• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s transportation sector: Improving security and the way forward

Transport activities contributed 1.35% to nominal GDP in Q2 – NBS

In a highly mobile society like Nigeria, accurate and timely traffic information can help commuters reach their destinations safely and timely. To serve this information need, Advanced Traveller Information Systems (ATIS) should be introduced to Nigeria’s transport sector. This would help provide real-time, true identities of commuters, origin and destination of travellers as well as traveller route information.

While the origin of Intelligent Transportation System could be traced back to the 1960s with the development of the Electronic Route Guidance System (ERGS) in the US, it helped provide drivers with route guidance information based on real-time analysis.

Modern railways have long moved away from the slow, polluting and poor safety record in the past and now offer speed, comfort, convenience as well as enhanced safety just like that of air travel. These changes now render railways a safe, cost-effective, more efficient, profitable and highly attractive option in today’s world. Thereby, attracting the patronage of a significant size of the population and emphasising the relevance of the ATIS.

While current life expectancy at birth in Nigeria is now 55.44 years, a 0.57% increase from 2021. Interestingly, the Consumer Price index (CPI), which measures inflation increased to 15.92% on a year-on-year basis in March 2022. In addition, the 2021 Global Peace Index (GPI) 2021 ranked Nigeria at 146th and 8th least peaceful in Africa, and interestingly Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) also drew attention of government to challenges such as kidnapping, insecurity, corruption, etc., as partly responsible for why investors find Nigeria unattractive despite our potentials, resources and population.

These security concerns cannot be addressed without an improved management and monitoring system for the transportation sector.

The World Bank has said that the number of poor Nigerians is projected to hit 95.1 million in 2022. The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics stated that in year 2020, 40% of the population or 83 million Nigerians lived in poverty (83m Nigerians lived on less than the equivalent of $1.90 a day). While the national poverty rate is also projected to jump from 40.1% in 2019 to 45.2% in 2022, the unemployment rate is also projected to rise to 32.5% with further increase in 2022. These challenges can be linked to the current insecurity and the lack of adequate and safe transport infrastructure. Further leading to poor social services, scarce investments that could drive innovation, and the establishment of industries to create wealth.

Reports say that Nigeria witnessed a staggering 111 kidnapping incidents from January to mid-August 2021 (an estimated N11.415bn was said to have been demanded as ransom for kidnapped victims) and 915 killed and 571 kidnapped in January 2022. This 2021 (111) represented confirmed cases by the police and eye-witnesses reported by the media (other unreported cases might have taken place). The highest number of kidnap cases (27) was recorded in February with 605 victims and was closely followed by July (23) and January (21) with 327 and 284 victims, respectively.

It is also reported that an average of 13 persons were abducted daily in the first half of 2021 in Nigeria which confirms the level of the decline of security, safety, and how daring criminals have become. Worthy of note is increased insecurity in northern and eastern parts of Nigeria.

In the Northern parts, victims are often kidnapped in large numbers mostly in schools, roads, hospitals, homes as well as mass abduction of travellers on highways and the recent train attack where several people were abducted. Kidnappers now detain victims for huge ransom payment more than for other personal or political reasons and sometimes kill victims to pass strong messages to relatives and government officials just like the recent March 22, 2022 train attack along Abuja-Kaduna line where seven passengers were killed and several passengers abducted from the train. The highways in the South-West and South-South are also hot spots.

In the South-Western parts of Nigeria herdsmen have also been accused as responsible for the abduction of farmers from their farms and highways, yet none have been brought to book or tried in any court of law.

Some examples of dangerous roads identified in Nigerian roads are the Abuja-Kaduna highway, Benin-Ore Highway, Benin-Auchi-Okene Highway, Keffi-Akwanga Highway, Akure-Owo Expressway, Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja Road, Zaria-Sokoto-Gusau, Bauchi-Tafawa-Balewa Highway, Wukari-Takum Road, and Minna-Kotongora Road.

The reasons for some of the anomalies are well beyond reform of the transportation sector, they are foundational spanning through the very fabric holding the nation together. Also, insecurity is fuelled by political issues (ethnicity and religion) and elements such as corruption, unemployment, increased poverty, lack of business opportunity, marginalisation as well as differences in norms and customs, etc., are also responsible for the high rate of corruption and inequality among citizens.

Other major challenges affecting national unity, peace, and security are the increase of secessionists groups, lack of freedom of expression, high level of insecurity, high unemployment rate, electoral fraud, terrorist attacks, unemployment, poverty, etc. In addition are herder-farmer conflict, armed banditry, police brutality, nepotism, lack of patriotism, and lack of freedom of expression.

Also affected are the security challenges affecting Nigeria’s territorial water such as illegal unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF), sea robbery, illicit trafficking, narcotics, arms smuggling, and pollution. 73% of kidnappings at sea and 92% of global hostages take place around the Gulf of Guinea and are responsible for economic leakages of over $2.74 billion in the past four years due to insurance surcharges applied on Nigerian shipments.

Read also: Is national transportation bill jinxed?

This current level of insecurity is unprecedented and based on this it is important our government look at the possibility of restructuring the 1999 constitution to reflect equity, justice, true federalism, promote diversity and inclusion, etc.

An efficient, modern railway system and reform of the broad transportation sector would also provide a safer and sustainable form of transport in Nigeria mitigating the high spate of insecurity. However, achieving the desired level of safety comes with associated costs in upgrading transportation infrastructure to a modern, technology-driven, sustainable option.

With more cooperation, commitment, transparency, and trust among government, security agencies as well as local communities exchange of information will be easier and faster. This will help close security gaps and create a more peaceful, secure, and business-friendly environment.

Also, the government needs to channel more resources and focus on better strategies for creating jobs and business opportunities for Nigerians, balancing the inequality gap among citizens as well as reducing poverty and corruption to a minimal level. Government should also provide basic amenities such as good roads, regular power supply, and basic education targeted at marginalised and poor Nigerians should be adopted.

This would help renew the mindset of Nigerians as illiteracy is partly responsible for the high level of insecurity in the country. Also important is upgrading the National Orientation Agency and canceling amnesty for Boko Haram and bandits’ members. With the above, it is important that security agencies, government at all levels, and community leaders work together to improve the situation before it deteriorates further; just like in the case of Afghanistan where the government fell to the Taliban.

While poor leadership and lack of political will among leaders are also responsible for insecurity, the way out is for the government to take full responsibility of vulnerable and unemployed Nigerians as well as develop flexible policies to improve the living conditions of Nigerians. The Federal, state, and local governments also need to involve the youths in governance and ensure a more balanced political, business, and social environment.

A reformed transportation sector with an intelligent, real-time transport information system, along with measures such as the introduction of state police, upgrade of our electoral laws, decentralisation of our system of government to help improve service delivery, particularly at the grassroots needs to be adopted. If this is done it will help create a sense of belonging among Nigerians, help improve security,  safety, and reduce poverty to grow our economy.