Zaria — Dr. Isa Umar Faruk, 38, is one of the few northerners that specialise in Transportation Modelling, which is a sub field in the study of Geography. Faruk is regarded as one of the youngest northerners with Ph.D in the field of Transportation Modelling. He is at present a lecturer in the Department of Geography of Bayero University Kano (BUK). In this interview with Sunday Trust, he said ports congestion and scarcity of goods can be tackled in Nigeria with introduction of Dry Ports. Excerpts:
Transportation modelling as a sub field of Geography is regarded as a new field; can you tell us what it is all about?
Modelling has two aspects but most people call it Transport Engineering dealing with statistical tools. Anything that has to do with engineering involves designs and calculations and this is why it is called auto-modelling. Students of these days are running away from Mathematics and serious statistics. This is why we don't have many personnel in that area, especially in the north.
The same thing applies in the field of transportation; people tend to concentrate more on planning aspect of transportation; neglecting modelling because it involves calculations and serious thinking.
In my Ph.D, I did sequencing and prioritising highways for rehabilitation in Northern Nigeria for the period of 10 years. To do this you have to take many parameters into consideration. Modus like lining and dynamic programming and correlation have to be considered for you to be able to forecast that in a certain year, certain highways would need rehabilitation.
The implication of this is that if one presents wrong data, they can lead to legal issue as one may be termed to have misled the government or any other institution that uses the research. This is why transport modelling is very difficult and that is why the field is seen as more of engineering than Geography.
What contribution do you intend to make in the development of the transport sector in Nigeria?
Actually, the field of Transportation Geography can bring so many changes to the country's transport sector. The first impact can be made on the training of drivers, especially with attempts to ban commercial taxi cabs in different parts of the country.
We also train people from different parts of the country, especially at the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), Zaria, where I am one of their resource persons. We engage in researches on how to improve the transport sector in the country. If all these researches are put into practice, Nigeria will have one of the best transport sectors in the world.
What I'm trying to do now is to continue to train more people in the transport sector, especially for the fact that transport is the backbone of any economy in the world. If goods and services cannot move, it means there will be no interaction and if there is no interaction, there will be no businesses and the economy will be negatively affected.
Our aim now is to train the younger ones in different aspects of transport, especially the pipeline, internet and other modern ways of transportation.
By definition, transportation is not only the conveying of goods and services from one place to another but it also involves dissemination of information. This is why we're paying more attention to this area, especially the area of telecommunication.
Do you think this new area, can Transportation Geography make input in the revival of ailing sectors like the railway?
Of course, the major problem that makes our highways to be dilapidated is the fact that railway is not working. That is why you see heavy duty trucks on the road. This is what my professor called "railway on the road".
Heavy freights are supposed to be transported through the railway. The absence of railway makes the lifespan of our roads to be short. If railway is brought back to life, which our field can make serious input, the rural economy will be brought back to life.
When that happens, inter regional trade will be boosted. The rate of unemployment will be reduced. If the railway is fully rehabilitated, it will boost the land transport sector and the economy of the country as well.
Many countries deal with what we call multi-modal transportation where railway, sea and air modes of transportation are given serious attention. Therefore, the efforts to rehabilitate the railway transportation are commendable.
For Nigeria to realise its economic vision, the country has to give serious attention to integrated transportation system where commuters or goods can use two or three means of transportation in a single journey. For instance, when cargos meant for Kano are moved through the seaports in Port-Harcourt or Lagos, they should be connected with railways to be moved to Kano and from Kano, small lorries can move them to different parts of Kano, neighbouring states or warehouses. This is what we call multi-modal system of transportation.
Same thing applies if it is through the airports. The government has to make efforts to integrate our transport sector. Dry port is also very important. This will reduce ports congestion in Nigeria where goods stay in sea ports for months or even years. A dry port has all the facilities of a sea port except water. It's meant to reduce congestion in ports. Owners of goods can clear their goods at those ports because all clearing agencies like Customs are there. Cargos offloaded at sea ports are usually moved to dry ports through rail, air or land.
By this therefore, immediately goods meant for Maiduguri arrive Lagos for example, they are moved to Kano Dry Port and the owner or owners don't have to go to Lagos but Kano to clear their goods.
In academics, we say dry port is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected to a seaport with high capacity traffic modes where customers can collect their goods in intermodal loading units as if directly at the seaport.
We can have dry ports in different parts of the country. If that happens, traders may not need to go to Lagos or Port-Harcourt for their goods. Those goods can be delivered at Kano, Kaduna or any other place in the north where we don't have sea ports. This will help in reducing inflation, which is essential for the economy and the people of the country.