Rahamatu Mohammed Yar’adua is the commissioner for transportation in Niger State as well as the chairperson of Nigeria Transportation Commissioners Forum. In this interview, she speaks on challenges in the transportation sector and what the forum she is heading will do to address them.
The burden on road transport has contributed to massive decline and destruction of road and road infrastructures: what step has the forum taken to address these challenges?
The responsibility of building and maintenance is not that of the ministries of transportation both at the federal and state levels, but as part of our holistic approach to find possible solutions, the federal ministry of transportation is interfacing with the ministry of works and housing.
On the part of state ministries, individual states are encouraged to embrace best practices and policies that will, to a large extent, reduce the pressure on our roads; which is the introduction of weigh bridges. The rail way system is also a great way to reduce this destruction and pressure on our roads. With the recent commissioning of Kaduna – Kano Standard gauge rail in Kano State, transports and traders can take advantage of the rail transportation for the movement and distribution of products.
The federal ministry of transport is also looking at inviting all stakeholders to a round table discussion especially as it concerns the menace of heavy goods and products
The rate of accidents involving articulated vehicles on our roads seems to be on the increase yearly; what strategic plans have been put in place to curb the situation?
The issue is really very disturbing and our approach is multi-sectoral. It has to begin with the standard of vehicles being brought to the country and the registration processes. Many trucks are wrongly licensed beyond its original tonnage, thereby, leading to brake failure as we can see everywhere.
Therefore, to arrest this situation we should embark on vehicle audit of all trucks and license them accordingly. The forensic technology for this is available in the country. All relevant State authorities will be galvanised into action. The forum has taken a position on this and will see it through. Equally, the culture of maintenance needs to be cultivated through periodic vehicle inspection to ascertain road worthiness of these trucks and other vehicles plying our roads.
Lack of National Transport Policy has contributed its quota to many of the numerous and legendary challenges in the sector, what has the forum done or is doing or will do to arrest this situation?
As a federation, transportation is in the concurrent list. We have the national council on transportation where issues of National outlook are brought to the fore. This has culminated into numerous policies. The challenge in the past has been the will to follow through: hence, the formation of the forum to ensure resolutions adopted at every national platform are implemented to the later.
Therefore, to say we don’t have National Transport Policy is not correct. The law recognises which tier of government is responsible for aviation, maritime, pipeline, roads, and rail transportation systems. As a country, we have set global standards across board but ensuring these standards are met in my opinion is the main issue that we have to address.
There are complaints of numerous taxes in the road transport sector resulting in fare hike and undue burden on the citizenry. How is the forum changing the narratives?
Sincerely, the road transport sub-sector needs to be more organised. It is operated currently in a manner that everybody is an authority. We need to look at this. The forum intends to take this up at the highest level. For example, Lagos State BRT and Abuja Urban Mass Transit are replica of the formalisation we are talking about. It has to cut across the federation and when this happens, fares will be within controllable limits.
The transport sector is known to contribute massively to ozone layer depletion due to release of greenhouse gases. How is the forum relating with ministry of environment to mitigate this trend?
We recognise the standards set by National Environmental Standard Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and many states of the federation are domesticating these standards. So, if it is about policy or standard, we have it as a country.
The position of the law is clear and it says, every private vehicle must be inspected once in a year and commercial vehicle twice in a year. It is expected that emission testing will be carried out to mitigate this menace. Currently, we have over 100 computerised vehicle inspection centres where this is being carried out.
The level of compliance is not optimum yet but it can and will be worked on.
Another factor is the emission standard which is based on Euro2. We import into the country cheap fuel with its attendant consequences on gaseous emission. This is obviously beyond the forum.
In the 70s, we had different types of fuel, lead and unleaded fuel. But today, no distinction; it is just fuel resulting in the sad consequences of dangerous emissions and ozone depletion
What has the forum achieved so far in the few years of existence ?
The forum, in line with her vision and mission, has been able to galvanize all 36 commissioners of transport, including FCT and special advisers in the pursuit of an all-inclusive policy drive, has opened up the space in promoting private sector participation and collaborations to develop the sector with technologies in line with best practices. Similarly, it is also promoting inter-state peer to peer reviews and synergy. The forum created the zonal caucus system to create smaller unit of interactions amongst colleagues, to share ideas, projects and policies that can be adopted by neighbouring States for implementation.