The Ministry of Transportation observes that there ought to be other alternative and effective modes of transporting people, goods and services, than road transportation.

It expresses concern that the reliability on road transportation has resulted in congestion of roads and ports that often causes damage to roads, goods, services and even the road users.

In view of this challenge, at the ministry’s 15th National Council on Transportation (NCT) meeting in Sokoto, the stakeholders suggested ways to reduce congestion on the road by evolving effective non-motorised means of transportation.

In achieving that, in the meeting with the theme: “Efficiency of Inter-modalism in Transportation: Panacea for Economic Recovery,’’ Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi said NCT was cardinal to the initiative; being the highest policy advisory body.

He added that the theme was apt at diversifying and stabilise the economy, even as the Federal Government planned to connect all the seaports, airports and all the inland container depots by rail.

He said the council had approved the rail linkage to seaport at Onne, Tin-Can Island, Warri and Calabar as contained in the rail master plan.

He also said that the development of intermodal transportation through rail would reduce congestion at the ports and create more jobs in the country.

“It will create jobs by the optimally utilising various modes to develop modern transport infrastructure as the need arises and extend the life of the already existing ones,’’ Amaechi said.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari determined to have functional rail system in the 36 states of the federation.

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According to him, the Federal Government will soon complete the contract agreement with General Electric for the rehabilitation of standard gauge across the country.

Similarly, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation Sabiu Zakari said “transportation all over the world holds the key to any economy and forms the basis of all socio-economic interactions’’.

He said the different transportation modes — road, rail, marine, air and pipe-line — if developed, would turn around the country’s economy.

He noted that the current transport infrastructure and services were inadequate to cope with the country’s huge population, calling for the development and integration of various modes of transportation to enhance the nation’s transport system.

According to him, inter-modal transportation is the movement of passengers or freight from one mode of transport to another which commonly takes place at a terminal specifically designed for such a purpose.

He said that was the reason why the Federal Government made modest strides in linking Apapa port to rail.

“Even presently, bonded containers are being transported by rail from Apapa Port to the Inland Container Nigeria Limited Depot in Kaduna,’’ he said.

Minister of State on Aviation Hadi Sirika, in his remark, said the aviation industry contributed immensely to the economic development of the country, being the fastest means of transportation.

He said Buhari had approved a robust roadmap for the aviation sector to address the infrastructural challenges and make air travel efficient.

Gov. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, nonetheless, called on the Federal Government to establish an inland dry port and extend its railway line project to the state to enhance commerce.

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He said effective transportation system was critical to the growth of the economy, insisting that the state needed such infrastructure for movement of people and agro-allied products.

He said the establishment of a dry port in Illela Local Government Area of the state would facilitate economic activities and reduce the hardship faced by businessmen.

He also urged transportation stakeholders to ensure the formulation of the right policies that would ensure easy movement of people and goods to enhance the life of the citizenry.

According to him, such effective dialogue would facilitate formulation of policies that will have direct bearing on Nigerians.

Corroborating the governor, Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III also appealed to the government to extend railway to Sokoto which will reduce the damage caused on the road.

“If we have a good rail system, our roads would be much better because most of these heavy loads being transported on our roads, which keep on damaging our roads, the railway would take care of that,’’ he said.

Abubakar called on Federal Government to establish a special fund for road construction and repairs as well as a body that would ensure that state governments handled projects well.

Stating some problems militating against rail projects, Mr Fidet Okhiria, Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation, attributed the delay in completion of Calabar-Port Harcourt, Kaduna-Kano rail projects to the non-payment of counterpart funding from the Chinese EXIM bank.

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He said the Federal Government had paid its own counterpart funding for the projects but negotiation is still ongoing with the bank.

“We have finished Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, we thought by this time Port Harcourt- Calabar would have commenced, Kaduna-Kano would have also commenced. Government had provided its complete counterpart funding.

“But the government is taking time to negotiate the counterpart funding from the Chinese EXIM bank.

“The beauty of it all is that the EXIM Bank is saying it doesn’t want segmentation, it wants it done at once, so that is what is delaying it; we have to go back to renegotiate, so that once we start, we don’t stop,’’ he said.

Also speaking, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport Olugbenga Ashafa said the National Assembly remained committed to ensuring passage of bills relevant to transportation.

He said such bills would facilitate viable economic activities and competitiveness in the sector

All in all, Director-General of the National Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria, Dr Aminu Yusuf insists that Nigeria needs a well-coordinated transport system to move away from its 90th position on the ease of doing business.

State commissioners of transportation, the Amalgamated Commercial Tricycle and Motor Cycle Owners, Repairs and Riders Association of Nigeria and National Union of Road Transport Workers, among other stakeholders on transportation, attended the meeting.(NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria