Alhaji Bola Oluyemi is the newly elected Zonal chairman of Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, South-West comprising of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti States. He spoke to SUSAN ONI on his plans, transport sector and covid-19 as it affects his members. Read the excerpts.
How can you describe the Transport system in the country?
Transport generally has been a mix of blessing to both operators and owners, very tremendous and difficult somewhere along the line. Firstly, we have the issue of spare parts on most of the imported vehicles. Most of them came into the country without spare parts and those provided as alternatives are not good. And you know when vehicles breakdown, they need replacement. So, we are trying to ensure that anybody that is bringing in trucks or other means of transportation have spare parts to replace them. Secondly, in terms of maintenance, it can be very, very difficult as we pay high price for what we should do less while repairing the vehicles. However, we need a good system that is fair to both stakeholders and players because of high cost of tyre ditto spare parts and others. Above all, we want to thank God that our effort is not in vain as we make sure that our members remain in business.
What will you say of road infrastructure now?
Generally, we are expecting better things than the current situation when it comes into the issue of road infrastructure. Let us take Lagos State as a case study. Things are unlike yesteryears, especially when we talk of infrastructure in Lagos. It is now one sided as focus is now on inner roads. Remember, our type of business lies mostly on major roads. Most of the South-West major roads are in bad condition; some need redesigning, rehabilitation and etc. Besides these problems, the issue of death traps, often faced by the drivers, fear of kidnapping, robbery and area boys are also common with these roads. For instance, Lagos to Abeokuta is a no-go area; it is full of death traps starting from Ijaye down to Kola, Amje and Sango up to Gateway and then to Abeokuta. That gateway spot needs redesigning. The government can construct an over-head bridge there to change movement of vehicles, from inwards and outwards Abeokuta, Lagos and Ota axis. Many lives have been lost there. The idea of locating market in that corridor is bad. For those who are aware of that spot, it is always a high accident spot, lives are lost daily when brake of vehicles failed. The reconstruction of Lagos-Ibadan expressway has been ongoing for many years, that is a very busy road and its importance to the socio-economic lives to Nigeria economy is known worldwide. So, there is an urgent need for FG to complete the road because rainy season is fast approaching, which may hamper its completion. Then, another road is Lagos to Ondo State. There is need for dualisation from Ibadan down to Ondo, especially starting from Ife roundabout, where Oduduwa College is via Ijesha axis so as to connect other towns in the South-south to make driving comfortable. Ibadan to Ogbomosho is another problematic axis. Many lives have been lost because of death traps due to bad roads too. We spend more hours on these roads, a journey of less than one hour. Again, Lagos to Badagry is another eyesore. However, I commend the effort of the current Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; he needs to do more to construct drainages all over the State, especially as the rainy season approaches. Another flashpoint is Lagos to Ore, somewhere around Ajebamdele area, a big hole has developed in that axis in which it needs a barrier to prevent vehicles from accidents. Again moving towards Osun State, that is between Gbongan and Ibadan, there is need for government to reconstruct that roads. I am also using this medium to urge the contractor to quickly fix the Oshodi to Apapa road as the rain is fast approaching for smooth running of business.
What is your opinion on the synergy between the Lagos State and Ogun State Governments on to collaborate on some of the expressways as both share borders together?
I was happy over this initiative when I heard it. You see when your vehicles leave and deliver without any hitch, you look happy. We were expecting that the idea would have been concluded by now. Already, I was planning to meet the two federal controllers of roads in the two states urging them to work together for the rehabilitation of these roads. And if they can agree to do it, it would be better for transport owners and future of Nigerians.
What impact has COVID-19 have on the transport system?
The trending of COVID-19 is not even a local thing but a world problem. We did the little we could do by educating our members and urged them to obey the order of the federal government, stay at home during the lockdown and stay safe. Within ourselves, we were also able to provide palliatives to our members during this period so as to obey the federal government order. It is when there is life, you can talk of economy. For the government to tell her citizens to lockdown, it is just for safety of lives.
What efforts have you been making since your election as new Zonal chairman to improve the association?
Since my appointment, I have been appealing to the federal government on certain problems that we are facing. For instance, as we all know the police are expected to protect life and property but the issue of extorting by the Nigerian police on the roads has been excessive. When you pay for the particulars of the vehicle and somebody will stay along the road and be extorting money from you, it is not good. Apart from that, the issue of double taxation is there. Like I had said, we thank God with the setting up of Amotekun in the South-West and we hope it would help to reduce hardship facing our people, particularly the issue I had enumerated above on insecurity such as area boys, kidnapping and other bad vices that have been affecting our works.
As a new zonal chairman of South-West NARTO, what should your members be expecting from you?
Hopefully, I wish to setup about three or four committees for smooth running and success of my administration. Firstly, my plan is to set up the revenue generation committee and see how we can improve money into the coffer of the association. Secondly, conflict resolution committee- this will help in resolving problems among members and outsiders to be headed by either old or new chairman to settle disputes among members and other stakeholders. And thirdly, Task force committee- this is to monitor people and check lawlessness in parks. Parking is one of the major problems we are confronted in Lagos. It will be noted that 95 percent of business activities take place in Lagos. Lagos is the commercial hub of Nigeria and West-Africa. Therefore, the State is full and has parking problem with vehicles. Lagos is occupied by residential buildings. It is a well known fact that government cannot do it alone, we are trying to invite some investors and stakeholders who can come in to see ways how this issue can be resolved. With me on board now, I am planning and I hope I will do something to see that this problem is solved. Currently, there is a place along Apapa road…..
Is there any synergy between the South Western States and your association on solving the problem of parking in these States?
Since I came in and while flipping through the handover notes, I looked at the content on parking. My finding shows that Lagos is not only the issue but other States in my area of jurisdiction are also affected. We need parking space. For example, our association has made a lot of effort with the federal ministry of works on that parking space at Apapa. With our effort, we thought the right of managing the place will be given to us but they thought otherwise. Three of us bid for that place. Well, I want to appeal to Lagos State government to help us on safety, security and parking space to ensure smooth running of our businesses. The State still remains the commercial centre of the federal republic of Nigeria and it is still the target of any investor or business owners. We want to commend the State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on the various steps he is taking to rehabilitate roads and drainage in his State. However, he should act fast as rain is approaching. Lagos is very close to lagoon and Lagos is water.