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Nigeria’s public transport: Infrastructure development and improving passengers’ satisfaction

QUOTE: Nigeria is currently the largest economy in Africa and deserves a better public transportation system. With a gross domestic product (GDP) of $446.543 billion in 2019, the transport sector increased its GDP from $642.927 to $720.241 million and it is believed that more investments in public transport development can help attract both local and international investments
Nigeria’s public transportation system urgently needs total overhauling and upgrade because of the nation’s strategic role in Africa. The sector also helps in the reduction of private car-owners on our roads, which reduces the burden on our transport infrastructure.
With over 80 million people using the sector daily in Nigeria, the sector is still suffering from neglect, low budget allocations especially in the development of infrastructures, poor regulations, lack of professionalism and other needed areas of development of the sector.
It also lacks the required attention from government and this is partly responsible for its poor state. The cost of movement in Nigeria takes up approximately 40 to 50 percent of average workers earnings. This high cost makes the sector unattractive.
These are some of the reasons why the sector urgently requires government’s attention for upgrade because the sector is very strategic to the overall growth of the economy and has huge potentials to create employment opportunities and better living conditions for Nigerians.
Another reason for the call is the need for more customer-centric service. Passengers are poorly treated, price charged are random, vehicles are unavailable (if available are mostly in poor state), insecurity, poor health and safety standards, poor attitudes by bus staff and poor operational standards which needs to change.
Adopting customer-centric strategy will also help organisations to provide better services, grow their top line, be more innovative in producing successful products and also make the business process to be more efficient.
This will enable transport organisations to close gaps that exist between them and their customers by building stronger communication bridges that enables them appraise their performance through the eyes of the passengers.
There are however some identified challenges that can affect the sector such as, comfort of passengers inside the bus, convenience ,safety, accessibility, long wait times, traffic congestion, parking difficulties, air pollution, traffic accidents etc.
Making passengers the centre of attraction will also help organisations improve customer satisfaction, ensure efficient service delivery. It will also make transport organisations to provide opportunities of giving passengers better satisfaction, because if this is not properly done passengers might be dissatisfied with their service, products strategy might fail, which can lead customers to seek patronage elsewhere.
For example, Lagos State (population of over 21million people (2016) Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre has a poor public transportation system as a result of its combination and dependence on rickety commercial vehicles, tricycles (kekemarwa) and motorcycles (okada).These are responsible for traffic congestion experienced in the state due to regular break down of vehicles at the middle of roads during peak periods, this is also responsible for high pollution in the city which results in low-quality of life.
The current management of LAMATA must be commended for doing a great job despite the overwhelming challenge they face daily when compared to other states in Nigeria. Some of the anomalies can be described as unregulated, unmonitored, inefficient and ineffective, chaotic, unnecessarily expensive, poor quality, dangerous and a big risk to life in terms of road traffic accidents, kidnapping, raping, robbery and other forms of personal safety
The need for government to restructure National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) is very expedient because of the challenges facing the sector. There is also perception that the union has been hijacked by some politicians for their selfish interests to intimidate Nigerians who they believe are threat to their ambitions. Generally, the union is perceived by most Nigerians as an organisation used to intimidate and extort monies from vehicles operators, passengers and also to further their costly political ambitions.
Nigeria is currently the largest economy in Africa and deserves a better public transportation system. With a gross domestic product (GDP) of $446.543 billion in 2019, the transport sector increased its GDP from $642.927 to $720.241 million and it is believed that more investments in public transport development can help attract both local and international investments.
Clear evidence of degeneration and setbacks in the sector coupled with huge population growth (over 200 million people) are responsible for passengers experiencing challenges in the sector for over two decades. Complex cities challenges demands collaborative  strategies to help strengthen Public Private partnerships strategy that will make the sector more efficient and productive as obtained in major cities around the world e.g. Sydney, Melbourne, London, Paris, Tokyo ,Ontario, California, New York etc.
Public transportation system is the most attractive means of travelling across cities and therefore needs to be very efficient and with intermodal connections e.g. connecting rail, buses, taxis, trams, cars to improve passengers satisfaction, it also needs to be well coordinated with cities pedestrian networks for passengers to be able to live comfortable without thinking of going out with their personal vehicles.
The sector is supposed to be a means of moving large proportions of urban dwellers for them to gain physical access to goods, services, and activities that are needed to sustain life and well-being and needs to be very efficient to drive growth in the sector because it can have a direct impact on the economy.
Growing passengers’ expectations requires that the sector adapts to the use of modern technology systems in driving it because it would significantly change passengers’ perception, increase productivity, make our cities smarter and a more secure place to live in.
Furthermore, it would also improve safety and security of passengers, reduction of pollution and road congestion, reduction of overall household expenses for passengers, increased social connection and inequality among citizens who cannot afford their own cars. It will also boost higher productivity of passengers.
Last but not the least, the huge negative impacts of  the current COVID-19 pandemic should wake up transport leaders on the need to ensure health and safety is top priority in public transportation systems in Nigeria. They also need to work together with private players to work out modalities of developing new a road map that can help reposition the sector and protect passengers (the most important stakeholders in the sector) because without them transport organisations cannot survive.
Finally, developing a sustainable and globally competitive transport sector is a relevant step to diversifying the Nigerian economy. We must also give priority attention to development the of public transport infrastructure, ensure passengers are satisfied and continuously innovate new strategies of offering products, quality service and standards that can offer good value for money.
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