The seriousness of correct statistics, data or databank in development activities, appraisals and projections has remained a strong point the world over. It is a matter that is totally beyond compromise in every part of the globe, where men and women of integrity and transparent purpose in leadership positions have vowed to move their people forward. The truth is that there is really nothing a government that truly means well for its people could do in the area of democratic planning and development, without the availability of accurate records and data on the different economic activities of its people. For a government to realise any worthwhile revenue in taxation, the importance of correct census figures of its men, women and children as well as private and corporate business operators and activities must be given the attention it deserves. This is applicable to election matters, and the number of primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions to be built in different parts of a state. These issues cannot be dealt with in the absence of development statistics. The same scenario also applies to the unemployment status of a state or nation vis – a – vis available employment opportunities and the usually critical need to create more job chances.
Indeed, a situation where those in positions of authority work without any form of statistics or data on the development needs of their people in the areas of election, taxation and general infrastructural development is a fundamental explanation why development efforts have remained in a state of total disarray, over the years in parts of Nigeria and indeed the underdeveloped world. Hence, correct data provision and its uncompromised application to development policies and programmes of government is as critical as it is indispensable, if Nigerians must not continue to live in conditions of underdevelopment. The Rivers State Ministry of Transport (MOT) Commercial Vehicle Enumeration or Registration exercise is one of the development-prone efforts of the present administration expected to achieve a correct data of all categories of commercial vehicles in the state. The importance of such data cannot be over-emphasised in transport related-development initiatives of government. The pressure of vehicles on available infrastructure such as roads and parks in the state even makes the exercise more imperative. It would also assist government in embarking on appropriate expansion of transport infrastructures in the states for the good of the people.
At the end of the day, the data so collected from the exercise could be used to know how many vehicles operate in different parts of Port Harcourt and the entire state as well as the true identity of their owners and operators up to where they live as well as their villages, communities and states. Such data would definitely make it difficult for criminals to take to commercial vehicle business in Rivers State.
It would also enhance transport related tax computations and reduce the problems of tax evation because transportation is one single business activity that appears to have the largest operators, who for many years have remained elusive when the state is in need of their correct statistics for development plans and projections. Moreover, such data could also enable govermnent to eventually make touting become extinct in the state. This is because, if the state has correct data on transport operators in the different zones of the state capital and other parts of the state, there would be no need for any agency of government to employ the task force element in its tax activities in the sector. In an overall sense, the data collection process would make every other dealings with transporters in the state a lot easier in the years to come. Transport operators should therefore be strongly reminded that the era of task- forcing and touting is gradually being phased out in Rivers State, because the task -force system in our tax programmes has done more harm than good to the image of state governments across the country.
And it should be pointed out that when the idea of Commercial Vehicle Enumeration was mooted by the state Transport Ministry, no time was wasted in taking into cognizance the fact that stakeholders such as the National Union of Road Transport Workers must key into the advantages of the exercise for the right impact to be made. With time, the stakeholders talks with the Ministry on the enumeration programme also positively progressed to the need of installing world class taxi roof lights on all taxis, not only in Port Harcourt but the entire state. Beyond the obvious improvement of the aesthetics of the state capital arising from the presence of many taxis with bright roof lights, particularly at night, it would also enable commuters to easily identify a taxi from a distance to flag it down if they need to board one. In the spirit of participatory democracy, the issue of pricing for the registration exercise and the taxi roof light was also openly and actively debated with the unions taking the usual firm stand in the interest of their members”. At the end of the talkshop, an amicable agreement was reached on when both programmes of the state Transport Ministry in conjunction with the National Union of Road Transport Workers and other stakeholders should commence, as well as what should reasonably be paid by each category of commercial vehicle operators for the registration and taxi roof light.
Additionally, the stakeholders at the instance of the ministry also further agreed that all payments be paid into a government designated bank account, contrary to any form of raw cash transactions, which it was noted breeds corruption. Drawing from this people-oriented scenario of public policy implementation as being canvassed. by the present administration, there is no reason whatsoever why any responsible commercial transport operator in Port Harcourt, and indeed the entire state, should not willingly key into the programme of repositioning the fortunes of the transport industry in the state. The state Transport Ministry as the regulator of the industry in the state has also begun.” an intensive media campaign to further enlighten commercial vehicle operators in the state on the importance of the MOT Vehicle Enumeration Exercise and Taxi Roof Light initiative. Coming from such atmosphere of mutual understanding, oneness and trust between the Ministry of Transport and the unions, among other stakeholders, on how to achieve for the state one of the best transport situations in the country, the onus is now squarely on the operators not to drag the state behind and become a cog in the wheel of progress in the transport sector.
It is also well deserving, that the leadership of the National Union of Road Workers and other stakeholders in the industry particularly in Rivers State be commended for their total support and commitment to the laudable efforts of the present administration to provide an efficient, effective and affordable as well as beautiful transport reform programmes for the state. We commend all commercial vehicle operators who have willingly gone to the state Ministry of Transport Office, at Moscow Road, to pay for the registration and the taxi roof light as law abiding citizens, while those who are yet to comply should follow their good example. So far, the ministry, in alliance with the National Union of Road Transport Workers, has established a total of ten commercial vehicle registration centres in Port Harcourt and its environs to make the process easy for commercial vehicle operators in the state. The appeal, therefore, is that they should do well to live up to their promise of sustaining the tempo of co-operation with the state Ministry of Transport to move the transport industry in Rivers State to the next level, for the good of the operators and best corporate image for the government and people of the state.
Onyije is Press Secretary to Rivers State Commissioner for Transport