Road transportation has remained the major means of conveying goods in Nigeria due to the dilapidated state of the railway system but rather than bringing relief in the movement of people and goods, it has led to untold hardship and huge economic losses.
Already, there is a startling revelation that Nigeria loses over N730 billion yearly to illegal occupants of the right of way (RoW). This is because the occupants, including fuel and articulated trucks, commercial buses and traders, occupy these roads, which could have yielded better economic returns.
With Lagos being the commercial hub, practically every economic activity either originate or terminate from the metropolis, the losses are more, as there is not a single modern parking lots for trucks in Lagos, a former nation’s capital, which is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
A truck driver, Danladi Aminu parked indiscriminately along the Oshodi Apapa Expressway in Lagos recently. His vehicle has remained on the same spot for five days while waiting to get consignment of Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) or petrol to Kano, a distance of about 834 kilometres away.
Communication gaps, bureaucracy at the port, and dearth of depot infrastructure in other geo-polities, are responsible for the delay that keeps many heavy duty trucks on the roads across the country.
In Lagos alone, about 6,000 heavy duty trucks enter the city daily according to industry statistic a private firm that specializes in building motor parks, Ame Consulting, and are responsible for the movement of about 150 million tonnes of goods imported into Nigeria as well as other tonnes of locally produced goods transported yearly.
The Chairman, Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Sikiru Kaka, wondered why government couldn’t use the revenue contributed by the transportation sector to build parks.
Industry report obtained from Ame Consulting, estimates losses from wrongly parked trucks as well as traders, who make fortunes for converging on both sides of the highways at N2 billion daily (N730 billion yearly).
The Chief Executive Officer, Ame Consulting, which currently manages a dilapidated Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu International Truck Terminal, in Lagos, Felix Chikwu, said the roads have been divided among few individuals who charge truck owners for illegal parking.
“We are losing about N2 billion daily. This includes destruction to road shoulders, loss of man-hours in traffic, accidents, estimated revenue from parks and other problems.”
Transport infrastructure experts argued that the economic losses running into billions of naira are enough to construct about 313 standard gauge rail lines, spanning a distance from Lagos to Jebba, Kwara State.
And if completed, the facility would have eased pressure on the roads. Though Federal law such as the Federal Highway Act, Cap.135 prohibits obstruction on the highway, but the law is hardly enforced.
Road users and experts, who spoke to The Guardian, in Lagos, expressed concern over the affects of such obstructions their daily life and business activities. Transport expert and Managing Director of Vistaplan Consulting, Dr. Mobolaji Olaseni, said the illegal occupation not only weakens the integrity of the roads, but also reduces their utility with the attendant hazards to the environment in the form of air, noise and visual pollution.
He added that there must be proper definition of road usage to stop the violation. The National Executive Secretary of NARTO, the umbrella group for all transport owners in the country, Aloga Ogbogo, noted that lack of rest for drivers causes fatigue and accounts for about 30 percent of accidents that involve trucks on the highways.
Data revealed that road accident is the second highest source of violent death in Nigeria, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), as recent report shows that about 50,000 road accidents from 2013 to 2015.
But Ogbogo’s claim ignores the fact that the few available parks are not used by drivers. Most of the stakeholders blame this on lack of enforcement and the sorry state of the parks. Ogbogo believes that compliance is feasible if government can build modern parks or create enabling environment for private sector to invest in the plan.
Illegal truck parking points such as the Benin bypass in Edo State; Obollo Afor and 9th Mile in Enugu; Ogere, Mowe, Ibafo and Sagamu in Ogun; Lokoja, Agbaji, Etobe and Obajana in Kogi; Airport Road, Apapa/Mile 2 corridor in Lagos, and other locations across Nigeria, may soon trigger replete effects, the experts said.
An environment expert, who is also Director, Health, Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, linked the menace to grave health and environmental problems including skin diseases, breathing difficulties (from air pollution) and cancers. Over 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer yearly, while about 80,000 die from the disease, according to World Health Organisation (WHO)
Most of the areas where heavy duty trucks park on the highways, are turned to “shopping strips” with accompaniment of assorted wastes. Bassey stressed that “these wastes are highly toxic and should be treated as such. There are health consequences arising from continuous contact with used oil and from drinking water polluted with the waste. It should be understood that contaminants from poorly handled wastes end up in the food chain.
“These constitute serious environmental hazards because the waste oil often finds its way into water bodies through drainages or runoff during rainfall. Others contaminate ground water thereby constituting extended environmental problems.
An Intelligence Transport Systems researcher, Adedokun Adeyemi, said the congestion on Nigerian roads is unavoidable given the number of vehicles plying the road daily.
But this situation also provides the opportunity to generate revenues through public parks, he said, adding: “But government has deliberately or ignorantly relegated the sector to an informal economy.”
He urged government to consider issues like land use, trip production and attraction during infrastructure planning and development phase. “All these factors plus annual population growth rate are enough to frustrate efforts of these agencies.”
Since 1999, a whopping N1.4 trillion ($8.5 billion) has reportedly been spent on road construction or maintenance. A member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), who heads a branch of the society in Apapa, Lagos, Dr. Ombugadu Garba, said the menace is unconnected to the deplorable state of roads.
The Director, Highway Planing and Development at the Federal Ministry of Works, Chukwunwike Uzor, said government is building trailer parks that will contain about 2,500 trucks to solve the problem of Apapa.
Also, the Head, Media Relations and Strategy of FRSC, Bisi Kazeem, said the agency is working out a holistic approach in conjunction with the Ministry to address the situation.
“You will start to see the effects all over Nigeria soon,” Kazeem said. But how soon will that be?