On resumption in office, the minister of Transport, Chief Rotimi Chibuke Amaechi pledged to reform the transport system in Nigeria. His immediate predecessor, Senator Idris Umar gave such a pledge years ago. Every transport minister in Nigeria, including Mr. H.O. Omenai, Lt. Col. Musa Yar’adua, Jaja Wachukwu, Lt. Col. Mohammed Magoro, Captain Olufemi Olumide, Dr. Mrs. Kemafo Chikwe, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, Ibrahim Bio, R.A.B. Dikko, Ojo Madueke, Precious Sekibo, Brigadier-General Jeremiah Useni, Oluwole Adeosun and others have made such pledges. But so far little has been achieved in that sector. I want to believe Chief Amaechi will make a difference.
Transportation is a major key to development, be it by railways, air or sea. As Dr. Emeka Okengwu, a development economist, said in a paper that “the existing transportation infrastructure in Nigeria comprising roads, railways, ports, airports and pipelines is inadequate in terms of accessibility and inter-operability. This poor performance has been largely occasioned by the fragmented operational and institutional framework for the inter-modal coordination of the country’s transport modes, hence the need to integrate and coordinate the activities and responsibilities of the different transport modes in the country so as to harness the various potentials contained therein”.
The National Conference sat in Abuja in 2014 for about three months, and was headed by Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, a retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The Conference came out with some recommendations that today are either ignored or buried. Before it concluded sitting, the Conference divided itself into various committees, and the one that caught my attention was the committee on transportation. It was headed by Senator Musa Adede, who represented Cross Rivers North in the Senate in 1999. Senator Adede was also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation between 1999 and 2003. He is a transportation expert. Other members of the committee were Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar, Barr. Promise Adebunmi Kanayo Adewusi, Barr. Chris Agbonwanegbe, Brenda Akpan, Hon. (Chief) Obi Anoliefo, Mallam Hamman Bello Barkindo, Dr. Abdu Bulama, Barr. J. I Ebinum, Mrs Patience Hadiza Ibrahim, Alhaji Musa Shehu Isiwele, Chief (Mrs) Hannatu Lohor, Dr. Clement Mgbada, Asabe Baba Nahaya, Ezenwa Nwagwu, Clifford Obur, Oyinkan Olasanoye, Michael Olukoya, AIG Ralph Ola Osanaiye (Rtd.), Mrs Felicia Sanni, Hon. Sheik Mudathir Sekoni, and Millicent Okonkwo Ugoeze. Dr. Emeka Okengwu served as the consultant to the committee.
The committee made recommendations on the need for improvement of the aviation sector, rail transportation, sea ports, in-land waterways/shipping, roads, pipelines, and the transport services support sector in mines and steel.
The Musa Adede committee implored that the government should review the existing transportation master plan for each sector, on the basis of economic analysis, to determine the economic rate of return on each transportation project, looking at the economic impact and financial implication of such projects. In addition, the committee suggested that the plan should prioritise projects based on economic analysis and budget constraints so as to determine the diverse range of benefits involved, including accessibility and social benefits, economic and growth benefits, decongestion benefits, environmental benefits, health and social benefits, infrastructure maintenance benefits, operation and maintenance benefits.
When Chief Rotimi Amaechi told the nation in 2015 that he would reform the transport system, I suggested that he should take a look at the comprehensive seventy-eight page report of the Musa Adede committee. To me that report is a major guide in solving our transportation problems. The most central challenge identified by the committee is the absence of an integrated approach to transportation development and management in Nigeria. The absence of a central authority to oversee the implementation of the various national transportation master plans and the heavy dependence on budgetary provision for transport development had led to inadequate funding regimes and distortions in most transport projects. The privatisation of projects such as the ports concessioning has not also removed the financial burden from government, as public funds are still applied to the expansion and maintenance of the facilities, leaving the concessionaires to collect revenue.
The committee suggested, among other things, that (1.) the existing National Transport Council should be expanded from just the current Federal Ministry of Transport and state commissioners of Transport to include the Federal Ministries of Works and Aviation and the state commissioners of Works, as well as experts in the transport sector and representatives of all core stakeholders therein. It shall be responsible for the formulation of policies governing the sector throughout Nigeria and covering all tiers of government. The Council should also set and maintain standard practices and ensure the coordination of transport development in Nigeria. It should meet on a quarterly basis, and any other time as the need arises. The Council is answerable to the president. (2.) Government efforts towards the establishment of a Commission should be accelerated. (3.) The Commission should have the mandate to formulate an intermodal national transportation infrastructure development policy that would identify and initiate the development of key mineral and agricultural products that can yield load value on the return of investments and the inclusion of local financing institutions such as Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Bank of Industry (BOI), Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), Natural Resources Development Fund(NRDF), Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and local finance institutions and investors, so as to promote inclusive growth, guarantee retention of foreign direct investment and avoid outright sale of national asset through non-inclusive concessioning programmes. (4.) There should be a deployment of an integrated transport infrastructure development programme that would intricately tie a fixed and appreciable percentage of steel and allied materials for use in rail transportation lines, roads and housing construction, airports remodeling and boat and ship building to the Ajaokuta, Aladja, Oshogbo, Katsina and Jos steel plants and rolling mills.
(5.) There should be the review of the existing transportation legislation by ensuring all states and private sector participation, provided that such participation is in line with the policies of the National Transportation Commission. This will allow the development of a national transportation infrastructure to be inclusive of the rights of state governments to build intra-state transportation infrastructure, while private sector investors shall be allowed to build and operate certain categories of transportation infrastructure linking the mines, beneficiation plants and integrated agricultural projects. (6.) There should be the encouragement of Public-Private Partnerships or joint ventures in the provision of transportation services. (7.) There should be the development of all the ports and making them functional through a deliberate policy for maximum utilisation by using attractive incentives and providing an enabling environment to discourage importers from diverting their imports to neighbouring countries. (8.) The Ministry of Petroleum Resources and its relevant departments and agencies should develop a policy that gives indigenous shipping lines the right of first refusal to transport Nigerian crude. (9.) There should be the expansion of the rail network to commercial nerve centres and all major ports in the country as well as exploring the possibility of extending railways to all State capitals
(10.) Nigeria should embrace modern equipment technology inclusive of fast trains and standard gauge rail tracks for the expansion of its operations. (11.) There should be the encouragement of the federal and other tiers of government and the development partners to broaden the scope of Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) to include rural roads in all states of the federation.
In our quest for National Development, the need for a vibrant transportation system can no longer be ignored.
Eric Teniola, a former Director in the Presidency, Writes from Lagos.