Canoes serving as alternative to gridlock in Lagos State
The perennial Lagos traffic snarl has opened a window of opportunity for operators in the water transport sector in the state. As commuters seek alternative routes to delays on bad roads to pursue their daily routine, water transportation comes in handy and operators are cashing in on the influx of passengers writes CHIEMELIE EZEOBI
As it is common with human beings, when faced with difficult situations, the survival instinct springs up naturally and the search for an alternative to ease the difficulty begins. Across the country, there has been a general public outrage over the state of the highways, which have occasioned delays and missed appointments.
Despite public appeals for remediation on these crater-riddled roads, most of them are still abysmal leading to accidents and unwarranted delays.
This, no doubt, has increased the number of people that have veered into water transport sector as a means of public transportation. From Ikorodu to CMS to Snake Island and Apapa amongst others, it’s the same; the new wave of public transportation is attracting quite a number of people.
To many, water transportation is vital especially when there are no road networks in their areas. Sadly, among other means of transportation, this same water transportation has been neglected despite the huge potentials it portends in mass movement of commuters especially in a mega city like Lagos.
While it’s undisputable that one-third of the state is covered by water, it is needful to make available resources for water transport in order to reduce traffic problems that plague motorists on the road around the city due to the magnitude of people living in Lagos.
Not left out of the road gridlock, the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway is prone to incessant and unexplainable hold-ups and has turned to be a no- go area for those in a hurry to get to their destinations. As a last resort, many have turned to taking ferries from Apapa to CMS instead of waiting for hours in the traffic.
Godson Nwaruche, a passenger aboard the CMS-bound ferry from Apapa, told THISDAY with glee that as far as he was concerned, his days of unnecessary suffering were over. Buttressing his point, he said that since he discovered the ferry, he jettisoned the commercial buses.
“If you are the one, what would you do? Nobody likes suffering at all. The ferry ride is just about 15 minutes give or take at the cost of N80 per ride.” He however, urged the government to ensure the security of life and property.
According to him, “as much as I enjoy the comfort and time saving ride, I have never set my eyes on any security agencies and this is not supposed to be so. The marine security personnel should always ply the water route in case there is an emergency.”
At the Liverpool branch of canoe dock, at peak hours, passengers usually troop to these canoes, which have been attached with engines in a bid to cut costs and reach their destinations faster.
Despite the rickety look of the canoes, one of the canoe drivers, simply addressed as the captain disclaimed any fear due to the expertise he used in commandeering the canoe.
According to him, “since I started this job many years ago, I have not had any problems. I make sure I check my engines as well as make sure everybody has their life jacket on.”
He was however quick to add that it wasn’t mere expertise that was keeping him. He attributed his staying power to God and his love for the sea. Waxing poetic, he said that he treats the water with respect and love and as such gets it back.
On the risk associated with water transport, he vehemently stated that it is a rare occurrence compared to other means of transportation.He added that fatalities are more with the others than water transport.
According to him, “other means of transportation are also riddled with risk and accidents and if you compare the rate, you’ll find out that those for water transport is less.
“Every day, you hear stories of car accidents, tankers on fire due to bad roads or even plane crashes due to poor weather conditions. I am not saying we don’t encounter accidents, but the risk is minimal.”
Olusesan Agbolarin popularly addressed as Oki, said that he prefers the water because it’s cheaper and a faster means of transportation. However, he agreed that it was risky because of the nature of canoes used in ferrying passengers across to their destinations are susceptible to disasters.
Another passenger at Liverpool dock who was about embarking on a canoe trip to work, Joshua Ifeakauche despite his debonair outlook, noted that it was faster for him instead of driving down to work and being stuck in a hold-up.
Like most good things, the means of transportation is not without its side effects. According to him, most of them are usually overcrowded and there are all sorts of people on board the 14-seater canoe. Another challenge is the possibility of capsizing or being attacked by bandits, a situation he was quick to say he had never witnessed.
He urged the proper authorities to utilize water transport to its maximum. This, he noted, will help decongest road traffic. He however, opined that even if the government could not do it alone, it should involve private individuals under the public private partnership (PPP) and bond to actualise it.
Security, they say is maximum and with that in mind, the government has acquired patrol boats for the marine authorities to ensure that there is safety on the waterways as well as ensuring compliance of all water rules and regulations.
A staff at the CMS Jetty who spoke under the condition of anonymity disclosed that they have put strong security measures in place like enforcing the rule of life jackets to forestall unforeseen circumstances.
He added that in the event of one, the captain is expected to radio land as to their predicament and location. When this is done, the rescuers will quickly move to the spot.
To buttress the seriousness at which they value human life, he told THISDAY that before one joins the trade, he must of a necessity, obtain a license from the appropriate maritime authorities, equip it and routinely get it checked after approval.
If one defects, the punishment, he said, is either an option of fine or suspension.