Transport infrastructure is imperative for the economic and social development of any nation. This is the reason why countries all over the world invest heavily on it.
Countries like China, United States of America, Japan, United Kingdom have invested massively to develop their road, air and water transport infrastructure. Although Nigeria Many governments in Nigeria since 1960 have made tremendous efforts towards ensuring growth in the transportation sector.
However, Nigeria’s transport infrastructure has continued to yearn for expansion as the population and purchasing powers grow.
According to Statista, a data bank, as at 2018, the federal government has built 36 ,000 kilometres of road crisscrossing the length and breadth of the nation. This is in addition to several thousand state government-constructed roads and those of local governments.
In the aviation sub-sector, Nigeria today has 32 airports with Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport being built in 1922.
The managing director, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt Rabiu Yadudu, said recently that airport passenger traffic grew by 6.5 million in 2021 alone.
Yadudu who spoke at the recently held Airlines Business Summit and Expo 2022 said that traffic figures improved significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic, growing from 9.3 million in 2020 to 15.8 million 2021.
Just like the other components of the transport sector, the water transport facilities have also improved significantly post-independence, with more seaport and waterways being opened to enhance trade and communication.
In spite of the progress, stakeholders contend that Nigeria’s transport sector still faces lots of challenges, including poor maintenance culture, lack of increased investment and the need to open up more wharf to decongest Lagos wharf and accelerate international trade.
An investment and transportation consultant, Mr Segun Obayendo, said Nigeria’s transport sector has the potential to contribute more to the economic growth of the nation.
“The Nigeria transportation sector, when professionally managed, is a vast sector for revenue generation.
“I always believe that a vibrant and efficient transport system will enhance Nigeria’s economic, developmental and strategic roles in the global system/economy”, he said in a recent media report.
Mr Reynold Shodeinde, assistant director of administration, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transportation (CILT), called for a robust national transport policy that will place Nigeria among comity of nations.
“Nigeria does not even have a working document as a National Transport Policy. What we have is a draft, so where do we want to begin, how can transport landscape be organized,” he said in a recent interview with agency report not too long ago.
The Muhammadu Buahari administration said it is conscious of the dire need to improve the sector and place it among the global elite.
This view was canvassed recently by the minister of transportation, Alhaji Mu’azu Sambo, during a presentation on financing Nigeria’s transport infrastructure at the Nigerian International Economic Partnership Forum in New York,
“We remain resolute in our ongoing efforts to use infrastructure to build an economy that leaves no one behind.
“Poor maintenance and insufficient investments have put an enormous strain on transport infrastructure and services. Yet, the demand for transport services has grown exponentially along with the increase in socio-economic activity,” he said.
On maritime, the minister explained that the sub-sector hosts six major seaports that are engaged in international maritime trade with the rest of the world.
He acknowledged that port infrastructure had suffered dilapidation over the years and they now required massive capital investments for upgrade and rehabilitation.
On rail, the minister reiterated the achievements recorded in the sub-sector among which is revamping of some existing lines and inauguration of new ones.
They include the inauguration of and commercialisation of the Abuja- Kaduna; Warri – Itakpe – Ajaokuta and Lagos – Ibadan double track standard gauge rail lines.
President Muhammadu Buhari also acknowledges rail transportation as a potent economic driver. Speaking at the ground breaking of the Kano-Maradi Rail line, said his administration recognised Buhari said railway infrastructure development had been accorded the greatest priority it deserved by his administration.
A transport and logistics expert, Ms Nnenna Akor said Nigerians the post-independence Nigeria has seen Nigerians moving around in bicycles to driving exotic cars and improved boasts service delivery.
She called on the authorities to ensure that Nigerians benefited maximally from rail transportation, being one of the cheapest means of moving from one place the other.
A public servant, Miss Agnes Audu, also reiterated the need for relevant stakeholders to focus on rehabilitation of Federal and State roads in the country.
Audu, who recognised that such projects were capital intensive, urged the government to go into more Public Private Partnership with investors to help achieve their goal.
“I believe that the sector will thrive and more work will be achieved if more public private partnerships are encouraged to help provide the needed transport service in the country,” she said.
Similarly, Mr Andrew Otanwa, a commercial driver, decried the poor state and high rate of insecurity on the Nigerian roads, adding that the transportations sector remained incomplete if the roads were road traps.
“As we speak now, insecurity on the road is something else, thus people don’t travel as they used to and you know what that means to us drivers; we rarely get enough money to cater for our families:, he said.
However, Mr Abayomi Adetunde a banker praised the efforts of President Buhari led administration modernising the rail system 62 years after independence.
“I pray something is done soonest to resume train services along the Abuja-Kaduna Rail corridor, because it was helping a lot of us who have families in the north but work at the city centre.
A trader, Mrs Gloria Ugwu, also praised the government for prioritising the transportation sector, she however urged them to do more for the benefit of all Nigerians.
”The government has done quite a lot especially in the rail sub-sector of the country but more work still needs to be done both in the rail and road subsectors.
“The cost of food has really increased. And one of the major cause of this is the cost of transporting these goods from where there are produced to the consumers.
“The government needs to fix our roads and ensure an efficient and effective rail connectivity to ease the cost of transportation, thus making food affordable for the money man,” she said.
As Nigeria celebrated its 62nd independence anniversary recently, it is evident that in the face of challenges, the transportation sector has grown in leaps and bounds.
Nigerians expect that this expansion will continue to enable the sector contribute more to the nation’s prosperity.