Thursday, 3 September 2015

WANTED: A REGULATOR FOR URBAN HIGHWAY TRANSPORT


WANTED: A REGULATOR FOR URBAN HIGHWAY TRANSPORT Today there is no spectacle as ridiculous as the Nigerian motoring public in one of its periodic fits of anxiety about the near anarchy state of the urban road transport sector occasioned by the absence of a regulator. Every decade or so, the government tries to reform at least one sector of the transport industry and every decade or so one sector of the industry masses its forces to work the masses into distraction. Diagnosing what is wrong with Nigeria’s road transport sector is the easy part.


Even though a large chunk of Nigeria’s economy is spent on the road sector, poor traffic management, poor road capacity, lack of integration between urban planning and transport planning, dearth of high capacity public transport vehicles, weak institutional framework, and absence of a regulatory public transport framework, still plague the system nationwide with the most evident symptoms being, arbitrary pricing, fleets of wobbly and unstandardized vehicles, the menace of touts and the notorious traffic jams found in Lagos and in most other cities around the country.

Meanwhile, because the railway system which is supposed to complement the road mode is still being repositioned and therefore conveying a comparatively low traffic, millions of Nigerians have no access to safe and affordable public transport service. Lagos alone generates over 7 million passenger movements per day with the railway catering for just 8000 and leaving the rest to private cars, mini transit buses, molues, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Tricycles (Keke Marwa), and commercial motorcycles (Okada). Operators on the other hand lament continually about heavy taxes and levies imposed on them by the states, local governments, and transport unions coupled with extortions and harassments dished out to them daily by supposed traffic law enforcement agents, area boys, and touts.

These on the average add up to the galloping operating costs incurred by transport operators daily, which many find unacceptable. The Nigerian regulatory regime for road transport requires a revolutionary measure. The key issues arising are the need to make regulations for pricing and standards and for externalities like environmental pollution, noise annoyance, accidents and congestion and the enforcement of those regulations. Gbolahan Elias and Ukamaka Okoli in their paper: Nigerian Land Transport Infrastructure Deficits and Regulation, had blamed the weak regulatory framework of the road sector on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria arguing that the Constitution permits both the Federal and State governments to own road infrastructure and even regulatory agencies as is the case in Lagos with Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), and as a result there are co-ordination issues inherent in the reality that Nigeria has a Federal Government plus 36 State governments. However, while road infrastructure management is entirely different from transport operations management, what is required on the part of the Federal Government is a strong political will to address the possible conflicts of jurisdiction that are present in the current law through amendments. Read More...

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