Experienced, Self-Driven & Results Orientated

Making progress in tackling transport issues

One of the major challenges faced by Nigeria is the overall improvement of its transport sector
by Lawrence J. Ireton

Potentially a catalyst for enhanced economic development, a good transport network has a multiplier effect on the socio-economic, political, and environmental state of a country. It can create job opportunities, increase trade, foster national development and add buoyancy to the economy. Currently, however, Nigeria’s transport infrastructure is in acute need of improvement. “With infrastructure as a whole, that is air, sea and roads, we are not quite where we ought to be at this point in time. The road network is vast but it has not been maintained and there is the issue of safety. The rail network is just in its infancy; we had a network that connected the north and south of the country, as well as south and east, but this has unfortunately deteriorated over the past 20 years – but I know there is a focus to get this up and running again,” says Captain Akinlawon George, Managing Director of the Aero Contractors Company of Nigeria. “Transportation is a win-win market if handled appropriately.”

Reforming the transport sector forms a key part of President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda. Last year, his administration pledged its determination to integrate the nation’s sea, road, rail and air links to develop an effective and efficient inter-modal transport system. At the nation’s ports, for example, it has already trimmed the number of government bodies involved in their operations from an unwieldy 14 to a more streamlined six. It is also targeting faster turnaround times and reduced costs, and recently all Nigerian seaports have begun 24-hour operations.

“The government has good intentions to move our transportation to the next level,” says Lape Osinaike, Managing Director of Murphy Shipping and Commercial Services Ltd (Murphy). “We have to ensure we have first-class maritime activities in Nigeria. I strongly believe things will change. In terms of the turnaround of ships coming in, that has really improved. It was terrible in the past, but it has been reduced to between 21 and 30 days.”

Murphy Shipping and Commercial Services is a fully integrated international logistics provider involved in warehousing, transportation, insurance and freight forwarding, as well as customs clearance. Its roots are strongest in Africa, providing support services to the oil and gas industry after creating a niche for itself when it began operations in Nigeria in 1975. Some of its biggest clients include Exxon, Chevron, Total and Schlumberger. International joint ventures are expected in the next future. With offices in Nigeria and Azerbaijan, as well as the U.S. and the U.K., the company has expert knowledge of the Nigerian and Caspian markets, particularly in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. “Joint ventures and synergies will definitely help the company in terms of growth and expansion,” says Mrs. Osinaike.

To alleviate pressure and congestion at the nation’s seaports, construction works are under way at six inland container depots (ICDs), bringing trade and customs clearance closer to the hinterlands at Isiala (Ngwa-Abia State), Bulunkutu (Borno State), Helpang (Plateau State), Ibadan (Oyo State), Funtua (Katisina State) and Kano (Kano State). Inland customers will benefit from complete port services as conveniently as if they were on the coast.

Covering an area greater than twice the size of California, Nigeria is a huge country – so its aviation sector is also vital in transporting both its people and cargo. The nation’s largest airline, both in terms of market share and passenger numbers, is the Aero Contractors Company of Nigeria. Reportedly only around 14% of Nigerians have ever flown in an airplane and according to the company’s MD, the total market is growing. “It is not just about taking more of the market share from another operator,” says Capt. George. “We are still expanding. We have the low-cost carrier concept of low fares, while still maintaining our business class and providing hot meals on board.”

Headquartered in Lagos, the Aero Contractors Company offers both helicopter and airplane services to the highest international standards of safety. The company is focused on bringing customers world-class aviation services with affordable fares, quality on-board service, good customer relations, and effective online services. It prides itself on its punctuality and safety record, and has established itself as the leading innovative regional carrier in West Africa.