The Nigerian government on Wednesday said it was in the process of developing a national transportation master plan that would help in diversifying the nation’s economy.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed this while briefing journalists after concluding the inspection of ongoing projects and facilities at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
Mr. Amaechi was accompanied on the visit by the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and other top officials of the ministry.
The facilities inspected by the ministers include the new terminal building at MMIA under construction, General Aviation Terminal and the perimeter fencing around the airport.
They also inspected facilities at the control tower, Nigerian Meteorological Agency and the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria site.
Other areas visited are Skyway Aviation Handling Company and the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company.
He said the transportation sector held the key to any economy and formed the basis of all socio-economic interactions, adding that Nigeria was suffering the bane of inadequate transportation.
He said the contribution of the transport sector to the Gross National Product, which is only 1.41 per cent, is unacceptable.
The minister said: “For a sector that plays a major role in the nation’s development, there is an urgent need to exploit the opportunities that abound within the sector to improve its contribution to the national economy.
“Our air transport and railways sub-sectors hold the key to unlocking the vast potential in our cities and rural areas.”
He said that the government, as a first step, would pursue the enactment of legislation that would open up the sector to new investments that would lead to economic prosperity.
Mr. Amaechi said among the bills ready for legislative action was the National Transport Commission Bill – an act to provide for the establishment of a National Transport Commission as an independent multi-modal economic regulator and other related matters.
He said the government was determined to revamp the railway sector to enhance national integration by encouraging mass transit of passengers and goods between and across the geographical regions of the country.
“The immediate impact will be the reduction of haulage of heavy cargoes by roads thus reducing road damage and increasing the life span of roads.
“The movement of petroleum products by rail will be re-introduced in 2016. As you are aware, we have commenced and almost completed the narrow gauge rehabilitation which will be retained for the movement of cargoes.
“At the same time, massive investments into the standard gauge to link most parts of the country with faster trains for passenger movements have begun.
“In 2016, we hope to complete work on the Abuja-Kaduna railway line as Mr. President is highly committed to it.
“Work will start in earnest on the standard gauge on the following routes: Calabar-Lagos line, which will transverse the following towns and cities: Obudu Cattle Ranch-Calabar-Uyo-Aba-PH- Yenagoa-Otuoke-Yenagoa-Ughelli-Sapele-Benin-Agbor-Asaba-Onitsha-Benin-Ijebu Ode-Ore-Sagamu-Lagos Seaports; and the Lagos-Kano: Lagos-Ibadan-Ilorin-Minna-Kaduna-Kano.”
He said the construction of new lines and rehabilitation of old railway lines will generate over 250,000 direct jobs and more indirect jobs, while having multiplier effect on economic activities.
Mr. Amaechi further disclosed that the ongoing airports remodelling projects at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt would be concluded in 2016.
“The new terminal in Lagos will generate additional 15 million passengers annually, making a total of 30 million passengers yearly nationwide.
That sounds like a very ambitious and no doubt very expensive endeavor, so how exactly does government intend to fund these dreams in these lean financial times?
“As a result of limited resources for capital projects development, government is exploring the possibility of private sector participation to towards the realisation of the industry’s potentials,” he said.
Mr. Amaechi also reiterated the need for the regulatory agencies to ensure the required safety standards at all times, stressing that the government would continue to invest in providing critical safety facilities.
On the maritime sector, he said government would implement policies that encourage private sector participation and investments towards diversification and growth of the nation’s economy.
“Government will streamline all the agencies in the maritime sector for a more effective and efficient performance to meet the expectations of all stakeholders,” he said.
On his part, Mr. Sirika said the ministry would soon meet with airline operators in the country to address the challenges facing the industry.