Once seen as a brake on the local economy, Nigeria's transport chapter has begun to transform to better meet future demand.

If there is one aspect of the Nigerian economy that needs serious attention, it is transport. Though action at the federal level is beginning to produce results, especially in the rail segment, more needs to be done to better move freight and passengers around the country. As a proportion of GDP, according to the new calculations from July 2014 released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the transport sector as a whole represented 1.24% of national economic activity, with the road transport segment making up 89% of the sector's value to the economy, and representing 78% of heavy haulage. Road transport remains the major focus of transport activity in Nigeria, although poor road quality acts as a major obstacle to players in the sector. The lack of viable alternatives to the roads, such as rail and internal maritime, are beginning to develop, though will need some time to eat away at the country's dependence on the road transport sector.

Of the 200,000 kilometers of roads estimated to exist in Nigeria, only around one-quarter are paved, with the vast majority of those, 35,000 kilometers, under the control of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA). The rest of the network falls under the care of the 36 state governments and 774 local government authorities, all allocated their own special areas of activity. In many ways, it is at the state and local government level that many of the weaknesses in the road transport sector are being most keenly felt. At the federal level, FERMA was set a target by President Goodluck Jonathan in November 2012 of ensuring that 100% of the roads under its control were pothole-free, with some estimating that up to 80% of the road network was in a state of disrepair. Since 2011, the Nigerian government has invested $9.6 billion in upgrading some 25,000 kilometers of paved roads. As the FERMA's Chairman, Ezekiel Olajide Adeniji, told TBY, "Our ability to improve the road network from a position where 20% of the roads were safely traversable to the state it is in today, where over 79% of our roads are functional, reflects the effectiveness of the agency." Funding for new road projects and much needed repairs has increased since the January 2012 introduction of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), which has seen the employment of 7,179 workers engaged in FERMA's activities.

In September 2014, the Federal Ministry of Works reported it was engaged in 184 projects covering some 6,525.63 kilometers of roads, and asserted it had completed 62 major road projects since 2011. Over 2013, the Ministry awarded a further 51 projects, many to private sector constructors. In terms of private-public partnerships (PPPs), there are two flagship projects in Nigeria: the Second Niger Bridge between Onitsha and Asaba, in cooperation with the NSIA-Julius Berger Consortium, and the Apakun.Oshodi-MMIA Expressway being undertaken by the CHEC Consortium. Despite the improvements seen since 2011, more work will be needed, especially at the state and local level, to bring Nigeria's road network up to scratch.


The National Railway Corporation (NRC) has received a shot in the arm of late, with the government continuing the second phase of its ambitious 25-year project to rehabilitate and upgrade 90% of the narrow gauge lines in the country, up to standard gauge configuration. Passenger figures have responded, with some 4.33 million taking to the rails over 2013, up on the 4.16 million who travelled in 2012.Compared to the 1.29 million who used the network in 2009, the transformation has been remarkable. Once considered a basket case, steady investment in the NRC since 2009 has seen the rail network finally begin to pull its weight. In December 2012, the main Western Line between Lagos and Kano, some 1,124 kilometers in length, was reopened for service after being rehabilitated under an $8.3 billion contract signed with China Civil and Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) way back in 2006.

As well, rehabilitation work is being performed on the Eastern Line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri (1.657 kilometers in length) with the Port Harcourt-Gombe segment expected to be open for operations at end-2014. The end of the year should also see the new 186.5-kilometer Abuja to Kaduna line enter service. The $850 million project, done in cooperation with China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) is the first of the new standard gauge lines to start operating. In November 2014, CRCC and the Nigerian government also signed a new $12 billion deal that will see a new 1.402-kilometer line built from Lagos to Calabar, linking up the Eastern and Western lines along the coast of the country. Other projects underway include the rehabilitation of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri standard gauge line, expected for completion in 2Q2015, while work on the $1.4 billion Lagos-Ibadan dual-track standard gauge line, also signed with CCECC, is ongoing along its 180-kilometer length. In total, some 4,265 kilometers of track are set to be upgraded to standard gauge, with dual tracks being constructed on more popular routes.

The NRC has also purchased 25 2,500 hp locomotives from GE to aid in the rehabilitation, as well as four 1,800 hp locomotives from China CNR Corporation, with over 250 wagons and 120 coaches getting an overhaul. The government hopes that by upgrading the rail network, it can take pressure off the fragile road network, especially in terms of heavy haulage. Ifeanyi G. Isikaku, Chairman and CEO of Godify Towers Nigeria Limited, told TBY he considers rail, "the biggest potential that can help transportation between cities and to rural areas." Spurs are also under construction to connect the main network with industrial areas, ports, and oil and gas facilities so as to facilitate the use of rail transport in a more intensive manner.


The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimated that the air sector as a whole contributed some 0.05% to national GDP in 2013, occupying a 4.8% share of the transport and warehousing sector and valued at NGN48 billion. Total air passenger traffic in 2013 was at 14.64 million, up some 3.72% in YoY terms, although still below the 2011 total of 14.90 million. Of passengers, some 10.07 million were for domestic flights in 2013, up 4.12% in YoY terms, while international flights accounted for the remaining 4.57 million passengers, up just 2.84% over the year. However, considering that international passengers grew some 23.82% in 2012, the slower increase for 2013 is still indicative of the potential health of the aviation industry in Nigeria.

Following the demise of national carriers Nigeria Airways in 2002 and Air Nigeria (formerly Virgin Nigeria) in 2012, the main operators in the aviation sector have tended to be either privately owned Nigerian carriers or international carriers, though these mostly do not serve internal flights. The present national champion for Nigeria is Arik Air, which has a fleet of 28 aircraft varying in passenger capacity from eight passengers for the Hawker HS 125-800XP to up to 237 passengers for its two Airbus A340-500 aircraft. Arik Air serves some 18 domestic destinations, eight in West and Central Africa, and another four international stops, being Johannesburg, Dubai, New York, and London. The newest addition to the local aviation sector, Azman Air, took to the skies in May 2014. It concentrates on domestic services with its fleet of two Boeing 737-300 aircraft, though it intends to begin offering Hajj flights to Jeddah once approvals are received.

The limited reach of Nigerian airlines is reflective of the need to improve safety standards, which the local regulators are looking to target in the near future. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) lists some 23 active domestic airlines, with another 22 foreign carriers having permission to operate in the country on international routes. One of the major limitations that many in the local aviation sector face is the lack of locally trained pilots and professional staff, which is something the NCAA has been targeting through new training programs and by encouraging local operators to take a more prominent role in the training and hiring of Nigerian staff.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) lists four international airports, seven major domestic airports, and 11 minor domestic airports that fall under its control, though there are numerous airstrips throughout the country facilitating air transport in regional areas. As well, some of the airports designated as "major domestic" can also serve international flights, such as Enugu Airport. Over 2014, Nigeria added to its stock of airports with the opening of Dutse International Airport in Jigawa state. In terms of passenger numbers, the main airports in Lagos and Abuja dominate the aviation sector. Murtula Muhammed Airport in Lagos saw 6.27 million passengers over 2013, representing 44.87% of the national total, while Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja recorded 3.95 million passengers over the same period, or 26.95% of the country's total. Port Harcourt Airport is the third most frequented facility in the country, accounting for 1.22 million passengers in 2013, or 8.33%.


Despite the dependence of Nigeria on its maritime sector, especially for the export of crude oil and natural gas, the local sector continues to be a work in progress, despite the potential of both internal and external maritime routes. The NBS estimated that water transport contributed just 0.008% of GDP activity in 2013, a near statistical anomaly, though prior to the rebasing of statistics it was seen to represent some 1.6% of GDP. One of the obstacles to the development of shipping in Nigeria is considered to be the 2003 Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, which restricted such maritime activities to indigenous Nigerian ship-owners only.

Despite these impediments, activities on the waterfront have shown some promise. The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) reported that 76.89 million tons of material, excluding that from crude oil terminals, passed through Nigeria's main ports over 2013. For the same period, some 1.01 million TEUs were processed, showing growth of 15.2% over the 2012 figure. In order to improve port efficiency, the NPA has launched some 24 PPP agreements addressing terminal concessions, with one inland container port at Lagos and another build-operate-transfer (BOT) project at Tin Can Island also operational. The introduction of private operators marked a turnaround in the sector, with cargo volumes growing from 45 million tons in 2005 to 83 million tons by 2011. As well, private sector players have been brought in to perform a variety of port services, such as dredging activities, channel management, and utilities provision. However, the one weakness of the local ports sector has been its reliance on relatively shallow draft facilities, making it harder for larger vessels to make port. In response, the Lekki Port project, situated in the Lagos Free Trade Zone, is currently being developed by private investors, and promises to be the largest port of its type in the Nigerian maritime sector.