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Transport Veterans Set 2021 Agenda For Industry Growth

By Ayoola Olaitan
Since the world was held to standstill as a result of COVID-19 pandemic for most parts of the year 2020, the effects would definitely continue to shape business and transport activities globally this year.
While it would be difficult to find words that aptly captures the tragic activities and economic hardship ocassioned by the pandemic, from the point of view of the transport sector, it was particularly tough for businesses to survive as all the sub-sectors were grossly affected.
Nevertheless, it is important to set goals for the year 2021 and speedily, especially after a turbulent 2020 characterized by COVID-19.
In Nigeria, all transport sub-sectors are in dire need of a revamp. The aviation sector is in fiscal crisis following several months of lockdown, whilst railways remain in the continuous state of construction with COVID-19 outbreak of over 60 construction workers worsening the situation. The pipeline mode of transportation is almost non-existent as a result frequent vandalization, while the roads and waterways have their peculiar recurring problems.
In a bid to proffer lasting solutions to the nation’s transport sector woes and set the 2021 agenda for the transport industry, MMS Plus reached several veterans across various sub-sectors to get their perspectives.
Speaking with our correspondent, an aviation expert and Chief Executive Officer of TopBrass Limited, Mr. Roland Iyayi, hinted that uncertainty clouds the expectation of the aviation industry as cases of the pandemic continues to increase.
“I don’t think anybody can tell what to expect in the aviation sector. This is because there’s so much uncertainty as we speak. With a lockdown imminent in most Western countries, we’re never sure what the government will do. Is the government on lockdown again, have we learnt enough to know that we cannot lock down the same way people are locking down in other places of the Social Security system?” he queried.
Iyayi, who is also a former Director General of Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA), posited that any lockdown of the nation’s airspace in 2021 would leave more devastating effects on the air travel sector.
“Ordinarily, if the government shutdown economy again, we can expect the year to be a very trying one, probably worse than last year,” he said.
Iyayi, however, argued that if the government does not shut down the economy as the second wave takes its major toll, there’ll be more panic.
“The panic comes as a sense of poor security and people will definitely stay away from air travel which will translate into very low demand for aviation services. That, itself, would impact the industry, probably as bad as it would have been if the country goes on another lockdown.”
While Iyayi shared the views of an airline operator and former Chief Executive of a regulatory agency, the Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative and Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Securities, Group Captain John Ojikutu (Rtd), stressed that the only thing that can determine expectation for the year is the passenger movements at airports.
He explained that the only factor that determines expectation for the year is the availability of passengers because every airline depends on passengers instead of cargoes.
“If airlines are continuously dependent on passengers only, I think  they must begin to realistically plan with the numbers of passagers to expect because it seems the pandemic is hitting harder than last year”
“If there is still going to be a lockdown, how many passengers will be willing to travel? These are factors that can help us know how the industry will fare in the year 2021”
Ojikutu opined that the increase in passengers that was experienced last year was due to the festive season rush, arguing that it doesn’t in anyway imply that the industry is doing well or that things are back to the pre-COVID-19 period.
“With continuous surge in the Covid-19 cases, I don’t envisage any improvement industry because the global economy market is going down and countries are beginning to close their airspace” he added.
Speaking from the standpoint of road transport operator, precisely road haulage via trucks, a chieftain of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) Alhaji Inuwa Mohammed advised the Federal Government, State Governments and agencies to work assiduously to address the numerous challenges affecting road transport business.
His words: “Our expectation is that we want to see the electronic call-up system for truckers put in place this year. We were promised January this year. The government should ensure all forms of extortion encountered by truckers along the ports corridors and other bottlenecks are eradicated”.
“As part expectation for the year, NARTO  appeals to port regulatory agencies, especially Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Shipper’s Council (NSC) to have political will to compel shipping companies to have holding bays to receive their empty containers. Also, the association seeks service improvement from terminal operators and urges NSC to hasten resolving the issue of container deposit with insurance as the alternative.”
Freight forwarders and logisticians, however, urge the federal on the speedy completion of the port access roads, especially the Mile 2/ Tin Can Island port access and other port access roads across the nation that are in bad state.
The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) stressed the need for collective fight against the spread of the pandemic, noting that it has become imperative that Freight Forwarders continue to take responsibility and act in line with clearly spelt out guidelines.
According to a statement signed by the ANLCA President, Mr. Tony Iju Nwabunike, freight forwarding practitioners are responsible for international trade in oil and non-oil businesses.
“As professionals, we  interface with no fewer than nine revenue collecting and regulatory agencies of government in the course of our professional services. Therefore, we are part of Nigeria’s success stories economically, as we have always been, albeit unsung.”
“The impact of our activities on Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and many others reinforces our strategic role in government economic diversification agenda and increasing it’s non oil revenue base”.
He noted that in 2021, ANLCA aims to engage government strategically and look forward to interfacing stronger with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bank of Industry (BoI) on the need for a special loan scheme to help logistics firms in expanding and maintaining fleet of heavy duty and lighter vehicles required beyond coverage of train services.
Indeed, transportation is a sector that impacts all other sectors of a nation’s economy. When transport is efficient, the potential market for a given product or service increases, so does competition. A wider array of goods and services become available to consumers through competition, which tends to reduce costs and promote quality and innovation.
MMS Plus will bring you the views of ship owners, terminal operators, barge operators, academicians, railway stakeholders as well as ground handling companies, next week.

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