- TRANSPORT SECTOR UNDER
GOVERNOR SERIAKE DICKSON IN SEVEN MONTHS
The Term Transportation is used here to describe the movement of people, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations. Transport is important since it enables trade between peoples, which in turn establishes civilizations. Every government has a duty to ensure that adequate transportation facilities are in place to drive development within its jurisdiction. The Bayelsa State Nigeria Government has a robust transport policy geared to fulfilling the above objectives. At present, after just seven months in office, only the road and water transportation is prominent but government of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson is working hard to build an Airport in order to widen the scope of transportation and give the people a choice of the means to use.
Provision of Transport infrastructure in Bayelsa State over the years has been sharply limited by the terrain. About 80% of Bayelsa State lies below the sea level. This implies that road construction goes through swamps needing to be sand filled and therefore much more costly than constructing in the upland areas. Consequently only few roads are available and these roads like the Yenagoa-Mbiama Road may be difficult to widen. The two sides have become closely marked by buildings. Bayelsa State started life with three big senatorial areas and these are to be properly linked through the much trumpeted three senatorial roads. Unfortunately these roads were yet to be completed to help widen access into the hinterland. To end this generational failure, Governor Dickson has gone ahead to award these road contracts and many others to reputable construction firms such as Julius Berger, promising never to play politics with such issues that affect the very survival of the State. This is how the governor put it in his last Budget speech:
“As I have said in various fora, we are going to hit the Atlantic Ocean from 3 flanks. Thus the construction of the three senatorial roads will receive priority attention this year. Additionally, the Yenagoa metropolis will be properly restructured with the construction of 3 ring roads. These certainly will boost the aesthetic beauty of our capital city and enhance the efficient management of transport infrastructure in Yenagoa. Other projects in the Works and Transport sub – sector to be given priority attention include: immediate construction of 3 additional secretariat annexes along the road safety road; dualisation of Isaac Boro Road, and the construction of Bayelsa Airport Project. A maritime academy as well as a drive established in the state to harness the huge potentials in this sub-sector”
With such a boost Bayelsa State was set for a transport revolution never witnessed before. Critics were quick to dismiss it. We have seen it before, it does not last. To prove them wrong, construction giants such as Julius Berger are back to work after many years of insecurity related absence thereby further increasing the confidence and trust of the people that indeed ring roads could be done here.
But how is the private sector participation to be activated here? Already in barely seven months of office the government seemingly has everything worked out. Bayelsa State transport scheme will evolve to be a model transport system in Nigeria. Unfortunately starting from Ex- Governor Aliemiesigha down to Goodluck Jonathan’s short stay as Governor of Bayelsa State in 2006 and even unto the last administration of Timipre Sylva, Bayelsans, have seen similar State transport policies unable to endure. Each administration purchased taxis that ended up into private hands or are driven away to other states or disappear from the roads without giving service. Most often than not, Bayelsans have had to revert to the dangerous rides on Okada. What is it that has changed?
Well, a lot. The government of Henry Seriake Dickson has come up with loop holes plugging stringent conditions for participating in her novel transport scheme which, if successful as expected, would probably be copied by other States in the same dilemma all over the federation. Realizing that in all progressive nations, transportation as a business actually is private-sector driven, Governor Dickson is only clearing the way for business participation in the sector. His government has accepted to fulfill three basic responsibilities. Government is to provide regulatory framework and enforce compliance. Government also provides an enabling environment for private sector operators, and this includes building roads and ensuring that road safety regulations are adhered to. In some cases, government can even enter into a Public-Private Partnership agreement with private sector operators to ensure vehicles are procured with minimal financial pains on the recipients. Armed with the above government went ahead to give notice of ban of Okadas, the hitherto popular transport in the Yenagoa metropolis and environs. After plea for extension of the earlier deadline by one month, government took delivery of taxis and KEKE NAPEPS as well as Tri-cycle vehicles to serve as palliatives for the new era of safe and healthy transport system.
The Strategy was simple. With the coming into place of this ban of motorbikes in Yenagoa metropolis, government envisages a situation whereby most public transport operators will invest in the procurement of Taxis, buses, and speedboats to cater for road as well as marine transportation in the State. Government also envisages the formation of cooperative societies to access soft loans from the relevant Ministries.
The Bayelsa Public Transport Scheme bearing all unforeseen hickups is viable, safe and affordable. It has the potential of saving lives, reducing accidents as well as saving money with the introduction of new Taxi Cabs and Keke Napep.
Launching the new scheme in August, Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson reacted to critics: “I have been in the saddle for barely six months now, and I expected that the people should know the difference. The difference is that when we say something, we mean it and we do it.”
According to him, the scheme is intended to address the envisaged effects the ban will have on residents of Yenagoa and its environs.
The Governor called on likely beneficiaries of the scheme to adhere strictly to the principles and terms of the scheme so that it does not suffer similar setbacks of previous programmes in the sector. He stated that, for a start government was investing about N500 million for the scheme, adding that it will be improved upon depending on the outcome of the initial investment. Dickson urged beneficiaries of the cab to be good ambassadors of the State, to ensure maximum use of the cabs.
He warned that he would withdraw the cabs from any of them found to have converted it into personal use. “This is a test scheme, so make good use of it so that we would not be discouraged. You are not to pack it in your homes as a private car, but rather put them to maximum use for the benefit of our people”, the governor said.
Governor Dickson, who test drove in one of the cars expressed satisfaction with the quality of the vehicles noted that, government’s decision to ban motorcycle operations in the state capital was informed by the increasing rate of injuries and deaths from motorcycle related accidents.
Lending her voice in tune, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Transport Mrs Maria Ebikake lamented the suffering inflicted upon the people by the outgoing transportation mode. “Our governor had seen the sufferings of the people in using okada, with daily incidence of accidents, including motorcycle aided robberies and other transport inconveniences that are common in our state capital.” The commissioner said that the initial ban on Okada transport expired on July 31, but that the state government decided to extend it by a month following the public outcry, which compelled the governor to extend it to Aug. 31.“From today, the avoidable accidents of Okada that had led to many deaths and disability among our people will be a thing of the past” She said.
If you plan to do the transport business in Bayelsa State, remember that this time around, it is not business as usual. This is why. You must prepare yourself to go through a rigorous screening process and when you possess the car inbuilt sophisticated technology will deter those of the beneficiaries who intended to join only to make away with it. The procurement procedure is in this order. (1) First, complete a Bio-data form and show that you can drive (2) Undergo a driving and safety with the Ministry of Transport (MOT). (3) Pay a deposit of N200, 000.00. (4) Get a guarantor to endorse. (5)You must not drive the vehicle beyond the out sketch of Bayelsa- Mbiama for even if you try the car is programmed to refuse your commands until you turn it back to Yenagoa. Speed limit is 80 km per hour. (6) Every day you payback N2, 500 naira to the State coffers. (7) The other conditions that are being relaxed are: (8) The cars are packed at the Government Banquet Hall at the end of each day’s work. In the morning, each driver goes to the banquet hall, takes a little exercise and starts his car for the day’s work. Certainly, this is not business as usual. This government means business to build a lasting transport infrastructure for Bayelsans yet unborn.