Why Nigeria must look beyond road in transport infrastructure

Transportation is a vital component of human activity and the sector’s contribution to the economy can be measured by its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP)- an economic measure of all goods and services produced and consumed in the country.

The transportation industry is a critical hub for economic growth, with improvements in infrastructure boosting commerce and accelerating global investment opportunities aimed at boosting the economy.

The contribution of the transport sector to real GDP in the second quarter of 2022 was 1.84 percent, a rise from 1.26 percent recorded in the preceding year and higher than 1.10 percent recorded in the first quarter of 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The sector’s growth rate is, however, a decline from the 92.38 percent growth rate in Q2 2021.

The road transport sector was the best performing in the second quarter of 2022 with a 56.38 percent growth, Air transport recorded 22.45 percent in Q2 2022, the rail sector suffered a decline of 37.90 percent in Q2 2022, and water transport saw a decrease of 3.02 percent in Q2 2002.

Recall that the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund(PIDF), was formed by the Buhari government in 2018 to expedite the completion of important infrastructure projects. The Companies Income Tax Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, which aims to attract PPP funding for road building across Nigeria, was also signed by the President in January 2019. Infrastructure finance from the Sukuk Bond was obtained through this outstanding plan.

Even with development in the road sector, traffic congestions continue to rob individuals of productive hours, poor road conditions, and recurring kidnappings along various transit routes keep many travellers in anxiety, among other challenges, because other sectors have been developed.

Samuel Odewumi, a former dean of Lagos State University’s School of Transport and Logistics, noted that effective transportation must be coordinated in order to maximize benefits. Integration of all forms of transportation is necessary. Multimodal integration is required, with the water connected to the road and the road properly connected to the train.

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Odewumi also noted that due to weak institutions, a lack of accountability, and inconsistent policy throughout prior governments, billions of dollars had been invested in infrastructure projects that either never saw the light of day or were abandoned after construction had begun. Corruption and the under-maintained infrastructure make the problem worse.

Infrastructure deficit ranks first among the many problems preventing efficient operations at Nigeria’s sea ports, and it has hampered not only the expansion but also the development of this crucial area of the country’s economy.

The poor condition of access roads, malfunctioning cargo inspection scanners, and a lack of a reliable rail system to facilitate the movement of cargo into and out of the ports, are all examples of how this lucrative industry continues to struggle with a significant infrastructure deficit despite numerous attempts to reposition the ports and improve their operations. These elements work together to harm the ports’ capacity to deliver efficient service.

Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports, Nigeria’s two major ports, are notorious for traffic congestion resulting in delays in cargo evacuation and delivery due to a lack of effective rail and inland water connections to the ports.

Statistics from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) show that both ports handle about 1.3 million TEUs of containers yearly and about 86.9 million metric tonnes of bulk cargo.

“We need adequate infrastructure including inland connectivity. We have no access to Apapa and Tin-Can today because there is no rail. We have a congested port because of a lack of planning. The Lagos State Government and other investors should be keen on providing multimodal cargo delivery and evacuation from the port. A port should be served with as many means of transportation as possible including the inland waterway, road, and rail,” Hassan Bello, a maritime expert said.

When the aviation strategy was announced in 2015, there were strong hopes that it would begin in the first half of 2022. However, this has been postponed. Hadi Sirika, the minister of aviation, unveiled a roadmap that included the national carrier, airport concession, aviation leasing company, aircraft maintenance organization, and an improved workforce. Seven years later, however, the first half of 2022 appears to have passed without any indication that the roadmap has begun to take shape.

A strong road network is the most important element of a national multimodal transportation plan, according to Festus Okotie, CEO of Bernard Hall Nigeria Limited and a transport expert. Strong roads are the cornerstone of a flourishing economy. The socioeconomic arteries, hubs, and centres of the country are connected by good roadways. Most commonly, people use roads to go around and carry out daily tasks. People also use roads to access other places of employment, and other modes of transportation like train, air, and sea.

“When our transportation sector becomes more efficient, it will facilitate social economic opportunities that can result in multiplier effects to our economy, especially in areas such as better accessibility to markets, reduced idle time, creation of business and employment opportunities, and attract foreign and local investment opportunities,” Okotie noted.

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