Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Govt seeks to divert traffic from roads to waterways

Published: Wednesday, 1 Oct 2008
In a bid to surmount the intractable traffic congestion on the Lagos highways, the state government is determined to develop ferry services system in the state.

This measure is to serve as an alternative means of public transportation for commuters.

During the Lateef Jakande administration between 1979 and 1983, two notable boats, Baba Kekere and Ita Faji, were popular among Lagosians.

An on-line information obtained on the website of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, said a feasibility study of the development of ferry services in the state, being conducted by a firm, Royal Haskoning Limited, was underway.

It is meant to achieve the development and implementation of strategic plans for improving the use of waterways of metropolitan Lagos for transport services.

Already, two new jetties at Agboyi-Ketu in Kosofe Local Government Area and Ijegun Egba in Oriade Local Council Development Area of Amuwo-Odofin LGA have been constructed in addition to the existing ones in the state.

LAMATA claimed that it had also engaged a contractor to rehabilitate the Epeme and Iya-Afin jetties, both in Badagry LGA.

The dredging and channelisation of Ikorodu waterfront and the Lagos lagoon have also begun; and seven main routes have been identified for development.

Out of these, however, three routes and the Marina terminal have been earmarked as priority and provision of water transportation enhancement services.

The priority routes are: Ikorodu-Marina (North Direct line); Ojo-Marina via Satellite Town (West line); and Ijede-Badore via Lekki and Falomo-Marina (East line).

This will facilitate water transportation along Ipakodo-Ibeshe, Oworonsoki-CMS and Badore-Ijede route, to complement road transport, especially along the 22-kilometre Ikorodu Bus Rapid Transit corridor.

According to LAMATA, “there is also a plan to develop Osborne and turn it into a major terminal interchange in future.

A latest on-line newsletter of TradeInvestNigeria quoted the Commissioner for Transportation, Prof. Bamidele Badejo, as saying that “there are over 60 jetties that need to be developed and we are currently working on about only six, which means that there are a lot of openings for investors in ferry operations. There is need to develop more terminals and jetties.”

Badejo therefore called for public private partnerships in the operation of water transportation in the state. He said some operators had already been contacted and in no too distant date, water transportation would be enjoyed in the state.

The commissioner repeatedly says that Lagos city, with a population of about 17 million, cannot survive on one mode of transportation, hence the need to develop other means of transportation.

While this gesture appeared to be a challenge to the extreme congestion on the highways, the state government has been charged to provide adequate facilities capable of mitigating disaster on the waterways.

A management consultant, Mr. Remi Olagunju, said it was necessary for the state government to put measures in place to respond promptly to emergencies and turbulence on the high seas.

According to him, “ferry service is a good investment and reliable means of means of transportation. But the government should look into the aspects of safety and security of passengers, the seaworthiness of the ferries plying the waterways, communication gadgets, and coping with emergencies.”

Olagunju said the state government should also regulate the number of passengers each ferry could carry, urging would-be investors to abide by the regulations prescribed by the state water inland authority from time to time.

Yet, there a few others who did not readily applaud the operation of ferry services because of their phobia for the waterways.

An artisan, Mr. Adebayo Yusuf, said he disliked boarding the ferry because of his inability to swim. A dealer in computer accessories, Mrs. Mosun Olusola, spoke in similar vein, saying she would rather trek long distance in the absence of “commercial buses and Okada operators,” instead of boarding the ferry.

LAMATA has, however, allayed the fears expressed by these residents. The authority has assured that water transportation remains a safer mode of public transportation.

It maintained that “water transportation is a realistic and potentially effective option, given that Lagos is blessed with abundant water bodies that could be harnessed to offer fast, safe, comfortable and cheaper water transportation services.”

As the state government is opening its waterways for transport services, it is expected that shrewd businessmen would take advantage of massive urbanisation and endless rural-urban drift to Lagos to invest in ferry services in the state.

By so doing, such investors would be assisting in tackling one of the challenges of population explosion in the state.

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