With profound gratitude to Almighty God, I welcome you all to this very important occasion, the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO). I will like to especially thank His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, MON, mni for giving us audience when we paid him a courtesy call earlier this morning, and for accepting our invitation to come and declare this occasion open despite his busy official engagement. This is a rare privilege and honour to which we are deeply grateful.
I will like to, also, thank H.E the Governor and the Government of Jigawa State as a whole for their kind assistance and support towards the preparation of this meeting. The conduct of all Jigawa state government officials in this regards is simply amazing and worthy of commendation.
The AGM of this Association being annual event, as well as our quarterly National Executive Council Meetings are rotated amongst the various state capitals and Abuja, in the Federal Capital Territory. We have conducted similar meetings in Ibadan, Ilorin, Kano, Gombe, Bauchi, B/Kebbi, Minna, Kaduna and Abuja in the past. We are happy that Dutse is joining the growing list of cities that have hosted these meetings.
The reasons for selecting Jigawa state for this year’s AGM are many but I will mention only a few. Firstly, the state government has demonstrated sufficient commitment to the promotion of entrepreneurship through various empowerment programs introduced by His Excellency, prominent among which is the provision of many commuter buses to both NARTO and the NURTW in 2016. That singular act has created multiple employment opportunities through the transportation value chain.
Secondly, the state boasts of a large and resourceful population whose potentials have yet to be fully tapped. Hopefully, transportation, particularly road transportation business could be a gateway for their economic and social transformation.
Thirdly, Your Excellency, your enviable record of successes as an accomplished businessman and your spirited efforts to revolutionise Jigawa State through the various development programs you initiated, including the ones in the area of public transportation are highly inspiring and worthy of commendation. We in NARTO will like to be part of these successes.
Finally, Jigawa State is peaceful, serene and homely. The hospitality and warmth with which we are received since our arrival in Dutse will always be remembered in our hearts. Indeed, this AGM will go in history as one of the most memorable AGM’s we have ever held anywhere in this country.
Your Excellency Sir, ladies and gentlemen at this point, permit me to acquaint you with the brief background of the Association at least for the benefit of those who do not know much about us. The Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) is an umbrella body of all transport owners and operators in Nigeria engaged in the transportation of goods, passengers and general cargoes throughout the country and the West African Sub-region. Our Association is registered with a Corporate Affairs Commission as a company limited by guarantee. We are a member of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and the West African Transport Union (WARTU).Therefore by virtue of our registration we are not a trade union but investors in the road transport sub sector of the Nigeria economy. We operate in three distinct areas of the road transport industry, namely; dry cargo, wet cargo and commuter services with extensive affiliation that cut across multiple sectors of the economy such as oil and gas, agriculture constructions and public transportation to mention just a few. Our stakeholders include the Federal Ministries of transportation, power, works and housing; Petroleum Resources; Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA); Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF) Management Board; Federal Road Maintenance (FERMA) and the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC).
Transportation, particularly road transportation, plays a significant role in the socio-economic and cultural development of any nation. It facilitates the movement of people from one place to another which makes it possible to link up communities, open up new markets, facilitate supply and distribution of goods and enable cultural exchange among the people. Today, in Nigeria, about 85% of the population depend on road transportation for their movement while about 98% of petroleum products lifting from supply sources to where they are needed is done by road. However, as critical as these services are to the overall development of the nation they are threatened with challenges.
Over two third (2/3) of the total road network in the country is in very bad condition. The roads are poorly maintained and constitute serious safety hazards to road users. They are a major course of traffic accident across the country with high fatality rate. At this point I must commend the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi and the Corps for their relentless efforts in curbing road traffic accidents in this country despite the bad road infrastructure.
There is a high maintenance cost of vehicles as a result of high exchange rate in the foreign exchange market. This has made the procurement of spare parts and purchase of new trucks very expensive and almost impossible.
There is the problem of insecurity, which gave rise to kidnapping, seizure of vehicles, armed robbery etc. among others.
Lastly, there is also the problem of high cost of Diesel Oil (AGO) which is consumed by our trucks. The high price of AGO negatively affects the operations of our vehicles and makes the business unprofitable.
While appreciating the capital intensive nature of road constructions in this country we appeal to government at all levels to treat road repair and maintenance as a top priority. This becomes necessary if we really want our roads to be safe. We also call on the Government, particularly federal government, to intervene in vehicle acquisition, especially trucks, to address the deficit caused by our inability to replenish our old fleets. Governments at all levels should encourage peaceful co-existence and cordial relations between various unions and associations operating in their states so as to minimise unnecessary conflicts.
At this point, I will like to especially thank H.E the Governor of Jigawa State for his commitment to ensure justice and level playing field for all unions and associations operating in the state. We appreciate his proactive but impartial intervention in all matters that threaten the peace and tranquillity of the state.
While appreciating and thanking the Jigawa State Government for all their support, like the proverbial Oliver Twist, we still ask for more:
i. We appeal to the State Government through the state Ministry of Lands to grant NARTO land in all the local government headquarters of the state to enable us open offices for our legitimate operations.
ii. We appeal to the state government to scale up the number of Vehicles given to us under the vehicle loan scheme from 30 to 100 to take care of other areas not covered by the existing arrangement. We assure H.E of our commitment to repay the loans on time. Your Excellency may wish to know that we have commenced repayment of the loan 2 months ahead of schedule.
iii. We appeal to H.E. to approve the acquisition of at least 20 tank trucks and 50 tricycles for the immediate deployment to our members on a loan basis. This is the only way that will guarantee the participation of Jigawa citizens in the wet cargo segment of the road transport sub-sector.
Finally, I will like to commend the federal government for their intention to finance the construction/rehabilitation of all federal roads with the proceeds of the Sukuk Bonds that were issued sometimes this year. We have since advocated for public private partnership as the only viable solution to the funding problems in the road sector in particular and the nation’s infrastructure as a whole. We appeal to the federal government, yet again, to hasten the completion of all on-going road projects in the country in order to reduce the death and suffering of commuters.
In conclusion, I wish to assure all our stakeholders of our commitment to honour all agreements, comply with all regulations set up for the common good of all parties. Once more, I thank H.E the Governor, the Government and people of Jigawa State for the enormous support, goodwill and assistance extended to the
Association and its members. We shall continue to partner with you to help build the Jigawa state of your dream.
To our esteemed guests, delegates and members of the press from far and near, we like to also say a big thank you for honouring our invitation. We all appreciate you for making this event possible.
Alhaji (Dr.) Kassim Ibrahim Bataiya