By Kenneth Jukpor
Concerned by the state of the nation’s transport infrastructure despite increasing trade volumes, the Chairman, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited and former Minister of Interior, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho has urged the Federal Government and State Governments to expand the nation’s ports infrastructure, access roads and provide connectivity to the hinterlands.
Iheanacho who spoke at the ongoing National Transportation Summit organised by the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration (CIoTA) Nigeria, stated that the nation had to improve transport infrastructure to meet the 4% annual increase in world trade volume, which has also affected Nigeria.
He stressed that shipping industry has played a significant role in taking millions of people out of poverty around the world; therefore, he urged the Nigerian government to invest more in infrastructure in order to create wealth and allow the citizens feel the impact of the enormous opportunities in shipping via poor infrastructure.
Noting that Nigeria’s revenue base has grown as a result of crude oil sale over the years, he warned that it would be wrong to continue spending such revenue on imported goods, rather than improving the size of ports available in the country.
He said, “Remember that we have to maximize these ports for our need as well as to serve landlocked countries like Chad. Nigeria should look at the trade needs and develop ports to serve those needs. The demand factor we should focus on is the underlying trade.
“How do we compare the volume of trade in 1959, 1969 and consistently over the years? If the trade has doubled over this period, then there is need to have ports infrastructure improved proportionally.”
Despite the numerous transport infrastructural challenges in the country, he urged CIoTA to see the annual 4% growth in world trade as an opportunity to explore avenues to position the nation’s transport sector to benefit from the trade.
Capt. Iheanacho also noted that Nigeria should prioritize development of human capacity in shipping rather than acquisition of vessels, stressing that ships could be mismanaged if the operators lacked the requisite skills to gainfully manage them.
Proffering solutions, he said: “What improvement have been made on the Lagos port access roads infrastructure linking hinterlands over the years? On Creek Road in Apapa, you would find numerous obsolete buildings that the government could buy, demolish and convert those places into marshalling areas for cargoes. What we advocate is dynamism. We have to consider these options.”
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to create an enabling environment that supports indigenous and foreign private sector investment in transport infrastructure, a leading economist, Professor Pat Utomi, admonished Federal and State Governments to jettison political interference in contracts and concessioned projects.
Speaking at the CIoTA summit, Utomi stressed that this practice of frivolous interruption of legitimate infrastructure concession agreements and contracts have scared Nigerian private sector investors as well as foreign direct investments, while the nation suffers the consequence of dilapidated transport infrastructure.
“People don’t go to a country where property rights are threatened. In Nigeria, Governors are revoking C-of-Os that were approved by their predecessors. We are talking of properties that people have invested billions of Naira to build revoked due to political considerations. People don’t come to countries like that,” Utomi said.
Utomi, who is also the Founder, Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL), lamented that the lack of efficient transport infrastructure has seen Nigeria lose relevance to smaller African countries and other nations outside the continent.
Noting the strategic role of logistics in economic development, Prof. Utomi said, “China’s dramatic rise is down to the fact that they were able to turn around their logistics sector.
“Africa will not make the progress that it is destined to make, unless Nigeria leads the flying geese. What transformed South East Asia economy? One country, Singapore began to get it right, and others looked across the border and joined in the development stride. Before you know it, Malaysia, Thailand and others had their economies transformed.”
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the bill establishing CIoTA in June this year, and since then the association, led by its National President, Dr. Bashir Jamoh has continued to engage stakeholders in the sector constructively towards achieving a viable inter-modal transport sector in Nigeria.