By Martins Uba Nwamadi
In 2016, the Federal Ministry of Transportation in conjunction with a group of high networth patriotic Nigerians in the transportation matrix conceptualized a blue print for the establishment of a National Transport Commission (NTC) in the country.
According to the blue print, the NTC, as set out to be established, should be an independent multi-sector transport industry economic regulatory framework for the transport sector. It will provide mechanism for monitoring, compliance of government agencies and transport operators in the regulated transport industry with relevant legislation and advise government on matters relating to economic regulation.
Other objectives are that it should also project the rights and interest of service operators and users while creating an enabling environment for private sector participation in the provision of services in the transport sector.
Furthermore, it should also facilitate effective competition, promote competitive market, conduct and ensure that the misuse of monopoly or non transitory market power is prevented in the provision of transport services, amongst others.
Transportation is very vital to economic growth. Transport occupies a very unique and central position in the economy of any nation.
Statistics has revealed that between 60-70 per cent of house hold expenditure in Nigeria today and even within sub-Sahara Africa goes to transport, such as taxi, bus, rail, intra/interstate, cost of running our cars; transportation of children to schools, beaches or cinemas and transportation of goods and services from one destination to the other, there are transport costs imbedded in it.
To put it mildly, every purchase of items made in the market be it at Shoprite, Spar or at Idumota has transport element in it. This may probably account for why in the 2021 national budget, the tariff on cars and machinery was reduced from 35 per cent to 10 per cent so as to cushion the effect of inflation on the citizenry.
Research has also shown that transportation element in the economy forms a significant proportion of the final price of most goods, mining, commerce and services. In fact, the index for measuring the development of any nation is the state of its transport infrastructure. Once the transport sector is optimally functional, it transfuses blood to all other sectors of the economy thereby forming the base foundation for the productive sector to thrive.
I have taken time to analyse the role transportation plays in the economy for us to appreciate why unbundling of the transportation sector could trigger the stimulus for our economic recovery programme.
I recall that in the 8th National Assembly, the NTC bill hovered several times between the National Assembly and the Presidency. The cat and mouse game between the 8th National Assembly and the Presidency took a toll on the NTC bill. The point now is that the 9th National Assembly has been perceived as ‘poster house’ of the presidency. If this perception is right, what is then withholding the passage of this great piece of work, innovation that will bring about a sustainable economic growth?
The 9th National Assembly is an assemblage of men and women with integrity and business acumen both in domestic and international business. Today, Nigeria cannot turn a blind eye to globalization or pretend to be an island unto itself. If we choose that way then we shall soon drift back to our cage dwelling while our competitors move to the global digital economy. In order to bridge the huge gap between the advanced economies and our own struggling economy we must begin to set processes, dismantle structures that inhibit growth, outsource areas the private sector has comparative advantage and confine to regulatory functions.
The industrial and now digital age places regulatory roles and functions on the public sector while the private sector becomes engine for the productive sector. You cannot regulate and at the same time drive the productive sector. That monopoly was dismantled at the eve of Glasnost. It is, therefore, a truism that yesterday’s norms, economic considerations and environmental barriers are no longer the same with that prevailing today. There is a huge gap. We are in the era of limitless opportunities driven by technology, creative ideas and robust infrastructure facilities that should aid in the development and growth of a productive economy.
I therefore urge the National Assembly to be patriotic enough and give the NTC bill a speedy passage. Many nations in the world are adapting to the lesson taught by COVID pandemic. One key takeaway lesson is that nations are now unbundling trade barriers and critical institutions of the economy to the private sector while holding on to national defence, foreign relations, power and health.
The National Assembly should also appreciate that international investors often investigate and obtain full knowledge of economic policies prevailing in the country, regulatory developments, infrastructure facilities, laws, treaties and most importantly country’s financial system and state of transport infrastructure before taking a decision to invest. We believe that the NTC vision is to build an inviting business climate that will not only diversify the economy but help to move our GDP growth to asymmetric level. The MMA2 model is a classic example of how NTC will transform the economy while government reaps profit from the sweat of private sector.
The NCC has transformed the telecommunication industry which hitherto was in a primitive stage. It is now a digital and knowledge based economy which has become the envy of our competitors in Africa. Today, NCC, by its programme of action, has reduced unemployment in the country, youth restiveness, generated huge revenue for the government, data deflation, expanded the economy, while ensuring proper regulation in a sector driven by the private entrepreneurs. This is a way to go.
Finally, the National Assembly should work fast to pass the NTC Bill and present it to the President for his assent. We have spent enough time in the shadow of our past and given the central role transport occupies in our economy, the propitious time to act is now to avoid our continuous trailing behind other nations. Our country is endowed with resources, creative minds, a robust and an intellectually driven National Assembly that can turn Nigeria to the great nation, our founding fathers designed it to be. The National Transport Commission Bill (NTC) is a development and economic stimulus mould. But can the NASS muster up courage and political will to anchor it safely to the admiration of all Nigerians? We think, they can.