Following the suspension of ferry operations at the Ipakodo ferry terminal in the Ikorodu area of Lagos state due to the influx of water hyacinth which obstructed the smooth navigation of ferries along the waterways, boat operators have lamented that business activities at the terminal might remain grounded until 2024.
This is even as they express concerns over uncertainties surrounding the palliatives promised by the state government as well as the concessioning and control of some newly-commissioned but inactive jetties being directly managed by the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA).
In a chat with the Ikorodu Chairman of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON), Olusoji Majofodun, he informed our correspondent that the Ikorodu Ferry Terminal has not been operational for the past month, adding that boat operators have moved t two alternative jetties located at Ibeshe and Majidun areas in the state.
Majofodun lamented that the Ofin Jetty at Ikorodu as well as other newly-commissioned jetties have not been operational, adding that the Lagos state government through LASWA has refused to concession these jetties to boat operators, despite several lobby and agreement to pay for the cost of running the jetties.
He however called on the government to act fast on ensuring that the Ikorodu jetty as well as other inactive jetties in the state be revitalized and several alternative routes created, adding that such challenges have been greatly affecting water transportation business in the state.
“As far as Ikorodu terminal jetty is concerned now, it has not been operational for the past one month. We have been moved to Majidun where we operate from the jetty there. That is an alternative route for some of the commuters. We have two alternative routes which are Ibeshe and Majidun where commuters can decide which jetty to use.
“The government would not give the jetties to those who are professionals in that area. They will prefer giving the jetty to some of their colleagues who are close to them or their political cronies. We the operators have been bidding for the jetties to manage. No matter how much that they wish to collect from us, we have agreed to be paying the money, but unfortunately the jetty might be given to those other people who don’t even understand the pros and cons of the conditions for the water transport.
“There is no way that we can force ourselves into that area, unless the jetty has been concessioned to one of them, so from there we can now go and bid for loadings and discharging of passengers at the jetties. So we have been pleading on many occasions to the state government and NIWA that they should build a jetty there, so that we can make use of it. They can build a jetty there so that there are no unforeseen consequences like the one that happened in Ipakodo.
They built a jetty at Ofin, but I don’t know if it has been consessioned to anybody, but I know that place has been opened and people are not making use of it. People are bidding for it, but unfortunately nothing has been done” Majofodun noted,
The National Public Relations Officer of WABOTAN, Chief Raymond Gold also affirmed that business activities at Ikorodu Terminal have remained grounded since its closure.
Gold also stated that there have not been any significant progress in the deployment of government palliatives to boat operators’ despite several consultations with the authorities involved. He noted that the government is yet to deploy the electronic payment terminal systems to the jettie,s unlike the road transport system.
“There is nothing new. It has been where it has been. We had discussions and we are waiting towards deploying the terminals because for it to be seamless, we all agreed on electronic payments using Cowry cards .The next thing was to deploy the terminals to the jetty where the cards would be used. Nothing of such has happened to any of the jetties.
“I don’t know if they are in jetties that are outrightly controlled by LASWA. I don’t know. But there is nothing new at other jetties where our members are operating. The roadside has been built. But for thewatersidee, where our members are plying, nothing new has happened” Gold said.
On his part, the Lagos state chapter Secretary of Association of ATBOWATAN, Mr Ayomikun Aworetan informed that the high prevalence of water hyacinth affecting waterways transportation operations at Ikorodu is seasonal and may not cease until January next year.
Aworetan opined that nothing can be done to eradicate the pervasive spread of the water hyacinth on the waterways unless it dies off by itself suggesting that the terminal will possibly remain closed till next year.
The ATBOWAN scribe also confirmed that nothing has been done by the state government to disburse palliatives to boat operators despite several consultations and assurances. He noted that boat passengers are eager for the palliative but boat operators are still yet to reach agreements with the Lagos state government on the terms and conditions.
“We are not using the Ikorodu Jetty for now. It will get towards theendg of December and January before the water hyacinth goes out. There is no way we can make use of that Jetty until it dies down itself. It’s a seasonal thing. It is a seasonal thing from October, November, December and maybe early January.
When contacted, the Lagos Area Manager of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Mrs Sarat Braimah noted that the Ikorodu Ferry Terminal will remain closed for boat activities pending the time the authority will clear the water hyacinth on the waterways at that area of the state.
Braimah assured that the terminal will be opened for business activities soon, as NIWA is currently making adequate plans on ensuring the waterways are rid of water hyacinth and other obstacles to the free flow of traffic on the waterways.