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Review of Modal Transport Operations in Nigeria

Amiegbebhor D.E.1, Dickson O.F.2

Abstract— Analysis so far has shown the operation of Nigerian transport system to be modally deficient and developmentally skewed occasioned by the existing imbalance between resources allocation to modes and inadequate infrastructures. The goal of modern government in its transport sector is to have an efficient operation and to achieve a well developed sustainable transport system, more so, in the development of its economy. This calls for policy review that will not only develop improved strategic framework for committed operation and infrastructural development, but formulate sustainable operation and viable long term maintenance of the developed infrastructure and the existing ones. This paper exposes the deplorable state of existing transport operations and infrastructures in Nigeria, reviews the impact of integrated transport infrastructures on national economy and identifies transport infrastructures that need accelerated investment geared towards national development. It also establishes the need and area of immediate policy review and suggests possible policy recommendations.

Index Terms— Policy, Transport, Integrated, Operations, Technology, Infrastructure, Nigeria


—————————— ——————————
ransportation is a process that involves the movement of commuters, goods and services from a given point of origin to a specific destination [1]. It determines the re- gional patterns of development, economic viability, environ- mental impacts, and maintenance of socially acceptable levels of quality of life. It is a means to access business activities, ed- ucation, employment and recreational opportunities, thus con- tributing to policy effectiveness and enhancement of security through reduced isolation as well as providing job opportuni-
ties [2].
Transportation provides efficient means of moving large num-
ber of people with considerable flexibility in order to meet
demand throughout the city [3]. It plays a key role in shaping
urban and rural landscape through its influences on the form
and size of settlements, the style and pace of life by facilitating
trade, permitting access to people and resources, and enabling
greater economies of scale [4].
Transport is an indispensable element of development and
socio-economic growth. As engines of economic integration,
transport operations and infrastructural facilities constitute a
precondition for facilitating trade and the movement of goods
and persons. Transport operations and infrastructure remains
a pillar for sustainable development with a view to accelerat-
ing growth and reducing poverty. Given the challenges of
globalization, Africa still lags behind in the development of
regional trade, particularly because of the unreliable and inad-
equate transport system. Indeed, the existing transport facili-
ties for trade are completely outward-looking with the result
that transport infrastructure and services have been little de-
veloped and the physical network poorly integrated [5].
There is a clear correlation between the quality of a country’s
transport infrastructure and its growth potential. The under-
standing of this fact made China invest heavily in their
transport infrastructure. One of the links between transport
and economic activity is the relative efficiency of moving
goods to the market, and access to a wider pool of skilled la-
bour and suppliers.
Inefficient operation and failure in physical and social infra-
structures had been identified responsible for low productivi-
ty and poor efficiency of the Nigerian transport sector. This is a rider to the fact that transport infrastructure constitute a ma- jor part of the deteriorated infrastructure. Transport infrastruc- ture provides a strong veritable platform for efficient transport modal operations and service delivery.
The problems of inappropriate and overly skewed allocation of resources and infrastructure underdevelopment as well as poor maintenance have impacted heavily on Nigeria economy. This implies that The Nigerian transport network infrastruc- ture and service is still very disjointed.
In spite of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s huge expendi- ture on transport sub-sector, the transport infrastructural facil- ities have been deteriorating on daily basis and this has im- pacted negatively on service delivery [6]. The deterioration of the facilities has resulted to inefficient transport system, which has caused great havoc to the economy [7].
For the Nigerian market to function smoothly, there is need for an efficient operating system that allows the free move- ment of goods and people within country. This is important for economic growth. The challenge with the Nigerian transport policy has been incompetent operations, disintegra- tion of transport infrastructure, equipment, regulation and uncoordinated transport infrastructure [8].


The history of transportation in Nigeria dates back to the pre – colonial era. Within this period, transportation facilities such as roads, railways, air transport facilities were really non- existent with emphasis then on the bush path. At present, the modes of transport in Nigeria include road, railways, airways, inland waterways, coastal waters, the deep sea, and the pipe- line [9].
The administration of transportation in Nigeria follows the structure of government administration, that is, the three-tier form of government; federal, state and local. Statistics howev- er shows that about 67% of the total road network in the coun- try is under the local governments. Thus, the responsibility of providing and managing transport services and road net-

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works fall on the lowest level of government which is the least able to respond both financially and technically.
Transportation is central to economic development as it en- tails the movement of people, goods and services from one place to another. Thus, it has impact in every other sectors of the economy whether major or minor [10], influencing devel- opment and the welfare of the populations. This implies that an efficient transport system will provide ample support for other sectors of the economy in the form of employment gen- eration, easier accessibility to market and in effect, contrib- uting additional investment to the economy. Current realities in Nigeria’s transport sector do not leave much to be desired. Ninety percent of the movement of goods and services in Ni-
geria is done by road. Presently about 193, 500 km of road network is available in Nigeria [11]. Only 35, 000 km constitute federal roads. Fifty percent of federal, 70% of state and 95% of local roads are in bad shape. Most of these roads are overused and lack adequate maintenance. It is difficult to see any signif- icant impact from huge government budgets on roads. Some of the problems associated with execution of road projects stems from flawed contracting processes and fraud in the road construction industry. It is common to see roads supposedly designed to last for decades failing within
a mere couple of years of usage. One way out of the roads problem is to decongest traffic on our road networks. The rail transport sector that was in comatose is being resuscitated as some states gov- ernment like Lagos, Rivers amongst oth- ers are currently at various stages of rail transport developments. The industry was almost a complete state of neglect. According to the United States Commer- cial Services (2010), the near collapse of the Nigerian rail system and the increas- ing need to move goods nationwide has made road haulage indispensable. Trans- portation by road now accounts for more than 80% of all haulage activities. It has been well documented by many scholars that Transportation could account for a
GDP contribution between 6-12% in the developed countries
In Nigeria, the contribution of transportation sector to GDP is
still relatively low unlike what has been observed in the de-
veloped economy of the world. It fluctuates between 2% and
3% since year 2000 though the figure still dominated the ser-
vices sector in Nigeria after Real Estate and Business services
[12]. As at 2010, Road Transport accounted for 94% of the en-
tire Transport service, followed by Water and Air (2.2% each),
while Rail and Pipeline Transport accounted for the least i.e.
less than 1% of the Transport service [12]. Budgetary allocation
to the transport sector was N56 Billion in 2011 and N52.3 Bil-
lion in 2013 (approximately 30% of the 2011 budget) [13].

Trends of Transport Indicators in Nigeria

Figure 1: Structure of output in the transport sector in 2011

Source: NBS/NPC

Growth in value-added in transport, including transport ser- vices rose from 6.71% in 2010 to 6.75% in 2011, on account of

Table 1: Value-added in the Transport Sector (2010-


Source: NBS/NPC

improvement in trade related activities as shown in Table1.
Road transport grew by 6.85% in 2011 compared with 6.81% in
2010, due to completion of construction and rehabilitation
works on roads in the country. Growth in air transport fell
slightly to 7.34% in 2011 from 7.35% in 2010. However, growth
in rail transport and pipelines accelerated from 5.73% in 2010
to 5.85% in 2011. The development is in tandem with govern-
ment’s efforts at rehabilitation of certain rail tracks and
equipment, combined with reduction in pipeline vandalism.

Figure 2: GDP growth rates of transport sector compo- nents (2010-2011)

components (2010-2011)

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average of about 22.4%) while the fourth National Develop- ment Plan received 15.2% in the nation’s public sector invest- ment programme. The sector however appears neglected in the succeeding Rolling Plans as evidenced by the meager per- centage allocation to the sector during the Rolling Plans of
1993 to 1998 (an average of 10%).

Source: NBS/NPC

Table 2: Sectorial Output of Transport Sector from

2010-2011 in Nigeria

Sector 2010 2011

Total Transport 6.71 6.75

Road Transport 6.81 6.85

Rail Transport & Pipe-

lines 5.73 5.85

Water Transport 5.37 5.53

Air Transport 7.35 7.34

Transport Services 5.45 5.38

Source: NBS/NPC

Figure 3: Trend of Transport Sector Output from 1981-


Source: CBN 2010



Nigeria today, has an extensive infrastructure of roads, railroads, airports, water and pipeline systems. Over the years, the federal government has consistently accorded a key role to the transport sector in all the country’s National Devel- opment and Rolling Plans, in appreciation of its development facilitating roles in the movement of people and goods [14]. The first, second and third National Development Plans gave the transport sector the largest share of revenue allocation (an

a. Road Transportation

[9] documented that the history of road transport in Nige- ria dated back to 1904 when Lord Laggard attempted the con- struction of a mule road linking Zaria and Zungeru both in the Northern States of Nigeria. The road was later extended from Zaria to Sokoto, Katsina and Maiduguri. However, the road linking Ibadan and Oyo constructed in 1906 is recorded to be the first motorable road ever constructed in Nigeria.
The major road transport infrastructure in Nigeria consists of
32,000 km of Federal highways including seven major bridges
across the Niger and Benue Rivers, the Lagos ring road, the
third mainland axial bridge; 30,500 km of state roads; and
130,000 km of local roads [15]. Buhari stated further that as at
June 1996, only 50% of the Federal roads and 20% of the State
roads were in reasonably good condition. Only an estimated
5% of the local rural roads were freely motorable. The rehabili-
tation programme carried out by the PTF in the years 1996 to
1999 covered selected portions of the Federal roads totalling
about 12,000 km, along with township roads in about 18 se-
lected cities.
The last evaluation for UNTACDA II (year) indicated that
roads remain the dominant mode of transport in Africa, ac-
counting for 90% of interurban transport. Less than a third
(62,000 kilometers, or 27.6%) of Africa’s 2 million kilometers of
roads are asphalted. At 6.84 kilometers per 100 square kilome-
ters, road density is well below that in Latin America (12 kil-
ometers per 100 square kilometers) and Asia (18 kilometers
per 100 square kilometers). (Sectoral Analysis, Economic commis-

sion for Africa) as the rail, pipeline and inland waterway sys-

tems have deteriorated.
This is also true for Nigeria. In the [15], Nigeria has become
increasingly dependent on the road system to meet virtually
all its inland transport needs as the rail, pipeline and inland
waterway systems have deteriorated. At the same time, the
road network itself has suffered from continuing lack of
maintenance and investment by the three levels of govern-
ment, Federal, State and Local. In 1985, about 23 percent of
national roads were in a bad state. This rose to 30 percent in
1991 and 50 percent in 2001.
Road transport is by far the most important element in the
country’s transportation network carrying about 95 per cent of
all the nation’s goods and passengers. Also, about 70% of pub-
lic sector investments in the transport sector have on the aver-
age been on highway [16]. Nigeria has a total of 193,200 km of
roads, made up of 34,123km of Federal roads, 30,500km of
state roads and 129,577km of local government roads. As pro-
vided for in the Constitution, the different tiers of government
have independent responsibilities for the planning, financing
and maintenance of their roads. Three major factors affecting
the road network are:

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• misuse particularly as a result of axle overloading
causing damage to roads
• neglect of periodic routine maintenance and an ab- sence of emergency maintenance
• Poor design and construction.
Key note here is; more than 50% of the roads are failing and except roads and bridges are kept in good conditions they cannot support the desired socio-economic development of the country.

b. Ports and Maritime Transport

The sea ports serve as the terminal support for the maritime operations. Efficient sea port administration is crucial to ships turn-around and through-puts. Port and maritime transporta- tion sector is further discussed under sea ports Inland Water- ways and Airports and air transport below.

i. Sea ports

Sea ports are fundamental outlets of international trade for both coastal and land-locked countries. Sea transport has a significant cost advantage over surface transport for dry and liquid bulk cargoes or containerized cargo. The importance of maritime transport emanates from the fact that over 90 per cent of the world international trade transits through ports. Maritime transport is even more dominant in Africa as it ac- counts for 92 to 97 percent of Africa’s international trade. However, poorly maintained port infrastructure and ineffi- cient operations remain major bottlenecks for African trade. The Lagos seaports for example, handled a total of 19,340,901 metric tones of cargoes in 2012 whilst in 2013, there was a slight increase to 19,849,258.
Nigeria’s port productivity is low compared to the rest of the world. It is estimated that the average productivity in African ports is about 30 per cent of international norm. Poor man- agement and poorly maintained equipment account for the low productivity.

ii. Inland Waterways

An efficient coastal and inland waterway system will relieve pressure on the country’s rail and road transport infrastructure as bulky goods can be transported over long distances at very low rates. The energy demand of the Waterways is low and the negative effect on the environment is minimal. The use of the waterways for transportation should therefore be encour- aged as a matter of principle. Despite its advantages, the use of this transport mode has diminished particularly over the past three decades due to physical, investment and operational constraints.
Key note here is; Cost of doing business at the ports is high–as a result of multiple taxes and levies imposed on operators. This has resulted in diversion of cargo to other countries with- in the West African sub-region. Low level penetration of in- land waterways in most states of the country is due to the lack of infrastructure.

c. Airports and air transport

Air transport has a great potential role to play in the economic development of Nigeria. It has provided, and continues to provide the fastest means of movement of passengers and air cargo in the country. Besides, air transport is regarded by the Nigerian Government as a critical focal point in the effort to open up the country to foreign investors and thereby narrow the existing wide gap between available and required levels of domestic investment capital [16].
From an intermodal perspective, the major airports are well integrated with road infrastructure, and all access roads to airport have federal status. Land transport connections are, however, poor. Trips to airports are by cars, taxis or hotel shut- tle transport. There is no access to the airport by the conven- tional mode of public transport, namely, bus or rail.
Nigeria has a total of 23 airports distributed all over the coun- try due to the high fixed costs and relatively low income in- volved in running these airports, only three of the airports operate at a commercial self-sufficiency, while the others oper- ate at a substantial loss. Indeed, there has been an increase in traffic across some airports in the country. For example, in
2008, 5,117,034 passengers used the airports whilst in 2012;
7.2m passengers used the airport. There was also a corre-
sponding increase in the movement of aircrafts from 84,198 in
2008 to 105,334 in 2012 respectively. The air transport sector is
largely deregulated with domestic airlines competing in the
market, but it is not clear how much economic regulation of
the sector is provided by the National Civil Aviation Authority
whose main focus appears to be primarily on aviation safety.
The reform in the sector should include as well the unbun-
dling of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria to reflect the
countervailing structure needed to guarantee autonomy or
financial independence and to promote competition and fair
trading among domestic airports.

d. Railways and rail transport

Railways are the most cost-effective mode of transport for moving bulk cargo for long distances over land. They are suit- ed to container traffic between ports and capitals. Railways can provide the most cost-effective, affordable, energy saving and environmentally friendly form of transport, when traffic densities are high.
The Nigerian railways network includes approximately
3,500km of narrow gauge lines. The network has been extend-
ed by a narrow gauge line between Onne and the Enugu-Port
Harcourt line and a yet to be completed 320km standard
gauge line from Ajaokuta to Warri.
With all these potentials, unfortunately, due to past neglect,
the Nigerian railway system has not been able to meet this
need. It has deteriorated in all areas, and caught up in a vi-
cious circle of declining traffic, endemic deficits, decreasing
capacity to serve its customers resulting in further loss of rev-
enue. In short the railways have ceased to be economically
viable. If the present imbalance of the transport sector is to be
corrected and the goals arising from increasing industrializa-
tion be actualized, the Nigerian railway must be resuscitated.

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Evidently, the Nigerian Railway is grossly underdeveloped and in a deplorable state of near extinct.

e. Pipeline Transport

Pipeline transport development has been closely associated with the expansion of the oil industry and with the growing use of the automobile. Many factors were responsible for the development of pipeline transport in the country. First was the discouraging state of roads in 1970’s which necessitated the need for an alternative mode in place of road tankers. Second- ly the location of the Kaduna refinery over 800 Km inland ne- cessitated its being fed by a pipeline complex. Third, the in- dustrialization phase of Nigeria in the late 1970’s made it nec- essary for a pipeline network to be developed. In 2004, Nigeria had 105 Km of pipelines for condensates, 1896 Km for natural gas, 3,638 Km for oil and 3,626 Km for refined products. Vari- ous pipeline projects are planned to expand the domestic distribution of natural gas and to export natural gas to Benin, Ghana and Togo through the West African Gas Pipeline and potentially even to Algeria (where Mediterranean export ter- minals are located) by the proposed Trans-Saharan gas pipe- line. Some of the problems facing pipeline transport in Nigeria include the worrisome rate of pipeline canalization which of- ten results in environmental degradation and where fire oc- curs, the loss of lives and property [16].


a. On Agriculture

Most farming communities’ especially small scale com- mercial and peasant farmers face considerable difficulties in marketing their products largely because of inadequate, unre- liable and often unaffordable transport services, due in parts to un-trafficable roads as well as poor interconnectivity of transport modes. This situation described above has meant that;

High losses occur due to lower carrying capacities

Opportunity to produce more profitable crops are not


Integration of the largely disparate markets is hin- dered

Cost increment for both the producer and end-user

Production for market is truncated

It is clear from the points discussed above that the develop- ment of adequate transport infrastructures and logistical ar- rangement to cater for the farmer has the effect of mainstream local economies.

b. On Education

The impact of the poor transport network has high level of absenteeism, the late delivery of learners support materials and school nutritional program. Overall effect of dwellers in these areas been disconnected from reality and resultant illit-

c. On Health sector

The impact of the poor transport network has been shortage of machines and equipments at rural hospitals and clinic, re- duced access to health services and difficulties in providing ambulance and other essential services. The underdeveloped transport network has seriously affected delivery of key health products and program to this hinterland.

d. On Poverty Reduction

Transport constraints have also compromised the poverty reduction efforts of government. Poverty and isolation are directly linked. To further buttress the above mention points, the Bankers committee national retreat in their report [17] not- ed that inadequate supply of infrastructure is one of the most problematic factors for doing business in Nigeria.
Investment in integrated transport infrastructure provide ac- celerated national development as seen in South Africa’s tre- mendous growth [18].



From the above, the following can be said to be the major challenges facing transport operations in Nigeria.
i. Poor condition of Transport Infrastructure
ii. Poor maintenance culture
iii. Inadequate allocation of funds
iv. Ineffective enforcement of traffic laws and poor traffic management
v. Institutional conflict


For transport to sustain economic growth and eco- nomic integration and also to promote Nigeria’s economic and social development, genuine policy commitment, tremendous and sustained efforts will have to be invested in this sector. Accordingly, it is recommended that:
• Government should promote training of operators
and the dissemination of road transport information;
• Government should encourage compliance to road traffic regulation with specific reference to vehicle weight limitations;
• Government Improve operators’ managerial, tech-
nical and economic capacity;
• An integrated approach to transport development policy should be adopted, taking all transport modes into consideration;
• The transport sector should continue the reforms;

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• The building of missing links in transport infrastruc- ture should be promoted;
• The financing of transport infrastructure should be promoted with emphasis on innovative approach;
• A regulatory framework should be instituted provid- ing for broader participation of the private sector in transport management and financing;
• Greater safety and security should be provided in all transport modes;
• Human institutional capacities should be strength- ened and training institutions rehabilitated;
• Databases should be created for measuring progress made in transport sector development;
• Further use should be made of ICTs in transport de-


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Brief About Authors


Dr. Desmond, AMIEGBEBHOR joined the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, London (CILT) in 1987. He holds an undergraduate degree in Transportation as well as and PhD degrees in Transportation Management/Planning and Transportation Geography from the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) and University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) respectively. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, London. He is transport researcher, reformist and practitioner.
In 1993, he joined ABC Transport Plc – a foremost logistics Transport Company in Sub-Sahara Africa as the General Man- ager, Operations and Logistics and handled the operations of
the company till 2007 when he was poached by LAMATA. During his tenor in ABC Transport Plc, he contributed in driv- ing technical reform in the intercity bus service sector.
He is currently a Deputy Director, Bus Services in LAMATA
and heads a team in LAMATA that is driving the bus reform
and overseeing the realization of an efficient and effective Bus Rapid transit (BRT) network in Lagos State, including plan- ning, regulating, managing and monitoring all aspects of the operations of BRT services. He provides expert in- put/specifications on infrastructure/facilities needed to sup- port effective bus and BRT operations in the State. He is also an associate lecturer in the School of Transport at the Lagos State University, Nigeria.
He has delivered processional papers to distinguished interna-
tional audience on Bus Reforms in Senegal, Abidjan, South
Africa and Ahmadabad in Indian. He also have attended con- ferences and training in Singapore, US, Bogota, UK, South Af- rica amongst others. He is a contributor to professional jour- nals, and passionate about transport reform and development.

Olayemi Funmilayo, DICKSON

Olayemi Funmilayo, DICKSON holds a Master degree in Technology Management at African Institute for Science policy and Innovation, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria and a B.Tech. Degree in Transport Management Technology from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria. She joined NACETEM in January 2011 as a Research Officer. Her area of competence is in Transport Planning and Man- agement.

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