Nigeria’s transportation sector: Adaptation to COVID-19 and way forward.

The unprecedented impacts and disruptions as a result of coronavirus known popularly as COVID-19 is affecting all economies and markets globally.

It is caused by the SARS -COV-2 and has continued to grow with more than 175 countries and territories reporting cases. There are currently 1,604,718 global confirmed cases and 95,735 deaths from COVID-19 outbreak as of April 10,2020,03.37GMT and 305 confirmed cases and 7 deaths in Nigeria.

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The response by governments and organisations all over the world has suddenly impacted our way of life and that of the global transportation systems. The speed with which these impacts has hit the world is unprecedented, especially because the different modes of transport (airlines, railways, maritime, pipelines, private and public transport systems) have all experienced drastic fall of customers and patronage.

This has resulted negatively in shutting down of operations and in many cases reduction in service delivery levels which has thrown nations and the entire transport systems into the worst case ever experienced by mankind, worse than the similar case of 1918 influenza pandemic caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin.

Though, COVID-19 pandemic has negatively dislocated and shutdown industries and economies, there seems to be some unique opportunities attached to it, such as helping the sector to reposition itself to be broader in business approach and seamless. Before the outbreak of the virus, Nigerian economy had great potentials for growth, it is currently the largest in Africa with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $446.543 billion (2019).

The lack of a well-diversified economy and weak healthcare system  is a great challenge that might affect the economy of Nigeria if urgent steps are not taken in addition to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revision of the 2020 GDP growth rate from 2.5 percent to 2 percent as a result of a relatively low oil price and limited fiscal space.

Additionally, the country’s debt profile had been a source of concern for policymakers and developmental practitioners, as the most recent estimate puts the debt service-to-revenue ratio at 60 percent, which is likely to worsen amid the steep decline in revenue associated with falling oil prices. These constraining factors will aggravate the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and make it more difficult for the government to manage the crisis.

Transportation sector contribution to Nigeria’s GDP increased to $720.241 million in the third quarter of 2019 from $642.927 million in the second quarter of 2019 and contributed 2.49 percent to nominal GDP in Q1 2019, an increase from 1.85 percent recorded in the corresponding period of 2018, higher than 2.05 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The importance of the sector as the gateway to the economy of nations cannot be overemphasised, especially because transportation is an essential service  needed all over the world to move passengers, goods and services with safety and security as its fundamental objective in delivering quality service and also a top priority for the government (the regulators) to ensure everyone working in the sector and using it in Nigeria are safe and secure.

Coronavirus pandemic has opened a huge gap in the sector and it needs to be closed urgently because of Nigeria’s poor transportation system which is not well regulated and monitored. The Use of motor bikes, tricycle, poor transport infrastructures and lack of modern transport technological system in driving the sector, lack of modern transport policies, very little or no attention by the government to the sector, lack of professionalism in the sector are some of the areas with gaps that needs to be closed for maximum efficiency, repositioning and growth of the sector.

The existing gaps in our nation’s transportation systems before the coronavirus pandemic has further widened because of the pandemic and so our government needs to begin strategizing towards taking urgent steps to close the wide gap created, because of the need of steady supply of food, medical supplies, emergency goods with minimal delays or restrictions needed and other essential services needed  to maintain a balance in our nations supply chain networks for the sustenance of life and our economy.

The response of mobility service providers (MSP’S) to COVID-19 after the lifting of the ban of restrictions on movement should create a new culture in our nations transport system, especially on ways of managing the right blend of mobility options through adopting modern methods of transportation, if we are really serious in building a more diversified economy and transport sector. This will help us create higher standards especially in our public transport systems where there are little or no standards of monitoring, managing and regulating the system by the government.

The government gives very little or no attention to the sector, this is evident in the amount allocated to the sector in our annual budget at the national, state and local government levels. People with little or no formal training are left to run and manage the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) an independent Nigerian trade union serving the interests of transport workers in the road transport sector, who are supposed to be calling for collective obtaining and pushing of social stability for all workers in the transport sector as defined in its constitution, the Union has now been turned into an organisation of extorting money from passengers, oppressing passengers and also other genuine investors.

In the past the rise of mobility as a service (MaaS) which is the integration of various forms (public transport, ride-,car- or bike sharing ,taxi or car rental/lease or a combination of options) of transport services into a single mobility service accessible on demand for customers satisfaction has risen and so the global dislocation of travelling due to COVID-19 will in some ways help serve as an opportunity for Maas ecosystem to realign and reposition its culture and value system in Nigeria. Though it is still evolving, there are some lessons we can learn from the response of leading economies and first world nations rapid response to the 21st century agile new mobility system, through our adaptation and response to the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Some of the ways Nigeria’s transport system can adapt to the impacts of the pandemic is by revaluating and restructuring the entire transport system by the government participating and getting more involved in its development, collaboration and partnership with more advanced transport nations ,encouragement of more professionalism, proper regulation and monitoring, deployment of modern technology and communication systems in driving the sector, enacting and formulating modern policies and also tailoring it to fit our environment and lastly but not the least; establishment of a think tank group to develop more strategies in building a more sustainable and globally competitive transport sector.

 

FESTUS OKOTIE

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