‘I don’t encourage night travelling on waterways’
Mr Ganiyu Balogun is the President of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transport of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) and also the Group Managing Directors of Tarzan Enterprises, an indigenous boat construction company in Nigeria. In this interview with ANOZIE EGOLE, the entrepreneur talked about the challenges the industry is facing and their mutual relationship with other stakeholders in the industry.
‘Once the waterway is channelled well, it will reduce accident’
What is your reaction to issues of multiplicity of levies on boat operators?
Firstly, we have been appealing to the state government through the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) and looking at the way things are now, they are actually cooperating with us a lot of the levies have been waved out now. When we sat with the Managing Director (of LASWA), we discussed it with them and we set up a committee between our association and the government and they saw reasons with us. So I can tell you now that from 100% the levies have gone down below 20% and that is good. There is also a new regime in the office now that is ready to work with the stakeholders, when I say stakeholders; I mean everybody that operates in the waterways. The government is looking for a way to bring us together so that we will achieve safety on the waterways. You know the water is not only for transportation, it is also for tourism as well things; are getting better we are coming together and understanding ourselves better.
What is your opinion on the issue of dredging of the waterways by the government?
Yes, there is need for that, even in the air there are routes where the plane flies they don’t just fly anyhow. The same thing applies to the waterways there are routes where the boats are supposed to follow. So the government is to dredge the areas and put signs on where you are supposed to follow to avoid running into problem.
What do you have to say about the court case between the Federal Government and Lagos State Government?
I don’t want to say anything about that.
What is your association doing as regards to ensure security on our waterways?
We are working with the Marine Police to ensure that for instances some of the boats for the Marine Police have issues and our association have taken it upon themselves to work on their boats because we have to work together with the security agents. Once the Police on the waterways are taken care of, their will be security there, the government cannot do it alone they cannot provide security alone; all of us have to work together. The AIG Marine has to give us a number to call in case there is problem. So we are working hand in hand with the Marine Police. We are going to assist them on the side of repairing their boats. So far Lagos state waterways are safer than they were before.
How secured is night travelling on water?
I don’t encourage that yet, because there are a lot of things to put in place which is not yet there, so I don’t encourage that.
Recently there was a face-off between your group and the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria on control of workers at the jetties, what do you have to say about that?
We have tried to work together, you see we cannot work in isolation but it is unfortunate that sometimes you get things the other way round; that is the problem. But for me as the president I advise we work together no matter what. Because it is all about generating revenue for the association and the government and the sky is wide enough for the birds to fly without touching each other. So my system is that we should work together and we are trying to do that.
What do you have to say about the rate of accident on our waterways?
NIWA now has a boat that patrols the waterways; that ensure that those obstacles and wrecks on the waterways are removed and they have removed some. Secondly, once the water is channelled well, it will reduce accident; just like on the road you cannot just drive anyhow and that is what the government is trying to do. The thing has reduced compared to some years ago that is to show that some wrecks in the waterways have been removed, although there are still some that are left. We are working together with the government so that we can show them where ever we feel there is danger. A couple of years ago, there were lots of accidents on the water ways but because the government has removed some of the wrecks that is why it has reduced. The last accident that you are talking about was as a result of a wreck on the water that the boat operator didn’t see. In our meeting we always say that anybody that sees any danger on the waterways should bring it ashore and tie it there, so that it won’t cause accident. That is one of the reasons I don’t encourage night travel because you might not see some of these wrecks on a night travel and when you navigate on top of them it might capsize the boat.
Recently the state government to said it was going to face-out wooden boats on Lagos waterways…
It is not that they want to face-out wooden boats, they said they want to face-out sub-standard boats; they want standard boats to operate on our waterways as a mega city, so they want standard boats. Let me give you example, there are some interior villages where they don’t have a choice than to use the wooden boats, so what happens to such villages, will the government go and buy boats for them?What they are saying is like from Ikorodu to Victoria Island, you have a deeper sea and there are waves, so you need standard boats to operate in such areas and we agree with that.
How are you complying with the directive by NIMASA that, because of cases of sea robbery any boat with more than 250horsepower should come and register?
Yes, we went to NIMASA office to discuss with them about that and they told us is not for the sake of making money, but for data purposes, in case if a boat is stolen and they have the record of the boat, they will recover it. Because we told them that it will lead to multiple taxation after doing all the registration and you come gain to register with them they said it is not for the sake of making money but for record purpose and for security. So we work together with them and we have had meetings with them and we understood each other. We understood ourselves and we are trying to work together to ensure our properties are safe. We also want to ensure that no intruder comes between us.For instance, my boat was stolen on the 29th of September last year and was still recovered that same day by Police. We called them and described the boat to them and they were able to recover the boat. The people that stole the boat abandoned the boat and ran away; they were already trying to lose the engine before the police stormed there. Formally those days you have to write a lot of papers before they can give your boat back to you, that is to show you that the Police system is also changing and we are working together to ensure safety on waterways.