COVID-19 OUTBREAK AND THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY-EFFECTS, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS.

 

This essay critically evaluates the effect of covid-19 outbreak and its impact in the transportation industry. Transportation can be defined as a system of using cars, buses, ship/boats, trains, airplane, heavy duty vehicles etc. to convey people, goods and services from one place to another. Thus, transportation is very important to the lives of every human being in all existing society. Before the advent of modern means of transportation, traditional societies relied on the use of animals such as Horses, Carmel and other forms of beast of burdens for the purpose of transportation of both man and goods to places of residence or commercial engagements. However, with the advent of modern technology, other mechanical and technical means of transportation was evolved, namely auto-mobile, sea transportation, air-transportation, railway transportation to mention but a few came on stream. All these various means of transportation came with their effects, challenges, and prospects. In all of these forms of transportation, they all had some common denominators such as, efficiency, timeliness, and promptness in accomplishing the movements of peoples and goods from one place to the other.

However, these universal denominators as highlighted above are not without their own challenges and prospects. One of such scary challenge/prospect is the emergence of the global pandemic that is known as the corona virus 2019-otherwise referred to as COVID 19 that led to both partial/total locked down of all nations in the world and the restriction of movements of both people, goods and services. In fact, this is one aspect where the impact of the COVID 19 affected the global transportation industry and consequently changed the structure of the socio-cultural, political, economic and other forms of social relationships of society. Please permit me to highlight my discourse on some of the established forms of transportation that is universal to the global community.

First, let me briefly espouse on one of the oldest forms of transportation in the world known as the land transportation. This entails the railway and road transportation systems. Both means are cheaper, affordable, accessible and convenient for most citizens especially in Nigeria as a major means of transportation of people, goods and services within and sometimes to outside countries that share border lines with others. In Nigeria, the restriction of movement particularly in the three initially most infected states of the country (Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital) with the COVID 19 affected seriously both forms of transportation, this is because of the fear of quick transmission of the diseases and contraction by citizens whom often found these of transport systems as more affordable. Beyond that, it affected those who are engaged in providing services such as drivers and workers in these sectors. The economic impact is another challenge especially for those engaged in the industry as a survival means. Also, it affected the railway sector of the industry that are involved in the haulage of bulky and large quantity of goods from place to place. In fact, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) announced the stoppage of operation which commenced from 23rd of March 2020, due to the pandemic. This action has breeched the supply chain that usually passes through the railway industry. Railway transportation is responsible for transporting passengers and goods by means of wheeled vehicles specially designed to run along railway or railroads. The current situation of things in the railway industry are the delay in supply stocks and reduction in production of necessary facilities needed to enhance effective operations. The unavailability of service of the staff has no doubt limited the proper functioning of this sector, while the high amount of freight piled up has alongside impacted negatively in the economy in terms colossal financial loss. In fact the rail sector will need enormous resources to resuscitate it after the lockdown.

Air-transportation is a mode of transportation which aids in the movement of passengers and freight by using aircrafts (e.g. airplanes, helicopters, jets, blimps, gliders, etc.). Airline businesses conducted in the airport have been disallowed together with its operations. The suspension, procrastination and cancellations are contributing to the present air travel issues and limitations to movement. For example, the case of the two pilots from Caventon offshore who allegedly moved people into Nigeria (Rivers state) illegally. Thereafter two corona virus cases were confirmed in the state from those who were on board. In other to close the lacuna, the governor ordered there be persecuted in other to serve as a deterrent to those that might express scorn towards the rules and regulation. Consequently, they were eventually released with a fine to be paid by each of them. The air transport is one of the most expensive means of transport and it contributes to the revenue of the government. For example, an air travel from Nigeria to America requires about a million naira and some fractions while within African countries like Ghana, Togo, Kenya, Cotonuo, etc. requires less than  million, the resources raised can be added to the government revenue . Notably, there are two different classes in which the air crafts are being grouped into which are the business class and the economy class and they all require a gross amount of funding to facilitate this sector. Due to all these arising issues, Nigerian Aviation Company (specifically Arik air) has concluded plans to sharply reduce its employer’s salaries by 80%.

Furthermore, public measures were put in place to curb the spread of the virus and it is advised to be implemented by the citizens of Nigeria. Therefore, the president of federal republic of Nigeria stated according to the quarantine Act (CAP Q2, LFN 2004), under covid-19 Regulations that “movement of all forms of aircrafts, both commercial and private jets should hereby be suspended”, with this suspension, air travel economy is reduced.

Land transportation has really had a negative effect on the daily earnings of the drivers. Using Lagos as a case study, these area is majorly known for it’s over population of about 9,113,605 as at 2006 conducted census. Systematically, the area is prone to the virus out break because of the daily activities as lifestyle of the people who reside in these state. In instances like contacts made during traffic congestions which could be in form of body contact, exposure to those with cough, etc. from unknown persons. On the other hand, the struggle made in paving ways into busses, these happened to be a reoccurring event that could barely be curtailed.  Hence, the state government went ahead to implement a total lockdown in other to encourage social distancing and to safeguard the lives of inhabitants of the state. So far, majority of the residents are complying with the rules of the government while the relevant authorities in charge (NCDC) are making efforts to curb the nuances of the minority.

However, the perspectives of things are not different in other state like Edo state. The bus drivers and private vehicle owners are complying with this rules but in addition, the governor Gov. Nogheghase Godwin Obaseki has also added that there should be a dusk to dawn curfew which will last for 14days. The state Governors implemented a decision to prohibit inter-state travel, when this happens those in the commercial sector will have an Onus on them thereby leaving them without income. During the lockdown, only those on essential duties and with food items are expected to be seen outside the confinement of their homes. Hence, the travel restrictions are expected to reduce the number of coronavirus cases within Nigeria

Lastly, Sea transportation is one of the important means of transport for carrying bulky and heavy goods from one part to another within and outside a country. Sea transport started in the 70s. As a preventive measure by the government, all seaports in Lagos withy cargoes conveying essential items from the ports were to be properly screened by the ports Health Authority. When the supermarkets and warehouses are out of stock, how will freight demands be brought through the blocked boarders? However, the impeded supply chain caused by the ravaging pandemic will bring down the freight transport via the sea. Some businesses counterparts e.g. (Retailers, producers, Middlemen and Wholesaler) who failed to pick up their cargo and container before the pandemic were cutup in a web. This will however cause a disruption in the supply chain because of the closure of warehouses especially those with perishable goods and foodstuffs. The cargoes which are lying uncollected to at various ports will create a hindrance in volume of space, and this will decrease the ability to accommodate arriving containers when the shutdown is called off due to the overwhelming force to appropriate claims. No doubt that some cruise ships conveyed infected persons into the country. Therefore, Nigerian ships has been stopped from going ashore and stopped them from entering the country for the fear of purporting the disease. Similarly, the Delta state government ordered their boarders to ne shut down to avoid people from coming in or going out of the state (Intra state confinement). The ban put on the exportation has caused the shortage of the basic amenities like drugs and medical equipments thereby reducing the effectiveness of the health sector. The covid-19 pandemic has being and is still affecting the lives of businesses in aspects that will leave an indelible print.

The effect of covid-19 could be in three major forms, they include: Economic, Political and Socio-cultural. The Economic effect basically contribute to the government revenue which includes transportation. The covid-19 outbreak has led to the shut-down of transportation firm/industries and they seems to be an epitome of aid to Nigerian economy. Prior to the pandemic which is ravaging, Nigerian economy is currently the largest African country with a Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P) of $446.548 billion as at 2019 with #360 per dollar as an April 2020. The transportation sector contributes to Nigeria’s GDP soared to $720.241 million in the third quarter of 2019 from $642.927 million in the second quarter of 2019 and contributed 2.49%to nominal GDP in 2019, there was an increase by 1.85% in 2018. Thus, the cost of maintenance of the various system of transport is on an exorbitant side, these physical force will worsen the economic impact of the covid-19 outbreak. Political effect on the other hand the government still has a pending role to play during the pandemic. However government which is a machinery through which the will of the people are being executed needs to further press on the arising issues that majority of Nigeria’s feed on daily earnings, therefore, lockdown of transport sectors will easily be adhered to if there is what to feed on. The lack of attention by the government to the sector, lack of competent hands, post traumatic effects, lack of transport infrastructure are the major areas which are at the verge of collapsing if not properly addressed in other to promote effectiveness, accountability, accessibility and growth of this sector. Security in the transportation sector should be another priority of the government (the coordinators) to ensure the safety of those working in these areas. The reaction by the government has influenced the way of life of the citizens and transportation system. The rate at which these decisions attacked was unpredictable. The various modes of transportation (air, rail, sea and road system) have all undergone a draconian downfall of patronage. This has a negative consequence on the operations or delivery of services to this sector. However, these all boil down to the fact to that the government has to come up with some strategies which will aid in the appraisal and organization of the transportation system by collaborating with top transportation firms, employment of more competent hands, proper implementation of transportation rules and regulations, equipping the sector with viable resources necessary to make a positive impact, curbing the misuse and destruction of transportation facilities like a jail term or fine could be incorporated with this a lot of excesses will be tamed). These will go a long way to developing a sustainable globally competitive transportation system in Nigeria. Social-cultural effects has to do with the suspension of every working activities which also covers the transportation sector. The bus drivers and those in other transport sector are at the edge especially the bus drivers who are restricted to convey certain number of passengers are still on a high risk of contracting the disease because the reduction does not mean contacts cannot be made through the exchange of payments (Naira notes), pleasantries, etc., in most cases the citizens do not comply to the nose mask protective measure thereby making them vulnerable. Thus, to avoid transmission among large numbers of people confined in any means of transport the laid down guidelines and measures should be appropriately followed. Hence, social distancing plays a long role in this respect. It is the amount of space between individuals connected with society and the way it is organized within its territory. These are few steps you can take to yourself when you are in public environment: 5cm of social distance between the passengers and driver, avoid shaking hands at work places during or after work, cover your nose or mouth when you sneeze or cough into a tissue or your arm to reduce the spread of germs and maintenance of proper hygiene. Public health and social measures to slow or stop the spread of the spread of covid-19 must be implemented with the full participation of all members of society.

The aftermath challenges maybe very troubling to the Nation at large. Generally, everything that has a beginning must certainly have an end but without leaving a grief/damage in different areas. The various issues which may arise during or after the pandemic includes: stigmatization of workers whom maybe said to have contacted with the infected persons may not be closely associated with by others. Everyone will be trying to play on the safe side but not know they are indirectly diminishing the psychological balance of the victim, It leads to limitation of movement of her citizens thereby causing a breach in the fundamental human rights which areas “freedom of movement”, Increase in the cost of operation: resumption of duties in the transportation sector will need a lot of funding in the cost of transportation maintenances like coal for trains, aircraft fuel, etc., displacement of workers: those who are in this sector will  be laid off when the lockdown will  be discountenanced: very few workers will eventually be required, damage of transport facilities: most parts of the various modes of transportation may eventually become spoilt because they have not been put in use for a long time, plied up duties of transport workers: those who work at transport firms will have to face resumption of work with loads of duties on ground, because the amount of people who got stuck within Nigeria and those who will like to return back to Nigeria will be too much, however, following the usual procedure of collating data of immigrants/emigrants, provision of logistics to replenish the old ones (e.g. snacks, tissue, etc.) for the aspect of air, sea and rail travel, low-level of revenue gotten from transportation sector: this aspect majorly relates to the economic effect of the corona virus outbreak. However the outcome of this will reduce the resources gotten. It will be hectic to start from the disjointed point and this requires the government’s effort to re-strategize on its transportation policies in other to re-valuate the system, dislocation of travelling and migration of individuals, depression is a medical condition whereby a person feels very sad, anxious and often has symptoms such as being unable to sleep and coordinate. Most times this is the outcome of stigmatization, overthinking and verbal or physical molestation. When someone becomes depressed he/she thinks less of what happens to their wellbeing. It could eventually lead to suicide, self-infliction and unnecessary weird attitude. Hence, it is best to reduce the stigmatization rate between workers as pertains to the transportation sector, students, traders, inmates, etc. in other to prevent this issues, pollution of most transportation route such as seaways, air routes, etc.

Prospects/advantages of covid-19 on transportation are so numerous but to mention a few like: Enactment and formulation of modern transportation policies, creation of sustainable and globally competitive transport sector, promoting collaboration with more advanced transport countries, motivating professionalism, improvement of adaptation and response rate of transportation sector in Nigeria, realignment and rise in the transportation value system in Nigeria, improvement in the communication systems in driving the sector, implementation of modern technologies to improve the system, restructuring the transportation system using ICT and virtual communication, generally bridging the gap between operators of the transport sector and the stakeholders to enhance the sector, etc.

In conclusion, it is essential to stay at home to avoid the spread of covid-19. Despite the ongoing efforts to combat the virus, it may take a little more time to come over this period of the pandemic. This will help us create higher standards on transportation industry haven been one of the primary victim of the covid-19. In spite of the transportation bans, newer means of boosting the sector should be put in place with relevant legal tools to make things work. It will aid in creating higher standards especially in our public transport systems in Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Author

A legal luminary @ Edo University Uzairue, Estako West, Edo state, Nigeria A 300 level Student, born 21st of January An intern @ O.M Obayuwana & Nosawema Chambers, Advocate and Solicitors located at No 117, New Lagos Road, New Benin, Benin City, Edo State. Nigeria.