Required government’s attention for efficient public transport system
The transportation sector is the “gateway” to the economy of any nation and therefore government needs to re-evaluate the strategies of upgrading the sector to add more value to the success of its economy, create employment opportunities, increase global competitiveness and create better living condition for its citizens.
The importance of the sector to the overall development of economies globally cannot be over emphasised especially as transport innovation was a catalyst for growth in the 19th century industrial revolution, and also because innovations in transport and logistics have led the economic and environmental drivers of the technology revolution in the 21st century. The sector is a catalyst in all aspects of national development.
Its process involves the need to collect, assemble, transfer and distribute goods, services and people from one location to another. Transportation systems globally are experiencing ongoing changes and thanks to modern transformative technologies, education and innovation.
Nigeria currently the largest economy in Africa had a gross domestic product (GDP) of $446.543 billion in 2019 with the transportation sector increasing its GDP to $720.241 million contribution in the third quarter from $642.927 million. Over 80 million people use public transport daily and the system has long suffered lack of attention and low budget allocations from the government especially in the areas of development of infrastructures and other relevant areas needed to upgrade the sector. There are evidence of degeneration and setbacks in the sector in Nigeria with a huge population of over 200 million people partly due to poor human resources development.
Public transport is a means by which large proportions of urban dwellers gain physical access to goods, services, and activities that are needed to sustain life and well-being. It therefore needs extensive overhauling from road and rail systems to maritime, Ports and airports, all these urgently needs upgrades to drive growth in the sector and economy at large to have a direct positive impact on the economy and lives of the citizens.
The sector plays a very important role in both the developed and developing nations ,it also serves as a means of reducing reliance on private car-ownership by providing an affordable alternative for urban commuters and so government at all levels need to look beyond self-ambition, politics, religion and other petty elements hindering the growth of the sector.
There is need for Nigerian government to set higher standards by restructuring the way National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) is run and also needs to intervene in the way politicians are seen to be hijacking the purpose of the union for political purposes, with NURTW perceived to be a structure of extorting money unjustly from vehicles operators and furthering costly political ambitions.
The lack of attention given to the transport sector which accounts for 40 to 50 percent of cost of goods by past government has also adversely affected the sector
The lack of attention given to the transport sector which accounts for 40 to 50 percent of cost of goods by past government has also adversely affected the sector negatively thereby constraining the movement of people, goods and services, which is a major challenge causing the slow growth of the sector and making it unattractive for both local and foreign investors.
Driving the sector with the use of modern technology structures also help boost greater efficiency, economic security, facilitate the movement of people, goods and services that helps link-up communities and states to each other. In addition, it also helps improve safety and security, reduce pollution and road congestion, amplification of freedom and mobility, reduction of overall household expenses, increase social connection and inequality resulting from the burden of those who cannot afford their own cars, it also helps in improving productivity of the citizens.
All these and the recent emergence of COVID-19 pandemic should wake up leaders in the sector to realign the present strategies which is not sustainable. The Nigerian government also need to urgently work towards the upgrade and development of policies by sponsoring bills that can help reposition the sector and build better structures that can sustain it on long term basis and also strengthen its long-term economic goals, diversify the economy and also afford the nation the opportunity of making its cities to be smarter and be a more secure place to live in.
The Federal and states government can also partner with developed nations and organisations in unique service areas in the provisions of mobility to the general public in areas such as provision of buses, trains, ferries, shared taxis and airlines etc. All these will help create a more efficient and equitable transport system.
There is also urgent need for Nigeria to develop structures that can help fast-track collaboration with developed economies and international organisations on the best strategies of upgrading the sector, for example the most common forms of public transport in Lagos with a population of over 21 million (2016) inhabitants are taxis and buses, mostly in rickety state. The state population is growing rapidly at a rate of nearly 3.2 percent with projected population to hit over 32 million in 2050 and become the sixth largest city in the next 30 years according to the Global Cities Institute at University of Toronto. It recently banned the use of motorbikes (Okada) and tricycle (kekemarwa) in some parts of the state, in general all these modes of transport are very insecure, unsafe and unreliable for a city like Lagos that considers itself as a ‘megacity’.
A good public transport sector should have diverse positive impacts on the economy of the society, both direct and indirect impacts and so it is important for both the Federal and States government to partner with organisations such as Bernard Hall Limited (www.bernardhallgroup.com) and Festus Okotie Consulting (www.festusokotieconsulting), that has good international network with world renowned public transport consultants in areas like public transport master planning, integration, bus network planning, vehicle and crew scheduling, bus tenders, bidding assistance, implementation of modern public transport technologies, fare systems, policies, demand analysis, modelling, contracts management, design and service performance optimisation etc.
An efficient public transportation system helps in the provision of a more efficient means of transporting people from one location to another and proffers an effective solution to transport challenges for travellers, especially for those who do not have their own vehicles. In recent times the Nigerian government invested a lot in upgrading the railway sector to reduce the cost of transportation to make life more comfortable for its citizens, this is evidenced by the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding where the Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi signed on behalf of Nigeria and the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Joint Stock Company Russia Railway, Oleg Belozerov signed for Russia during the last Russia, African Economic Forum in Sochi Russia, all these confirms the determination of the present government to develop the sector and improve the living condition for Nigerians
In conclusion, while the Federal government is making giant strides in developing the sector for the overall development of our economy, states government should complement the efforts by adopting Lagos State government transport strategy to develop the sector, grow their economy, make life more comfortable for their citizens and also reduce the cost of transportation for citizens, because an average Nigerian spends approximately 40 percent of their income using public transportation which is not supposed to be as obtained in developed nations like Australia, Canada, China, Japan, USA, Singapore, Britain and so investing more in the development of the sector will help create more employment opportunities, develop a stronger economy and build a more sustainable transportation sector.