Alternative to road transportation
Olufemi Akintola is a system engineer in one of the leading oil companies situated in the Lekki area of Lagos. He is one of the thousands of Lagos commuters who are abandoning stressful road transportation for the more comfortable boats. He lives in Ikorodu, from where he goes to work daily. Until recently, he was among the thousands of Ikorodu residents spending endless hours in the heavy traffic congestion on the Lagos-Ikorodu road.
But now, he merely goes to the Metro Ferry Jetty in Ikorodu to queue for ticket to board a ferry to Lagos Island.
Many Lagosians today are steadily abandoning the road for the waterways. While the city is surrounded by water, public transportation is still built around road based, with rail and water transportation just marginal.
The chaotic traffic congestion in Lagos has forced many commuters to begin to explore the ferry and speed boats as alternative. Surprisingly, the Chief Executives of big companies and financial institutions, on the island are climbing down from their high positions to join the brand wagon effect.
The resurgence of the waterways has made it easier and quicker for commuters to keep appointments and go about their normal business on the island without much stress about the chaotic traffic congestion on the Lagos roads.
A recent visit to Tarzan boats, a privately owned water transportation service with its jetty situated at Sandfill area of Victoria Island remains an eye-opener to the increasing rate at which Lagosians are using the waterways as alternative means of movement in the city.
Some of the commuters at the jetty said that they usually wake up as early as 5 am, to queue for tickets. One Taiwo Abe, a driver in one of the banks said: “I live in Mushin, and every morning, by 5 am, I am at CMS bus stop, to queue for a ticket to board a speed boat to Victoria Island. And in a matter of 20-minutes, I am in my office. It’s quicker, safer and convenience to use the waterways.”
Mrs Margaret Onyema, who works in an oil servicing company on the island has also caught the bug. She says the waterways should be seen as a perfect alternative to overcoming the stress of the traffic situation that has become the order of the day in Lagos.
“ I live in Ikeja, and work on the Island. By as 5am, I would drive down to CMS bus stop, park my car and join the speed boat to Lekki, where my office is located. I have been using the waterways for more than one year now, and it makes my journey easier and less stressful, given the prevailing traffic congest along Ozumba Mbadiwe road, Victoria Island.” she said.
Mrs Onyema said, maximising the usage of water transportation can easily solve the problem of transportation in Lagos.
Apart from conveying human beings, automobiles are also ferried from one end of the lagoon to the other. Rather than being held up in traffic for hours, car owners said they prefer to spend N1000 to cross the lagoon, with their cars. There is a stand by car ferry that accomplishes the deal. The fare for a boat trip is N50. It is mandatory for commuters to put on the life jacket, which is obtained at the point of ticket purchase.
This, according to the CEO of Tarzan boats, Ganiyu Tarzan Balogun is to protect the lives of commuters in the event of any mishap.
While the reporter was at the jetty, about eight cars were ferried from the Victoria Island end of the lagoon to Ikoyi, at N1000 each. One of the car owners said, the fare is reasonable compared to the cost of being held in traffic. “I think N1000 is not too much for the comfort of getting home to rest when others are still in traffic, hours after work.” he said.
Balogun, who is also the National president, National Association of Nigerian Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters (NATBOWAT) said morning hours and evenings are the peak period for their business.
“Commuters start queuing for tickets from 6 am, when they are going to work and 4 pm when they have closed from work. The cost of being trapped in traffic, is reduced by the kind of services we are providing for Lagosians, he said, adding, “water transportation is the quickest means of transportation to any part of Lagos. Water transportation is safe and cheap, but many people, probably out of ignorance, would not want to use it.
From Badore jetty to Ijede, Ikorodu by road could take almost a whole day if one takes into consideration the traffic gridlock of Lagos. But from the jetty, have Badore to Ijede is less than 30 minutes.
“People would spend less time in vehicles and the roads will be decongestant.” he said
Tarzan, however, lamented that water transporters are not getting the necessary encouragement from government. He mentioned the current law by the agency in charge of water transportation in the state, which requires all boat operators to pay N1.5million to ply the water ways. This excludes levies that the operators have to pay before they are allowed to ply a specific route. He noted that all this would make water transportation expensive and unattractive as an alternative means of transportation.
Balogun also said, it is always difficult for boat operators to get fuel to operate their boats and often have to resort to buying fuel in the jerry cans, which most time, is very difficult.
He therefore, called for the building of petrol stations around water fronts, so that it will be easy for the operators to have access to fuel.