Paved With Good Intentions

New PPPs should generate savings and safer operations in the transport sector, laying the foundation for increased economic efficiencies.

Arobust and efficient transportation system will be central to Nigeria’s continued development. Its road, rail, and air infrastructure is both inadequate and overcrowded, issues common to the developing world but compounded by the sheer size of the Nigerian population. The potential is tremendous, but developing the needed infrastructure is an expensive proposition that has been made more uncertain by the economic slowdown resulting form falling oil prices. Still, there are several major projects underway across the country, positive steps on the path to progress.


Nigeria’s road network, the primary means of transportation within the country, is in better shape than many comparable networks in West Africa. The network is the second largest in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 200,000km of paved roads interlacing the nation. The road system is divided between Federal roads that make up the primary thoroughfares, state roads that link state capitals, and major cities and smaller feeder roads funded by local government authorities. Federal roads represent less than one-fifth of all roads but host up more than 80% of all automotive traffic, and the Ministry of Works has estimated that only 30% of these federal roads are in good condition.
As the number of cars registered cars has grown from just over 1 million in 2000 to over 9 million as of 2012, the demands on the system have increased. Historically, road infrastructure has been managed through government-awarded contracts, but as Nigeria’s fiscal position has worsened in recent years, this has led to deficits. A 2013 government report estimated the required annual funding needed at NGN500 billion, but only NGN120 billion was allocated in the budget, and only NGN110 billion of that was disbursed. In an effort to improve the situation, the government has begun working on a PPP scheme that will help create more efficient management.


Nigeria’s Federal Airports Authority operates five international airports and 18 domestic ones. The National Bureau of Statistics reported that more than 15.2 million passengers traveled through Nigerian airports in 2016, with 72% of these domestic flights, an increase of 6.3% over the previous year. The sector has seen operation issues in recent years due to aging infrastructure that has generated safety and efficiency issues; international observers have stressed the need for new surveillance and guidance systems to bring Nigeria’s airports up to international standards. To bring the nation’s airports up to par, Nigeria’s government is embarking on a new concessionaire system that will see them hand control over to experienced operators in the short-to-medium term, eventually to be returned to the government. In September 2017, the Nigerian government took the first step toward this process, approving plans to grant concessions for the nation’s two largest airports in Lagos and Abuja.


Once the primary mode of inland transportation, Nigeria’s railroad system collapsed shortly after independence and has now largely fallen into disrepair. The country has almost 4,000km of rail though the majority of this is largely unusable, and passenger and freight traffic is less than a tenth of what it was 50 years ago. The government has initiated efforts to revitalize the system, launching several major rail projects in recent years.

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