On Lagos inland waterways, competition for space getting messier, deadlier

The Lagos inland waterways have been an easy means of escape for many workers who try to avoid the chaotic traffic scenes along Lagos roads during rush-hour periods in the evenings. However, many of such boat rides seem to be coming at a cost due to activities of other waterways users, TOLA ADENUBI reports:

IN Lagos, the Marina-Ikorodu, Lagos-Badagry, and Lagos-Epe routes are top on the list of the most sought after ferry services by passengers leaving for home in the evening of every work day. While the surge in passenger volume has allowed many boat operators to smile to the bank, the activities of some external factors outside ferry operations seem to be endangering such boat rides.

The most recent being the boat mishap that occurred recently when a 17-passenger boat rammed into a floating object around Adekunle waterways while enroute Ikorodu from Marina, thereby leading to the loss of one life while the rest were rescued.

For some observers at the scene of the evacuation, the floating object was an abandoned log that was left behind by either sand dredgers or local fishermen. While it is still too early to determine who left what on the waterways, the need for proper regulation of the activities of local fishermen and sand dredgers vis-à-vis passenger ferry services is currently overdue.


Ferry vs fishing activities

Between Lagos-Badagry, Marina-Ikorodu and Lagos-Epe, many riverine communities lie along these waterways routes. For many young men of these riverine communities, fishing is their major occupation. However, for boat operators, the activities of these local fishermen are gradually becoming a threat to passenger ferry operations.

Speaking during a stakeholders meeting between the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and other stakeholders in Lagos recently, a boat driver, Bashiru Atanda explained that local fishermen from riverine communities now spread their nets as far as into the middle of the waterways, thereby posing encumbrances to the free flow of passenger boat operations.

According to Bashiru Atanda, “These days, driving a boat from Marina to Badagry or from Liverpool to Ikorodu is now becoming more dangerous due to the activities of local fishermen who spread their nets deep into the inland waterways.

“Sometimes, the space left for boats to pass through is very small and at times very shallow. When at full speed, we run into these nets because we cannot even see them from afar since they are submerged. Sometimes, these fishermen use kegs to indicate the location of their nets, but the placement of these kegs at times is confusing. You might be heading to Badagry and suddenly see three or four kegs floating on the waterways. Where the nets are located becomes confusing because the kegs are very far from each other, and you wonder where they (fishermen) expects you to pass through having allocated such wide space on the waterways to their nets.

“Driving through such demarcations might cost a boat driver because such nets could damage the boat engine and stop the boat in the middle of nowhere with fully loaded passengers. The least amount an investor can have to own a boat on the waterways is N3million. Now imagine a boat that cost that much getting damaged by nets spread on the waterways by local fishermen?

Responding to allegations that fishing nets destroy or damage engines of passenger boats, the Fishermen Association of Badagry have threatened to invoke the riverine gods against boat operators if such allegations persists.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, Chairman of the Fishermen Association of Badagry, Comrade Sunday Aiyedogbon, explained that no fishing net can damage any part of the engine of a passenger boat. In his words, “The boat operators allegations that our fishing nets damage their engine boats are lies. There is no way a fishing net will damage the engine of a passenger boat.

“The problem we are having is that the passenger boats are destroying our fishing nets. Fishing is our occupation in Badagry and other towns and villages under Badagry. Without fishing, we will go hungry. However, these boat drivers, after taking too much alcohol, drive recklessly along residential areas on the waterways, thereby damaging our fishing nets and rendering our efforts fruitless.

“Last year alone, I lost 372 thousand fishing nets to the reckless driving of passenger boat operators. Where do they (boat drivers) want me to start from? Sometimes, these boat drivers, while driving, will be receiving or making calls. Sometimes, they (boat drivers) are half drunk before driving. We have told them that whenever they are approaching areas close to towns and villages on the waterways, they should always reduce their speed, but they have never complied. They drive through our fishing nets, destroying our means of livelihood all because they want to earn a living.

“I almost lost a son to the reckless driving of these boat drivers. My son was busy along the waterways placing fishing nets, and suddenly, a passenger boat appeared from nowhere at full speed and almost ran over him. We have told the boat drivers many times that whenever they approach jetties or areas that are close to residential communities, they should reduce their speed, but they won’t listen.

“Is it until we invoke our gods against them? We won’t want to go to that extreme because our children and friends use their boats as means of transportation. But they should stop destroying our means of livelihood all because they want to earn theirs. We cannot leave the waterways because of them. Our forefathers fished on these waters, and we and our children will continue to fish on these waters.”


Ferry vs dredging activities

Another issue that contravenes safety on the waterways has been the issue of abandoned floating pipes by dredgers on the waterways. Boat operators have continually complained that dredgers, after concluding their work, litter the waterways with floating pipes which in-turn causes boat mishaps when boats hit any of the pipes while at top speed on the waterways.

However, responding to the claim of pipes littering the waterways, Secretary General of Dredgers Association of Nigeria (DAN), Mr. Richard Ntan, while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune in Lagos, debunked the claim by boat operators, stating that many of the boat drivers drive recklessly.

“First and foremost, there is nothing like dredging pipes because the kind of technology that we use to dredge the waterways no longer uses pipes. Our members use mini hyper motorised equipments nowadays. Therefore, the pipes that the boat operators are talking about don’t belong to dredgers. They are either pipes from abandoned barges or other boat crafts that have become wrecks along the Lagos waterways.

“I think the government should hold itself responsible for not clearing the waterways of wrecks. Most of the accidents are caused by logs. Pipes don’t float. Even if dredgers use pipes, there is no where it can float. The only problem for some of our members is that when they run pipes into the water, some dredgers fail to put safety signals around such area where they are working.

“However, despite the fact that some dredgers are culpable of not putting safety signals around where they work, most of the boat drivers are careless. Most of them drive recklessly and thus cannot maneuver when colliding with floating objects. It’s just like driving on the highway where there are pot-holes. When driving at top speed, to avoid such ditch or pot-holes become extremely difficult. Same thing applies to the waterways; most of the boat drivers are reckless. It’s good that the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) wants to train them; most cannot even interpret safety signals on the waterways.

“If most of the boat drivers move at normal speed, then we wouldn’t be talking about too many mishaps along our waterways.”


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