Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode on Sunday commissioned three newly acquired executive boats by the State Government, with a pledge to fully explore the tourism and economic potentials of the waterways in the State for the overall benefit of the people.
Speaking at the unveiling of the boats held at Caverton Jetty in Civic Centre area of Victoria Island, the Governor said the State Government was committed to the implementation of the integrated transport management system designed to scale up water, rail and land transportation, saying that the grand plan is to divert at least two million passengers on the waterways daily thereby reducing traffic on the road.
He said the boats and four Jet Skis recently acquired by the State Government to ensure safety and fight crime on the waterways were prelude to major plans to fully activate the potentials of water transportation, while in coming months, the State Government would take delivery of additional seven commercial ferries, among other plans for the sector.
According to him, “This is a significant day for Lagos State as we commission three boats belonging to the Lagos State Government. We discovered that sometimes, we do not have the ability for our officials to go on the waterways to address issues relating to people and citizens that live alongside the waterways.
“As you aware, twenty-five per cent of Lagos is water and it is important that we put in the right initiatives that can actually make activities on our waterways to thrive and the also people living along the waterways to bring them into proper perspective.
“Sometimes when dignitaries come from other States or countries, they are not able to see the true side of Lagos from waterways perspective and that is one of the reasons the State Government decided that we would procure the boats that would help us to promote tourism in the State so that people can see the great potentials of Lagos State,” he said.
Governor Ambode said as much was ongoing on road rehabilitation and construction, as well as the rail system, the water sector was also experiencing specific initiatives such as construction of terminals, channelization, construction of walkways, among others to encourage more people to key into the sector.
He said: “As people are well aware, we are committed to the integrated transport management system that we have promised Lagosians. As much as we are doing on the roads, we have decided that we would face the waterways. We have just ordered the procurement of seven ferries; we have also invited people from the private sector to take over terminals and also be able to procure their own boats and ferries.
“We are so particular about safety; we are so particular about the future of everyone and that is why we decided also that we would do a lot on channelization and dredging on waterways to make it motorable. People will begin to see all these at the end of the first quarter of 2018 and we believe strongly also that both the government boats and the ones from the private sector will start to berth the waterways of Lagos and we will use that to complement what it is that we have on our roads and also use it to complement the future of what we are trying to plan for the rail system.”
He added that over six million people walk every day on Lagos roads and that accounted for why walkways were being constructed across the State, while there are plans to create connectivity between water terminals and the roads, especially in Badore, Ajah, Mile 2, Badagry, Ikorodu and other places where there are terminals.
While stating that the maintenance and sustenance of the boats had been outsourced to specialists to ensure proper usage, Governor Ambode also invited more private sector stakeholders interested to invest in the waterways to partner with the State Government, saying his administration is liberal, transparent and willing to collaborate with interested investors.
In his opening remarks, Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Engr Adebowale Akinsanya said about thirty commercial routes on the State waterways have been identified for dredging and channelization, while ten jetties spread across the State were being constructed, among other ongoing plans for the sector.
He also said that the Ministry was working in concert with the Ministry of Justice to enforce relevant laws guiding the waterways to ensure compliance with safety standards and checkmate any illegal activity by operators.
Also speaking on safety plans for the waterways, General Manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Mr. Tiamiyu Adeshina said the Jet Skis would be deployed across the State to aid rescue operation in case of emergency, and also help to fight crime.
“Each of the Jet Skis has the capacity to carry two divers and the idea behind this is that when an incident occurred on the water, there is a Jet Ski that will move divers fast to the incident scene while the rescue boats are coming behind and when they get there, divers are dropping into the waters and as soon as they rescue people, we put them into the rescue boat and take them to hospital,” Adeshina said, just as he revealed that training to that effect was already ongoing.
Also, the Managing Director of Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Mr. Damilola Emmanuel, said the commissioning was the beginning of sustainable development for the waterways, adding that apart from efforts by the agency to enforce safety standards, the State Government has concluded plans to license 10 new operators who would provide better ferries.
The Governor also inspected ongoing projects on the waterways especially at Orange Island and Lekki Foreshore areas of the State.