Anayo Okolie reports on the sense of relief felt by inhabitants of Ojo and its environs following the dredging and deepening of the Ebute-Ojo Jetty
For several years, residents of riverine areas in Ojo, a suburb of Lagos State, have had to contend with their worst fears. Water transportation, their main means of moving in and out of the vicinity, was becoming increasingly dangerous. The shallowness of the water had made it practically impossible for boat operators in the area to move smoothly. In some instances, the consequences were fatal.
A resident, Hazeez Sulaimon, said the situation was one of their worst nightmares. â€œIt was a difficult period for us,â€ Sulaimon said. â€œBoat operators in the area became apprehensive to ply the waters for fear of capsize.â€
One of the boat operators, Dada Sogbesan, said their economic activities, especially fishing, were hampered by the shallowness of the water while their boat propellers, engine, and gear box were constantly damaged.
Sogbesan said, â€œWe have been complaining and begging the government to come and help us to dredge the water so that our boats can move freely. It is through water that we survive because that is our means of transportation and also survival for our women because most of them are fishermen.â€
But Lagos State Government heard the crises of the people and intervened to relieve their plight. In September last year, the channelisation of the Ebute-Ojo jetty to Marina began, covering two kilometres and a depth of about six metres of dredging.
The Ebute-Ojo jetty is one of the four commercial ferry routes currently being channelised, out of the 30 already identified as part of efforts to scale up water transportation in the state and boost tourism as well as economic growth. According to the government, the four routes being channelised are Ebute Ojo to Marina (10 kilometres), Bayeku to Ajah (seven kilometres), Ijede to Marina (16 kilometres), and Ijede to Badore (six kilometres). The government said the four would be followed with another two, while work on the remaining 24 would be implemented in phases within the next four years.
Managing Director of Lagos State Waterways Authority, Mr. Damilola Emmanuel, told THISDAY that the dredging exercise and channelisation were part of a plan to increase water transportation in the state and explore the tourism potential of the inland waterways.
Emmanuel said, â€œEssentially, what we are seeing is the on-going channelisation, which is creating road on water. Our intention is to make any boat or ferry sail freely on our waterways so they donâ€™t run into the issue of being grounded.
â€œThese routes being channelised are part of the 30 routes already identified by the state government. We are laying the groundwork to make things easy for the ferries to travel safely. We are doing this to demonstrate our commitment to water transportation. Through this, we want tourists who travel to our state to be safe while travelling on our waterways.â€
The governmentâ€™s intervention has not gone unnoticed, as normalcy has returned to the communities, including Abule Oshun, Ijegun, Apapa riverine communities.
According to Sulaimon, â€œWe cannot thank government enough. They have brought joy to our hearts for we residents and also for the boat operators. Now we can move on boat anytime of the day without any fear.
â€œWe can now leave by 4am or 5am. Before, we had to wait for daylight before we could go to our boat. Our fishermen are happy, business is doing better.â€
But the residents are hopeful that the state government would extend the project to neighbouring communities, including Ojo-Egbeda, Etegbin, Erewe-Osolu Kingdom and Iyagbin. They believe the dredging, if carried out, will give their communities a new lease of life.