As Nigeria continues her fight against the ravaging corona virus pandemic, economic experts have prophesied a rather bleaky and an uncertain aftermath/future for several of the nation’s sectors binding the economy as a whole.
Over a fortnight ago, there was the issue of oil price crash at the international market which made fiscal experts to encourage the government on the urgency of diversifying the nation’s economy and looking for other means of revenue aside oil.
Presently, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has reported over 200 recorded cases and over 20 casualties of the corona virus disease, though there were recoveries too. The despicable state of the nation’s health care infrastructure makes it almost impossible for the nation as a whole to defeat the virus and sweep it off its borders completely.
Sequel to the lockdown occasioned by the discovery of the virus, Nigeria was still struggling to recover from her increasing debt profiles. Earlier, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was whimsically coaxed to reduce the rate of economic growth via the gross domestic product to 2 percent from the initial 2.5 percent. These and other economic factors like an unexpected quake sent cold shivers down the spine of Nigeria’s economy. Conversely, the economy was affected negatively.
Consequently, concerns, reactions and opinion trailed this as several people poured out their minds on the aftermath of the pandemic which many believe is yet to unfold.
One of the many areas of concern is the transport Industry which is believed to be one of the pillars on which Nigeria’s economy is resting. Others been communication, agriculture, manufacturing as well as the hitherto acclaimed oil and gas. A personal experience I had recently heightened my fears on this issue and proved it beyond reasonable doubts.
I reside in one of the North-Central States that has borders with two major South-Western States. Since the state is densely populated, there are several means of public transportation viz tricycles, motorbikes, buses and taxi cabs.
I was coming back from town and hitchhiked a tricycle. After telling the driver my destination, I asked him the price and he frankly told me it was nothing less than a hundred naira. This was a place that was half the price before the lockdown. Like an average Nigerian would do, I pleaded passionately with him after which he agreed to get me to the destination for sixty naira.
On my way home, I engaged myself in some mental discussions on the rationale behind the abrupt increase in the price of transport fares. Afterall, the government had not announced a hike in the price of petrol and other associated products. So why would these transporters want to use the event of the corona virus pandemic to exploit the poor? Several cities such as Lagos, Abuja, PortHarcourt and other places across the nation are also said to be expressing similar cases of hike in the price of transportation.
Without much controversy, Nigeria’s transport sector is one of the core areas of the economy. This has over the years proved to be a stable source of income for several of the nation’s teeming population especially in places like Lagos where many people get their means of survival from daily hustles.
With the recent crash in the price of oil at the international market, economic and financial experts have warned that there might likely be a abrupt increase in the price of transport. For instance, travelling to Lagos from the state I reside in initially was around 2,000 to 2,500. But a personal visit to motor parks and garages revealed that the price was double the price as Lagos now goes for about 6,000 and above.
The railway means of transport which should have assisted in cushioning the effect of the hike is on hold as several rail projects such as the Lagos-Ibadan standard rail gauge are on hold. The project according to Nigeria’s transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, was scheduled to be completed in the 1st half of the year. The current reality however, rebuffs the truth of that assertion. This is undoubtedly due to the pandemic which has held the country to ransom.
For the aviation sub-sector which is an exclusive reserve for the rich, issues of mistrust has enabled the country to ban all international flights. This according to the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, is largely due to the fact that airline operators that were given the mandate of transporting stranded Nigerians from abroad have suddenly turned monopolists, using the rare privilege to engage in commercial operations.
Similar issue is also experienced along shipping lines. This according to the stakeholders has quantum effects on the value chain of logistics and cargo services and delivery. Thus, a transportation expert, Prof. Samuel Odewumi of the Lagos State University had rightly submitted that the consequences of the epidemic especially on the aviation industry are enormous. “Flights are being cancelled, Visas are getting suspended, protocols at the airports are getting complicated, scheduled events are getting cancelled……”, he said.
In a circular dated 19th May, 2020, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had announced a slash in the salaries and wages of its workers. FAAN expressed her concerns over her inability to generate revenue following the closure of airports and other associated airline businesses to contain the corona virus pandemic.
From the foregoing, it is almost unlikely for other agencies in the aviation sub-sector to tow the line of FAAN. These agencies are not limited to the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and others.
Though on an international perspective, the CNN had recently expressed concerns on the rate of increase in the price of air travels. In a recent report, the international media group noted that some airline operators are allowing bookings normally, while enforcing the social distancing orders. Thus, passengers are made to pay from $39 to ensure that the middle seat is vacant. This means that only about 50 – 60% of available seats on a plane can be booked.
Traders in the spare parts market are not left out too. The “no market” mantra never seems to come to an end. Since many of the traders are not able to ship their logistics especially from abroad again, they are forced to lock their shops. The few that found the courage to open for business are selling at a rather exorbitant rate.
The Assistant Public Relations Officer of the international Ladipo Spare Parts Market, Lagos, expressed his worries as members of his union are unable to travel to get their consignments.
However, many are hopeful that the gradual easing of the lockdown in states and the opening of the nation’s air and land borders would assist in reducing the effects of the pandemic on the transport sector and the economy as a whole.