Water transportation – Although Lagos is surrounded by water, with almost every part of the state connected, its public transportation is heavily dependent on the road, leading to daily gridlock. In this piece, JOSHUA BASSEY writes that there are plans to open up the waterways and attract new investments to the sector.
Water transportation is seen playing a key role in further growing the economy of Nigeriaâ€™s commercial nerve centre and former capital, Lagos, as the state government plans to inject funds into the development of ferry infrastructure with the aim to open up the sector for new investments over the next couple of years.
The government announced during a recent executive retreat in Badagry that it will be growing monthly internally generated revenue (IGR) from current N24 billion to N30 billion in 2017 and up it to N50 billion in 2018.
According to Steve Ayorinde, the commissioner for information and strategy, the government intends to achieve these targets through innovative strategies, partnership with the private sector, as well as utilisation of cutting-edge technologies to drive economic growth and earn appropriate taxes.
Another official confirmed plans by the government to give priority to the waterways and tourism as the next investment option for discerning investors because of inherent potential to create thousands of jobs through a chain of economic and commercial activities expected to follow within the next few years.
The state water transportation master plan seen by BusinessDay also revealed the intention of the state government to leverage on Public-Private Partnership (PPP), to build new standard jetties and rebrand existing ones.
The jetties are planned to have value added facilities including shopping malls, car parks, service buildings, toilets, commercial spaces, digital information board displaying arrival and departure of boats, arc trusses, wheelchair accessible facilities among others, in a move aimed at harnessing the potential of this under-utilised sector.
â€œThe plan is to key the waterways into the overall public transportation master plan intended to achieve a seamless journey by water, rail or road in real time,â€ said the official.
BusisnessDay was told that the government is currently working to make funds available for the dredging of major water routes before the end of this year.
The shallow nature of the lagoons alongside the activities of loggers and sand miners leading to obstruction on the water routes has been a limiting factor in the development of the water transportion.Â Previous governments in the state had blamed the inability to dredge the waterways on paucity of funds.
Lagos has a large water bodies with navigational routes, but its public transportation space is heavily dependent on road. With the stateâ€™s vehicular density put at over 222/km as against the national density of 11/km, the result has been heavy congestion with daily traffic jams estimated to cost the economy over $1billion annually.
Abisola Kamson, managing director of Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), said the current administration was determined to reverse this trend by opening up the sector for new investments. This, she believed would significantly change the public transportation configuration such that the water routes will begin to play a major role.
Ademola Abass, the special adviser to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on overseas affairs and investment, recently confirmed the receipt of proposals from investors that have shown interest in the waterways.
An official of the ministry of transportation confirmed plans to dredge 14 of the 24 commercial water routes in the state. According to the official, this will be immediately followed up by the installation of life buoys and deployment of water guards to further boost safety.
â€œThe water guards are the enforcement police that will ensure adherence to the new standards announced in May this year by LASWA and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). They are like LASTMA on the road,â€ said the official.
BusinessDay was informed that there are plans to improve on existing infrastructure at government owned jetties at Badore, Coconut, Falomo, Takwa Bay, Tin Can, CMS, Oworonshoki, Ibeshe, Liverpool, Langbasa, Ijora, Falomo, Epe, Ojo, Ijegun Egba, Ijede, Elegbata, Agboyi Ketu, among others.
Some of the water routes include Marina-Mile 2; Badore-Ijede; Oworonshoki-Marina; Ikorodu-Addax-Falomo, Marina-Ikorodu-CMS; Marina-Ijegun Egbe-Ebute Ojo; Agboyi-Alapere-Marina; Ajah-Cowries-Marina; Baiyeku-Victoria Island; Ibeshe-Five Cowries-Marina.
Kamson put the current monthly ridership on the waterways at two million passengers, but expressed the optimistic that with the plans to woo new investors, the ridership will significantly improve.
She admitted to safety concerns but said measures had been put in place to enhance the safety of passengers and operators, citing compulsory use of navigational aids such as cabin lighting systems, life jackets, fire extinguishers, paddle, life buoys, shore to sea communication gadgets, key starter and alarm systems.
The LASWA boss further pointed to strict adherence by boat operators to recommended minimum internal dimension of 7.3m length, 2.2m width, 0.6m distance between seats, a minimum capacity of 30 passengers, double hull and bottom design for boats.
Commercial boats, she said, are required to observe the speed limit of 6 knots around jetties and a maximum of 15 knots as service speed and provide manifest of passengers on board.