By Izuchukwu Ozoemena
Former Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation Professor Bamidele Badejo has charged Nigerian authorities to get serious and stop playing pranks with the issue of enthroning a regime of a reliable intermodal transportation system in the country. He urged the citizens that since it is just less than five months away when the process of selecting new leaders would commence, they should vote for people who have the real interest of the people at heart especially those who can turn the transportation sector around for the benefit of the people.
Professor Badejo of the Department of Geography, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, stated these in Lagos while delivering a talk on the theme Achieving Intermodal Transportation System in Nigeria: Myth or Reality.
Expansion of transport infrastructure, irrespective of the mode, he observed, has continued to grow in leaps and bounds throughout the socio economic and geographic space of Nigeria since the introduction of the railway by the British over 120 years ago.
He stated that the importance of effective, efficient and reliable transport infrastructure development expected to impact positively on the Nigerian people is never in doubt. This probably accounts for why successive governments have invested hugely towards continuous development of transportation in order to fulfill the aspirations of its people.
“It is undeniable that employees of government and private sectors spend between 40% - 65% of their income on transportation, meaning that transport has remained a huge drain in the overall income of people with gainful employments.
Badejo regretted that the present transport infrastructure situation cannot be supported or resolved by the current structure on ground except by restructuring.
For him, the solution to the question of whether intermodal transport system is achievable or not is a complex issue that takes “the deep to drink from the deep”.
“The transport situation in Nigeria is an issue bothering on several determinants or causation factors which include Nigeria’s political and administrative setting, the Nigeria economy. The Nigerian population and demographic composition which include size, structure, urbanization, rurality and international conspiracy, intervention and global dynamics are combined to determine the nature and complexity of the transport infrastructure that is bequeathed to us for mobility and for spatial interaction.
He argued that the Nigerian transport system cannot be seen to have responded positively to the needs of the citizen as the current situation seems to have bred corruption and nepotism at high levels, poor and lopsided information and data base,
poor infrastructure and equipment base for use and weak maintenance culture.
Others negatives include institutional and legislative framework problems (political and legislative dimensions), unfavourable government policies (especially economic and fiscal policy summersault and general inability to cope with technological dynamics and changes.
.Stiff competition among modes of transportation as a result of general absence of co-ordination, integration and complementation as well as inability to respond to economic dynamics and market size have also contributed to worsen the plight of the citizens.
Also involved is poor access to funds and finances and dearth of human capacity and professionals that could demonstrate high competence and understanding of the overall transportation system especially as concerns the needs of the people.
Intermodal transport involves the transportation and movement of people and goods using multiple modes of transportation without any changes occurring in the process of doing so. The essence of multiple modes includes movement that involves the use of rail, road, water, air and even pipelines which implies that all the modes of transport are connected and linked together within the context of engineering design and socio cultural consideration and economic reality of the people.
The huge benefits associated with the use of intermodal transportation include lower cost effect, environmental friendliness, reliability, capacity, safety advantages and timing especially avoiding delays in relation to transit and interchange.
Unfortunately, the concept of intermodality has not been fully appreciated and therefore implemented in Nigeria.
“The inability to imbibe the concept or ideals associated with intermodal transport relationship is probably responsible for the mythical nature of our people in believing in the impossibility of evolving an intermodal transportation system in Nigeria.
It is expected that a robust, effective, reliable and efficient transport infrastructure could be made available and accessible by the government to promote good governance and provide leadership to Nigerian people. Unfortunately, there are many questions begging for answers. For example the absence of an investment pattern in transport infrastructure, road mode, public transportation expected to provide mobility for all, rail transport, etc. Others are water transportation, maritime and shipping and inland waterways, air transportation and pipeline conveyance for oil and gas. There is also pedestrianization, non motorized bicycle system and other para-transit structures which are unfortunately non-existent.”
In a communiqué at the end of the event organized to mark the 11th Annual Lecture of the Transquest Media, participants expressed disgust that Nigeria as a nation, is presently facing a precarious times in terms of incoherent mode of transportation. All efforts of past and present governments to revive the sham in the sector seem not working due to the fact that “we failed to plan when necessary”.
The most intriguing are the Nigerian ports which are supposed to take the centre stage in terms of having an effective inter-modal transport system and connectivity, but are rather faced with myriad of problems that have made them inefficient. Road transportation has, over the years, remained the only mode of evacuation of imports from the Nigerian ports to their final destination as well as exports from their sources to the ports.
Apart from the fact that evacuation of cargoes through road transport has become outdated in modern port system, the communiqué noted, it also impedes fast and efficient cargo delivery system in view of the dilapidated port access road infrastructure in the country.
The forum regretted that other means of transportation such as rail and water have been non-existent or ineffective in the cargo delivery system in Nigerian ports.
It posited that intermodal system cannot work with this kind of system on ground, when it takes trucks over one month to get to the ports while operators or port users spend almost eight hours daily to get to their work places, hence the need to reform the system completely and bring in professionals and not all the workshop talks and theories from government agencies.
The forum argued strongly that there is need to bring together heads of agencies and stakeholders within the sector to brainstorm and form a common ground to galvanize a robust direction towards achieving an effective inter-modal transport system in the country.