Interview: Hassan Bello
In what ways will the new National Transport Commission (NTC) impact transport regulation?
HASSAN BELLO: The new NTC will replace the NSC as regulator of the transport sector. It aims to take a multisectoral approach in attracting private sector investment in developing transport infrastructure. Until now, the government has taken the lead in port, road and especially railway development. However, we need the private sector take on a bigger share of the funding because the government lacks the financial means to address the country’s current infrastructure deficit. The NTC will provide the economic regulation necessary to ensure the transport sector makes a meaningful contribution to GDP by generating employment, improving connectivity and boosting the integration of people.
The NTC will be a vast commission that will not only bring investment into Nigeria, but also increase efficiency, drive the economy and support government’s diversification aims. Exports are already growing, but we need to boost this segment further, in order to address our foreign exchange shortages. The main challenge is not only in developing added infrastructure, but also in supporting a more efficient, connected and integrated nationwide transport system.
How would you assess the competitiveness of Nigerian ports relative to others in the region?
BELLO: A common complaint is that there has been a diversion of cargo from Nigeria to other regional ports. This is not a diversion, however, but a choice made by shippers, influenced by rational economic considerations. Shippers are becoming increasingly educated and informed about their options, which means that Nigerian ports are in close competition with other Central and West African ports. Nigeria should be the natural load centre and shipping transport hub for West Africa, but much needs to be done to reach that goal, including allowing bigger ships to enter the main ports of Apapa and Tin Can. We estimate that within 20 years Nigeria will have significantly improved in this area by constructing multiple deep seaports with inland connectivity. Developments such as the Lekki deep seaport are a good step in this direction.
What has been the rationale behind the plans for a new national maritime line?
BELLO: Just as there is an ongoing rail revolution in Nigeria, there will be a maritime revolution to change the way the economy works. Nigerians ought to own and operate their own ships. This will complement increased activity in the agricultural and mining sectors. Launching a national maritime line will drive up the already substantial earnings in freight and significantly boost the growth of the economy. We are planning to clean up the flag system, and improve our nautical academies to ensure an international curriculum and attract employment. This is expected to be a sustainable national fleet, with facilities for ship repairs, ship building and other ancillary industries.
How would you characterise the impetus for the promotion of truck transit parks (TTPs)?
BELLO: TTPs will transform the transport system by integrating road transport with seaports, dry ports, and inland ports of destination and origin. TTPs will be built off the highways, with amenities such as hotels, hostels, chain restaurants, petrol stations, repair areas and rest stops for drivers. The private sector has already raised $3.5bn for TTP development, and we estimate that this will generate around 128,500 jobs between 2018 and 2020. By 2020 TTPs will be fully operational across the country, with every TTP within a 100- to 200-km radius. This will also help ensure commitment to the ECOWAS Interstate Road Transit Convention’s transport stipulation that a driver must have a rest stop after each six-hour shift. The NSC is working with the Federal Road Safety Corps, state governments, federal ministries, and the private sector to fulfil this ambition.
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