“The only way to reduce the traffic congestion on the road is for the government to pay more attention to the waterways”
Mr. Daniel Ezeh, a graduate of Maritime Management Technology from the Federal University of Technology (FUTO) Owerri is the Secretary of Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transport of Nigeria (ATOBOWTON), Ikorodu Zone. In this interview with Anozie Egole, he spoke on the challenges of water transportation and the various measures being put in place to ensure safety on Lagos waterways.
“When you have good boats and there are wrecks on the water and the boat is sailing and unknown to the boat if the boat hits that wreck, of course there will be accident”
“If we keep having wrecks on the waters; unknown to the operators and Captains these boats might run into those wrecks”
How will you access the patronage of water transportation, especially in this rainy season?
Well, the patronage is encouraging, it is good because most times when you have traffic gridlock from Ikorodu, you know our area of operation covers, Ikorodu to Island and I am going to be speaking mainly on that route. Looking at the road network from this place to Island, you will discover that there is only one route from here to the Island and anytime that there is traffic on that road people fall back to the water ways. So on average I will say that it has been good.
Do you still engage in night navigation?
On that, I am speaking on my own personal opinion, night travel is not advisable whether on the water ways or road because you don’t have clear visibility during the night. However you still have some people who don’t obey the laws, who do things their own way. But there are measures in place to ensure that night travelling is reduced and for some time now, from my own observation I can say that night travelling has reduced; it is no longer as it is used to be.
What are the measures on ground to reduce night travel?
We have time limit first and foremost, we all agreed that between this time to this time is when boats can leave to get to the island. So any other time apart from the time that we all agreed, the person is on his own. And if the person is caught he will face the music.
What are the punishments for violators?
On our own side, we ensure that the individual is denied access to join the operation the following day, it depends; the disciplinary committee will look into that. They are the ones that will come up with disciplinary measures that the individual will face. But most times we suspend his boat from operating the next day or there about, it is mostly determined by the disciplinary committee. There are also other factors that the committee will put in place when giving out their punishment.
Would you say that the rates of accidents on the waterways have reduced?
Yes. I can say that the rates of accidents have reduced but I wouldn’t use a percentage but I can say so far so good on our route- Ikorodu to Victoria Island, God has been so kind we have not actually recorded major accident.
There is this allegation that most of you don’t operate with life jacket?
It is law that before anybody boards the boat you must wear life jacket so the question of people not wearing life jacket is a lie. They wear before they enter the boat.
What is the latest news on the rift between LASWA and NIWA?
That is a government to government issue, I am not a government official and I am not in the position to talk on that. We are going about our normal business and it has not affected our businesses.
You have been hearing about sea robbery and attack on the waterways, is there anything the association is doing to fight this?
Like I said earlier on, my statements and discussions will revolve around Ikorodu and Island so I can only speak about what goes on in this axis.
So far we have not experienced anything like sea robbery; but that doesn’t mean we should not be proactive. We have security personnel attached to our jetties and people that uses our terminals; we tend to look at the individuals when they come. We don’t search anybody for now but we use security intelligence information to work, looking at the people that come. There is a way psychologically you can look at someone and know what is in that person’s mind. For security sake, we use less than 200 horse power we don’t go beyond that. We have to use the engine that can power or propel the boat. You know all these things are calculated.
What is the relationship between ATBOWTON and MWUN?
I am not in the position to speak about MWUN and ATBOWTON, because there are some people that can speak on that better than me. What I am saying here is my personal opinion, there are some person’s from the national body that can talk better on that.
I noticed that most of your boats are not in good condition. What are you doing to replace these boats with new ones?
Your statement that they are old or whatever is not supposed to come up; every boat that you see we use in our ferry terminal here is okay. The boat is not the problem; we keep saying that the boat you see that we use here are very safe. The problem that we have has to do with the waterways itself. You know when you look at roads and you have pot holes and you have good cars, good cars with a bad road will lead to accident. So how you reduce accident on the road is by ensuring that you have good roads and also educate the drivers so that they will reduce the speed and know that he is not the only person on the road? So the same thing applies to the waters, when you have good boats and there are wrecks on the water and the boat is sailing and unknown to the boat if the boat hits that wreck, of course there will be a puncture. Take for example as big as Titanic was; with all the boasting the builders made because they believe they have constructed ship that can stand anything on the waters, but what happened at the end of the day, unknown to the Captain he didn’t know that the Iceberg was there. If they had cleared the Iceberg, Titanic wouldn’t have hit that. So, if we keep having wrecks on the waters unknown to the operators and Captains these boats might run into those wrecks. And I am not a government official and I cannot speak on behalf of the government to know if they have plans of removing wrecks on the waterways.
It appears like there are not enough boats for your passengers; is there any plan to acquire more boats?
We keep asking and we are open to public individuals or government agencies to come to the aid of these boat operators in a way of assisting by granting them funds; maybe in the form of low scheme so that some of them may get extra boats to join to the fleet. The number of boats that we have here that operate from Ikorodu to Island is not enough to take care of passengers that patronize the waterways. How soon will the Ikorodu ferry terminal be commissioned?
The issue of commissioning the Lagos State Ferry Terminal, Ikorodu lies in the hands of the state government; they know their time because they have the timetable. We are only here to comply with the government directive at any time they bring their timetable for us to follow, we will.