Special advice to the president- Part I: Transportation.

Our new president is only a few days into the job so in the spirit of helpfulness and cooperation with the new government and its message of change, I’ll be sharing a few ideas of mine that I think would have extremely positive effects if the government could implement them…

Transportation is a big, big problem in our country, Nigeria. From the legendary “go slows” of Lagos to the chronic shortage of transportation options in cities like Ilorin, the difficulty in getting from point A to B have a negative impact on the productivity of the citizenry, thereby reducing the positive impact that urbanization ought ordinarily to have on the economy of the country.

With regards to the problem of traffic congestion in places like Lagos, I’m convinced that the only permanent solution is infrastructural development. The government has taken some steps in this direction by building a few new roads, while carrying out repairs and expansions on others. Considering the rate at which the population of the city is growing and the city’s goal of becoming a continental hub in the near future though, a much more ambitious plan is called for: The construction of an extensive underground railway system. The merits of this plan are that it would drastically reduce the pressure on the city’s roads by providing an alternative means of transportation for the residents of the city, especially the lower and middle class who constitute the vast majority; it would not put further pressure on the city’s population by displacing them from their land the way a new road network would; it would provide a very large number of jobs during the construction period, and continue to do so after completion and it would bring a substantial stream of revenue into government coffers. Although this project would indeed cost much to complete, the funds can be easily sourced from the private sector with a well-structured concessionary agreement. For instance: a BOT (build, operate and transfer) scheme would guarantee profit for investors and therefore attract them to the project.

In places like Ilorin, a very different approach is necessary. The shortage of taxis and buses to adequately convey passengers to and from their destinations is due to the continued drastic increments in the population of the city as a result of the consistent increases in the number of students being admitted into the various universities and other tertiary education institutions in and around the city. Government has hitherto made attempts to ameliorate the hardship by donating buses to educational institutions but these bids to help have more often than not, fallen flat. I think the reason for this is the poor maintenance culture that has become endemic in the country when it comes to public property. The gap in supply is a very potent opportunity for the government to intervene by providing, or at least guaranteeing low-interest bank loans for people interested in operating vehicles within the cities. No doubt, a lot of people see the opportunity in providing transportation services but simply cannot source the funds to purchase a vehicle with which to begin the business. Were the government to ensure that people can access credit with reasonable interest rates, a sizeable number of people across the country would definitely move into the working class, up from being unemployed.

So, there it is! What do you think? Are they feasible? Will they relieve the transportation cramps we’re currently experiencing? Let the world hear what you think: please leave a comment.

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