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A deft response to the transport sector’s skills gap

The transportation and logistics sector is one of the most critical sectors that drive the economic prosperity of a country. According to the National Bureau…

The transportation and logistics sector is one of the most critical sectors that drive the economic prosperity of a country. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the current share of transport and logistics in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about three per cent.

This is a clear indication that this all-important multi-billion-naira industry is grossly underperforming and not living up to its potential in Nigeria. In South Africa, data show transportation alone contributes about 6.5 per cent to their GDP, and in the USA about 7.7 per cent.

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Indeed, countries that desire to grow their economic outcomes invest significantly in transport infrastructure and the relevant skills set to drive the transport sector.

In Nigeria, we are well aware of the deficit in transport infrastructure due to inadequate investments in that sector. Again, just like most sectors of the Nigerian economy, it is also suffering from inadequate capacities in terms of skilled labour, inadequate training facilities, and innovative technologies in the transportation value chain, amongst others. This is largely attributable to low funding, training and re-training.

For Nigeria, the modes of transportation in dominant use include rail, road, water, pipelines and air transport.

But it can be seen that the present government has upgraded some transport infrastructure. It has constructed new roads, upgraded the existing ones, and upgraded critical infrastructure across the various modes of transportation.  For instance, the FG has built new airport terminals, a deep seaport with private sector partners, river ports, new standard gauge rail, new gas pipelines and so much more.

DG and Chief Executive of NITT, Dr Bayero Salih Farah

However, for these transportation facilities to be optimally utilized, they need highly trained personnel to operate and manage them efficiently. This is where the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), Zaria, Kaduna State comes in to provide the necessary training and to conduct research on key problems in the country so policies are arrived at based on informed decisions. In the railway sector for instance, the NITT has recently built capacities to provide training in that sector.  

The potential for growth and development in the Nigerian transport sector is quite promising, especially with recent investments in the transportation value chain and the investments in upgrading skill competencies, especially at the Federal Government owned training facility, the NITT.

The Institute was established on the 14th of March 1986 via Decree No.6 (now CAP 116, LFN, 2004) to among other things address the problems of the transport sector in Nigeria. It is the apex management development Institute for transport and logistics in Nigeria and the West African Sub-region. NITT promotes career development and professional certification, corporate leadership and strategic management, training, conducts research and advisory services, engages in transport intelligence and monitoring activities and adapts transport technology to suit Nigeria’s needs.

Since inception, the institute has recorded several milestones as well as grappled with challenges ranging from inadequate funding, and low patronage of its academic programmes and services despite huge potentials to improve skills set in spite of its training facilities.

Mr John Emmanuel, Director of Strategy, Transportation Growth Initiative, and a Chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics said that “the skills gap in the transport sector is very wide and needs to be bridged. NITT was established for that purpose to provide the bridge and the professionalism required to deliver efficient transport in Nigeria. They have tried their best over the years based on their mandate. Going forward, Nigeria should be exporting transportation skills because the NITT is positioned to do that.”

Prof. Calistus Ibe, a Professor of Transport Management Technology at the Federal University of Technology Owerri, said Nigeria has not developed because we are neglecting transport. “If we develop transport, it will create jobs, facilitate trade, create integration and the total supply chain will improve. This should drive down the cost of living in Nigeria,” he said.

The Director General NITT, Dr Bayero Salih-Farah, told our correspondent the Institute is deliberately being repositioned as the premier integrated transportation training facility in the whole of Africa and a lot of investments have happened and will continue to happen going forward. “It is not only the physical structures that have received a facelift, new ones are being constructed; the staff welfare enhanced and more staff recruited to beef up our manpower needs. Also, new NITT centres have been opened across the country to make the Institute more accessible to all parts of the country,” he said.

He said the new face of NITT was recently unveiled with a clear-cut direction, adding that the following have been accomplished and still counting.  

We have “streamlined the NITT enabling Act, conditions and scheme of service, broadened the scope of the Institute’s programmes and collaborations amongst others things with support from the relevant authorities; increased participation on the Institute’s short and long-term programmes and established annexes in Ebonyi, Kano, Gombe, Ekiti and Katsina states to complement the existing ones in Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt. Work is also going on in the Makurdi centre,” he said.

Others include: “renovated, furnished and equipped the NITT Main Auditorium, the Institute’s library to a multimedia and e-library. 20-Room Executive Hostel, the Masters in Transport & Logistics Classroom and the NITT Clinic which was expanded in scope and operation to provide medical services to the Institute Community and members of the public.”

Dr Salih-Farah also said the institute is also investing in research and development. For instance, it acquired an 84-hectare parcel of land from the Kaduna State government to establish the institute’s Jatropha Farm for bio-fuel production and secured another 40-hectare of land from Sabin Gari Local Government in Zaria towards building the institute’s Drivers Development and Training Centre. 

According to him, the NITT has secured the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) accreditation for running of National Diploma programmes in Crane Operations, Welding and Fabrication and Mechatronics in the Institute. 

One of its innovations is the electric Keke (tricycle) which the DG said they are improving on to the level that it can be used commercially. “We are also working on electric car. We have a team of engineers working on the various elements of the electric car in different parts of the country. So, in the near future, we will have a breakthrough,” he said.

Other projects at the institute intended to deepen training according to Salih-Farah include; completed construction works in the NITT Phase II Participants’ Hostel 11, completed construction works in the DG/CE’s new office building, established and equipped the National Transport Data Bank facility in the Institutes with state-of-the-art equipment for real-time collection of transport data across all transport modes and the established and equipping the Multi-lingual Library in the Institute with state of-the-art language translators to provide for training of participants from Francophone countries especially.

The institute is also currently seeking the review of its Act, enacted over 30 years ago, to widen its scope of operations.

Commenting, Prof. Calistus Ibe said the NITT has now developed training capacity and their new Bill when passed into law will enable them expand their scope in line with the current realities given the knowledge economy we are in now.

“Going forward, they will entrench ICT and technology because transportation is now driven by these. The expansion going forward will be in both human and infrastructure. Take Victoria Training Institute in Texas, there is nothing they do on transport without going to the Institute to ask for input. That is the way to go in Nigeria,” he said.

Prof. Femi Abdulganiyu Sumaila, former DG NITT, said “the conceptualization of the existing Act limits the scope and activities of the NITT. We have discovered that there is a lot the NITT can accomplish thus the move to amend its extant law. Over the years, we just concentrated on training employees in the transport sector. The problem is how many agencies do we have in the transport sector? But today, we are extending the scope to cover all modes of transport and indeed the logistics industry, which is wide,” he noted.

He also noted that the internal capacity of the institute was limited. “But today, we have PhD holders and certified professionals at NITT. So, those are the things that were lacking in the past. And the NITT will also be training PhD holders going forward. The institute can then retain the very good ones. That is how universities retain manpower competencies and improve their capacities,” he noted.

NITT DG also agreed that so much has changed in the industry thus the new law will be in conformity with the present realities. “The new law expands our activities, programmes, develops new courses and it will also lead to self-sufficiency of the institute,” he said.

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