Harnessing road corridor to boost economy




Fashola

On March 24, 2022, stakeholders in the transport sector, converged on the premises of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) for a roundtable on Road Corridor Development and the impact on trade in Nigeria.
The programme, organised by the National Chamber Policy Centre of the ACCI provided a platform for the stakeholders to brainstorm in order to produce a draft policy framework on Road Corridor Development in Nigeria.


They expect that it would provide direction through which the federal government can approve a National Policy on Road Development.


With a network of about 204,000km and 33,000km being federal roads, Nigeria ranks 131 out of 141, while occupying 31st out of 38 in Africa on quality of road infrastructure.


To improve this, they emphasised the need for President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently sign into law the National Transport Commission Bill.

Expert views

According to Mr Emmanuel John, a sustainable transport and road safety expert, approving a national policy on road corridor development is critical in transforming Nigerian roads into economy zones for sustainability.


He said that the current status does not present hope of converting Nigerian roads into viable economic sector.
John said that some key national plans with vital components for road transport sector development are limited to road construction.


“Although government is not resting, but it is just that movement does not necessarily mean progress, and being busy does not really equal business,’’ he said.
He noted that over 90 per cent of goods and passengers’ movements in Nigeria are carried out on the roads with comparatively lesser attention to road transportation in terms of policies and investments.


“This would mean that efforts to get Nigeria out of poverty may never achieve its goals.
“The different national development plans, strategies and initiatives on road transport cannot reach their maximum potential as long as they are centered on just infrastructure,’’ John said.


While appreciating the huge investments in the railway sector, John called for more to serve as a huge relief to the roads.
According to him, there is also a huge potential for inland waterways to provide complementary, if not alternative, to road systems, but this is largely unharnessed.
He added that pipelines which exist across Nigeria have largely failed, thereby transferring all bulk liquids to the roads.
“The air transport, is for now, expensive for the size of local businesses in Nigeria,’’ John said.


No doubt, the opportunity provided by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is another reason why Nigerian roads should be developed as economic zones.


“Under-developing the roads simply means movement from a beautiful plane through a beautiful airport to an exotic car through a supper sweet window dressed access road from the airport only to drop into a jungle traffic in the city.


“It is the same with freight, from a beautiful high sea experience, through supper clean terminal and then drop suddenly into a jungle traffic in the city,’’ John added.
Stakeholders stressed that initiatives on transport should not centre on aviation and maritime alone.


They say that turning Nigerian roads to economic zones cannot be successfully achieved without good policies and regulations.


Mr Gboyega Onadiran, a public affairs analyst, said there was near absence of clear concise road transport policy at national and states levels.
“The road transport subsector of the transportation industry has the poorest regulations of all the modes. This results in multiple, inappropriate and illegal taxation.
“Also, there is a dominance of informal operators that have become somewhat monstrous with nearly everyone scared to call it what it is,’’ he said.


Onadiran said that implications of the problems can be felt in astronomical increase in cost of transport and by implication businesses as well as delay in goods and services delivery.


According to him, poor policy and regulation contributed in exposing commuters to crime and criminality along the roads, intimidation, and corruption by some security agencies.


“Unfortunately, we are far from finding solution as everybody seems to blame everybody and those statutorily in charge are lamenting more,’’ Onadiran said.
While calling for institutional reforms, he stressed the need to address the issue of unhealthy vehicle fleet plying the roads.
According to the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), 90 per cent of trucks are 30 years old and above and one of the worst fleet age in the world.


Records also show that Nigeria is among the countries of Africa with the oldest vehicle import age limit of 15 years.


“70 per cent of all vehicle imports are used vehicles,’’ says a report from the National Automotive Design and Development Council.

According to UN Habitat, 80 per cent and 70 per cent of used vehicles imported to Benin Republic and Togo respectively end up in Nigeria.
Consequently, the rising motorisation that narrows road capacity, leading to congestions and delays is also a huge concern.
The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) says the annual trade loss due to bad road is valued at N80 billion, while additional vehicle operating and maintenance cost resulting from bad roads is valued at N53.8 billion, bringing the total loss per annum to N133.8 billion.
In view of all these, the stakeholders are advocating the merging and creation of a new ministry of Highway and Transportation.


They urged the federal government to create National Highways Authority, Nigeria Urban Roads and Transport Authority as well as develop sustainable funding models to fund road sector development.


A motorist, Mr Paulicarp Udom, also appealed to the federal government to pay attention to the extremely inadequate and poor road networks and facilities.
According to Udom, motorists are suffering from overage and largely unmaintained roads.


He said that poor quality of road construction makes some roads fail even when the construction is still ongoing.
“Unfortunately, there are huge budgets for road maintenance that has not given the desired outcome,’’ Udom said.
The board chairman of FRSC, Malam Bukhari Bello, said that discussions on infrastructural development in Nigeria, especially road corridor development initiatives would continue to take the centre stage.


He expressed dismay that lack of adequate maintenance led to the complete failure of most of the roads.
Bello holds the strong view that road network is one of the critical infrastructural gaps that need serious intervention.
According to him, road transport infrastructure is a critical factor and driver for economic growth and prosperity with direct and indirect impact on socio-economic life.


He called for the establishment of dedicated corridor development and management funds.
“There is however need to incorporate safety component into every road corridor development initiative in order to ensure safer highways,’’ he added.

Roads maintenance too expensive

On his part, the acting director general, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Michael Ohiani, said the sustenance of expansion and maintenance of the road networks is increasingly becoming difficult.
He blamed it on dwindling revenue fortunes of the federal government and other competing public service obligations.


“On the average, it is estimated that road projects expansion, repair and rehabilitation would require an estimated N900 billion annually.
“This is against an average annual budgetary allocation of N120 billion, leaving a very significant shortfall of about N780 billion,’’ Ohiani said.


He said that as a result of these challenges, the federal government through the Ministry of Works and Housing is exploring Public Private Partnership (PPP) options for the development and maintenance of the road networks.
According to him, the option is debuting with 12 road corridors as a pilot scheme.
“The primary objectives of the Higher Development and Management Initiative (HDMI) pilot road project is to leverage private sector investment to improve facilities and operations on the roads among others.


“The immediate economic benefit is that the projects would create job opportunities for construction industry cluster professionals, technicians, artisans and unskilled workforce operating in the nation’s labour market.


“The pilot road PPP scheme would lead to the reduction of travel time and improve commuter travel experiences as a result of new improvements and significantly reduce traffic congestion in urban areas.
“More so, the scheme is expected to result in significant improvement in security and monitoring on the route, while in the long-term impart new knowledge and skills on Nigerians with respect to highway development, operations and maintenance for continued sustenance of road assets,’’ he said.


Alhaji Adamu Jalaludeen, the chairman, Kaduna Sate Chapter of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) said dilapidated roads due to poor maintenance practices had contributed to the challenges being faced by road transportation in Nigeria.


Jalaludeen said that individuals and governments were shying away from doing transport business due to bad roads and high cost of motor parts.
“The construction of more rail lines would reduce the pressure on the roads.
“Golf car is now sold at N2 million and Sharon car N3 million and apart from the fuel challenges, pot holes damage the car, especially the tyres.


“Apart from that, some of the parts are substandard; so, let the relevant authorities step up efforts at ensuring that they check substandard parts.
“This would not only save money but lives too,” he said.


NAN

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