Water transportation and Lagos growth

Lagos is the undisputed economic nerve-centre of West Africa, with every potential to become the third largest city in the world, after Shanghai and Mumbai. Today, many cities of the world depend on diverse initiatives for socio-economic growth and development. For obvious reasons, Lagos has great potential to develop its water economy to a highly competitive level. If this is done, fishery, tourism, water transportation and the likes would immensely develop. Since 25 per cent of the state’s land mass consists of water body, it is not surprising that the present administration in the state is poised to put in place the right strategies that will make various water-related enterprises in the state flourish significantly.

As part of the present administration’s plan to encourage and improve water transportation, the State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode recently commissioned three newly acquired executive boats by the state government, with a pledge to totally explore the tourism and economic potentials of the waterways in the state for the overall benefit of all. While commissioning the boats, Ambode reiterated his administration’s commitment to the implementation of the integrated transport management system designed to scale up water, rail and land transportation, saying that the grand plan is to divert at least two million passengers on the waterways daily, thereby reducing traffic on the road.

Similarly, the state government recently ordered the procurement of seven additional ferries, while also doing a lot to encourage private sector operators to take over terminals and also to procure more of their own boats and ferries. Much emphasis is particularly being placed on safety of the water ways. This is why lots channelisation and dredging are being done in order to make the waterways safe and secure for all stakeholders. Consequently, by the first quarter of 2018, there would be visible evidence of government’s renewed investment in this sector. As more private sector interest becomes really noticeable in the sector, this would in no small measure help to complement government’s huge investment in the sector.

There are also plans to connect water terminals and the roads, especially in places such as Badore, Ajah, Mile 2, Badagry, Ikorodu and other places where there are terminals. It is important to stress that while the maintenance and sustenance of the boats had been outsourced to specialists to ensure proper usage, more private investors with interest in the sector are, however, still required to partner with the state government in order to fully optimize the numerous potentials that abound in the sector. On its part, the state government is ever willing to embrace more creative and strategic enterprises geared towards improving the unlimited potentials of the state’s waterways. Presently, government has identified about 30 commercial routes on the state’s waterways for dredging and channelisation, while 10 jetties spread across the state were being constructed, among other ongoing plans for the sector.

In order to further strengthen various water economy-related reforms and initiatives in the state, the Ministry of Justice is currently working on legal plans to enforce relevant laws guiding the waterways to ensure compliance with safety standards and checkmate any illegal activity by operators. Similarly, in order to enhance safety on the waterways, more Jet Skis would be deployed across the State to aid rescue operation in case of emergency and also help to fight crime. Each of the Jet Skis has the capacity to carry two divers so that in case of an incident on the water, there is a Jet Ski that will move divers fast to the incident scene while the rescue boats are coming behind, thereby aiding rescue operation. Aside legal and other efforts aimed at boosting safety standards of the waterways, plans have been concluded to license 10 new operators for better efficiency and smooth operation.

Perhaps more importantly, recent procurement of relevant sophisticated machines by the government is an indication that the process of ridding the state’s waterways of debris and hyacinth as part of the holistic plan to further boost water activities relating to the waterways, has earnestly begun. It would be recalled that for a long time, hyacinth which is otherwise known as aquatic weed, had been a major source of concern with attendant challenges to the waterways in the state. A seasonal threat, water hyacinth had brought about damages to propulsion system of boats thus affecting water related activities.

The machines were, therefore, acquired to tackle the challenges posed by water hyacinth and other such water threats, by taking away debris and hyacinth from the state’s waterways. The new machines act like underwater lawn mowers and cut the vegetation, as well as collect and store weeds and debris, while it is fitted with a pick-up conveyor at the forward end which can be lowered up to six feet deep into the water for effective cleaning of the waterways. This initiative heralds the clean-up of the state’s waterways, thus preparing the ground for other innovative activities of the state’s development plan to transform the Lagos Waterways to world class standards.

Considering the various laudable initiatives of the state government towards improving waterways infrastructure in the state, it is important that all stakeholders come up with more innovative ideas that would further complement government’s efforts in this direction. Existing and potential investors are also urged to increase patronage of water transport in the state.

On a final note, the waterways stretching from Badagry to Epe, (with a Peninsular in between, a lagoon at the back and the Atlantic in front), Ikorodu to Marina, and Badagry to Marina, among others, are nature’s gifts to Lagos State. These are coastlines that many others fervently wish they had, because they are natural habitats that are yet to be subjected to devastation, global warming, climate change and other environmental hazards.

It is, thus, very crucial that these waterways are kept safe and secure for the use of all stakeholders. Nothing must be done to jeopardise their safety and purity. Injurious activities such as illegal sand mining and dredging, pollution of the water body through diverse unwholesome practices, among others, should be discouraged in its entirety. In a world that is being confronted with serious environmental threats from Cape to Cairo and Beijing to Melbourne, it is important that all stakeholders join hands to ensure that Lagos waterways are kept clean, safe and secure. It is in doing this that the much sought prosperity from the sector could be truly guaranteed.

Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy.

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