• Monday, July 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Dilemma of Nigerian travellers as roads, rails become riskier

Kaduna killings and a silenced nation

At no time have travellers in Nigeria been in worse and deeper dilemma than now when it has become a tough decision for them to make travelling by road or road which have become riskier or by air which is a no-go area for most of them because of the outrageous cost of a flight ticket.

The recent attack on travellers using the Abuja to Kaduna railway has caused many to avoid the only means of transportation on land that had, before now, been considered as a safer alternative to traveling by road.

With more people scrambling for the limited seats on commercial airplanes, prices are bound to hit the roof. Also, not everyone can afford to go by air, hence many travellers are making their way back to the roads despite the attendant risk of being kidnapped. The increased passenger attention means inflated costs.

This scenario replays itself in every part of the country. Road transportation costs are becoming a luxury which, if not checked, would affect many business travels. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) as released in September showed that fares has been increasing progressively in the last three months, spanning July, August, and September 2021.

According to the figures, the average airfare increase for July was N36,779; August was N36,805, while in September, it was N36,922.

Succeeding as a small and medium scale enterprise in Nigeria comes with too many perils, including a stifling business environment, multiple tax agencies, inefficient supply of electricity, and high food inflation, etc. Now that these are accompanied by high transportation costs, many businesses may be compelled to close shop.

The over 44 million SMEs in Nigeria are run by individuals with families groaning under the added weight of rising food prices. The price of cooking gas has surged to over 300 percent from N3500 early this year to about N7500 and is expected to hit N10,000 for 12kg cylinder, making it almost out of reach for low-income earners.

Quality health care is also rising and going out of reach of mining wage earners. The Lagos State government has now added COVID-19 vaccines to the list of cost burdens as people who choose private hospitals for their vaccine shots have to pay N6000 to get it in the state.

Apart from insecurity, the lack of a robust action to develop a multi-modal transport system contributes to the problem. States across the country boast of different potential. For example, Lagos which is an island surrounded by water has been unable to make its mark in water transportation, neither has it fulfilled the promises of a cable transport system it began with previous administrations.

Nigeria’s drive towards a digital economy cannot be achieved without an efficient transport system. The government at all levels must declare a state of emergency on the transport system

Dilapidated road infrastructure across the state is also responsible for the hike in transport costs as transporters see themselves as taking enormous risk plying on many of the unmotorable highways across the country.

Nigeria’s drive towards a digital economy cannot be achieved without an efficient transport system. The government at all levels must declare a state of emergency on the transport system.

We recommend a concerted effort towards improving the state of roads, reducing the stress of vehicle importation, guaranteeing safety on the highways and railway, revamping mass transit schemes, developing the inland waterways and fast-tracking the completion of all railway projects across the country.

There are certainly opportunities for private sector investment in transport which would benefit the Nigerian economy. Over the years, the government’s inability to create an enabling environment for private investments has ensured the sector consistently underperformed.

Read also: Nigeria railway makes N71m moving cargo in second-quarter – NBS

The sector contributed 2.09 percent to nominal GDP in the second quarter of 2021, an increase from the 1.13 percent recorded in the corresponding period in 2020, but lower than 2.16 percent recorded in the first quarter of 2021. South Africa’s GDP, by comparison, generates 6.5 percent from the transport sector alone.

We agree with experts that transportation and the mobility it confers are linked to a level of output, employment, and income within a national economy. There is also a need to restructure the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) as they contribute to the cost transport operators bear.

There is also the perception that the union has been hijacked by some politicians for their selfish interests. Generally, the union is perceived by most Nigerians as an organisation used to intimidate and extort money from vehicle operators and passengers.

The public transportation system is the most attractive means of traveling across cities and therefore needs to be very efficient, safe, and with inter-modal connections such as connecting rail, buses, taxis, trams and cars to improve passengers’ experience. It also needs to be well-coordinated with cities’ pedestrian networks for passengers to be able to use it comfortably.