, investing more in the use of modern digital technology, hiring trained professionals etc. especially in our public transportation space would make it safer, more secure and sustainable. This would go a long way in boosting greater efficiency.

It will also create more business and employment opportunities as well as attract more foreign direct investment opportunities and create a system that would help generate more profit as well as monitor security and safety better.

To make this happen, the government needs to create a think tank platform with the sole responsibility of brainstorming, researching and coming up with more ideas and strategies to help upgrade the sector. This can be named as Nigeria’s Transportation think tank Group to help manage the sector more efficiently.

The platform should have a time frame of 6 months to 1 year, 1 to 2 years, 2 to 3years, 3 to 4 years or 4 to 5 years to develop solutions that would help manage current challenges facing the sector better as well as block existing economic loopholes in the sector. It should be driven by digital technology, trained professionals and be nonpartisan.

Read also: Nigeria’s transportation: Adopting more efficient human resource strategy for growth

It should also have the ability to prepare for unprecedented challenges such as the advent of COVID 19 in addition to developing the necessary adaptability strategy.

Also, a national conversation among transport stakeholders, policy makers and citizens on how the sector can rapidly move forward should be a front burner for stakeholder engagements, debate, discussions and analysis to meet the growing needs of the sector and economy at large. It should also satisfy customers needs, be safer, secured, sustainable as well as be environmentally friendly, public policy etc.

For example, nowadays in developed nations Block chain technology now enables scalable, immediate solutions for order tracking and authentication. Also, driverless cars now manoeuvre through city streets, while commercial drones now airlift packages, computer-captained ships now navigate through high seas.

Additionally, with Blockchain technology, the supply chain for truck parts and used trucks can now be tracked on a digital ledger for the commercial transportation industry and these revolutionary changes in technology are now taking us to a threshold of a bold and unprecedented era in transportation. This has also boosted improvements in mobility, security, safety, efficiency, profitability and competition.

Finally, technology revolution now helps reduce congestion, fuel use, pollution though it still faces challenges such as cyber-attacks,increased cost associated with maintenance, greenhouse gas emissions etc .

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