The Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) says Lagosians spent more than N15.8 billion on water transportation between January and May 2023. This is even as boat operators on Lagos waters said they have recorded about a 60 per cent drop in water transportation, occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy.
Statistics exclusively obtained from the Operations Department of LASWA showed that in 27 jetties in Lagos state, about 416,548 passengers utilized water transportation during the period.
It noted that with the average of N3,800 cost of fares to different destinations in the state, it has recorded a total number of about N15,828,824,000 from 27 jetties between January and May 2023.
For example, 35,336 passengers boarded boats from Agbara Jetty and 5,569 passengers from Commando Jetty; all to Tin Can/Liverpool Jetties at a fare cost of N1,500 and N2,500 respectively. 28,745 boat users also paid as high as N8,000 from Elegbata Jetty to Porto Novo, Gbaji and its environs.
The lowest recorded number of passengers between January and May 2023 was 857 at Ijora Jetty to Makoko at a fare rate of N500 while the highest was 88,693 passengers from Ebute Ipakodo Terminal to Elegbata, Flour Mill, CMS and environs at a fare rate of N2,000.
However, in a chat with the National Public Relations Officer of WABOTAN, Chief Raymond Gold, he lamented that boat operators have recorded about 60 per cent drop in patronage since the removal of fuel subsidy in May.
Gold stated that before the fuel subsidy removal, water transportation was often considered a cheaper and more convenient alternative for many Lagosians. However, he noted that the recent increase in the pump price of petrol has doubled the fares, causing commuters to reconsider other options.
Specifically, the WABOTAN spokesman said the decline in patronage is evident in the reduction in the number of daily boat trips. He explained that previously, as many as 20 boats operated from Liverpool to Badagry daily. However, the current situation sees just only about three to four boats running per day.
He opined that the decrease in boat trips suggests that some operators may have been forced to withdraw from the route or shift their focus to shorter distances to maintain their businesses.
“The truth is that before this fuel subsidy issue, travelling by water was cheaper most of the time. For example, from Ikorodu to Ikoyi, at the LASWA Jetty, and environs was N1000. That is far cheaper compared to you travelling by road from Ikorodu through to CMS, and then to the Island and people were happy doing that. But then fuel price has increased in May and they are now paying two times the initial price. So people began to consider going by road. Liverpool to Badagry was N2500; at the time it was even N2000 depending on the rush hour. But with the fuel subsidy removal, it became higher.
“To be honest, we are having very reduced patronage. People are travelling less by water, because of cost. Some people nearly ran out of business because they are struggling to cope. This is because you must buy fuel and the fuel is very expensive. Where there are options, people will go for the one that serves them better.
“We have about 60 per cent drop in patronage because we were having like 20 boats flying from Liverpool to Badagry daily. Now, in a day you see like three. You hardly get four boats running. What that means is that others are likely out of the route. Maybe they have packed those boats or they have to take them to shorter distances where there is some level of sustenance.
On his part, the Lagos state chapter Secretary of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters (ATBOWATAN), Mr Ayomikun Aworetan confirmed the sharp drop in the patronage of boat transportation in Lagos state.
Aworetan noted that the reduction in passenger numbers is a visible trend along Lagos waterways, with boat operators struggling to fill their boats with passengers. He explained that before May, about 10 to 15 boats were often fully loaded for journeys, but today, this number has dwindled to a mere five boats.
The ATBOWATAN scribe stated that passengers faced with increased fares are now opting for road transport alternatives, contributing to the decline in water transport patronage.
“Before the subsidy, Marina to Ikorodu was N1,500, now that they have removed the subsidy, it’s now N2,000. Passengers going back in the evening pay N1,500 because we are so short of passengers, so we have to reduce it to N1,500 for passengers going back in the evening. So it’s not even profitable. But just for a way to maintain the business, that’s why we are doing that. There are so many boats that do not see passengers to carry back home in the evening. We are not making profit, we are at loss”, he lamented.