I still remember the events that heralded the 2015 Lagos gubernatorial elections, especially the intellectual face-off between Akinwunmi Ambode and Jimi Agbaje. One thing was clear; both candidates had impressive résumés but it was more of whom the people hoped would perform better. Whatever and whomever aided the emergence of Ambode is perhaps no longer important, but what must be held into account were the things promised by the winner of the resulting duel.
At the gubernatorial debate organized by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) on Friday, January 23, 2015 (see from 42:10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdrdYot78T8 for video) Akinwunmi Ambode, while outlining what he believed were possible ways of addressing the grim traffic snarls all over Lagos claimed, “On the waterways, we have 236 licensed operators who are on this waterways ferrying 1.5million people everyday”. That was questionable, and still is, unless he was referring solely to the number of registered water operators and not the active ones involved in ferrying people. The people simply failed to realize the outrageousness of the stat and chose to let it slide. Actually, we have never been more meticulous about statistical analysis until now. That’s a good thing anyway.
Now, that Lagos has the greatest potential for a remarkable water transportation system-enabled environment would be selling it short, but how long do Lagosians have to wait until a feasible solution is proffered to the giddy transportation system? The rail transport has refused to yield sporadic benefits owing to its long-standing restriction to one part of Lagos. And while the ongoing CMS-Okokomaiko rail construction must be lauded, it is obvious it just might take another lifetime before a new route is introduced.
However, we have water.
Imagine a Lagos where you can conveniently board a safe ferryboat from Ikorodu to CMS, with the journey lasting only 25 minutes? Or one from CMS to Apapa which by estimates should not exceed 30 minutes? Or another 45-minute journey from Victoria Island/Ikoyi to Epe? Or an Amuwo to Badagry trip lasting just under 20 minutes? We still have Makoko, Lekki, Ajah, Maiyegun Island, Snake Island as possible routes through which water transportation could be amplified. The Lagos State Government could charge its Ministry of Water Resources into action and conduct a feasibility study of a sustainable water transportation system in Lagos, hold a public conference inviting key stakeholders in the market and lure potential investors who could take up the gauntlet and actualize the dream. Manufacturers of safe and durable ferryboats could be consulted, an association could be set up to conduct tests for willing applicants for the position of lifeguards who would in turn ensure safety of the commuters during daily journeys. These lifeguards do not need extensive academic qualifications, as long as they are expert swimmers equipped in water crisis management skills and have a sense of professional responsibility. Ads could be run incessantly on social, digital, electronic and print media, a week could be dedicated to giving free water transportation to all Lagosians, a more influential water transport authority could be established to regulate the activities of the water transportation system while the LASG checkmates the private companies through whom the scheme would be introduced. Jobs would be created, lots of it. Lagosians would enjoy a better life, while the government spends absolutely nothing.
Think of the level of productivity that could be recorded as a result of the full implementation of standard water transport. Lagos State stands to reap phenomenal and far-reaching benefits which could prompt other local and foreign societies to adopt a similar approach.
Lagos State already features numerous white-elephant projects, and the 4th Mainland Bridge might just become a costly addition. Or perhaps not. Apart from the professional expertise and ferryboats, we have all we need to bring the project to fruition. Quite frankly, we have everything we need, unless we intend to import water.
It’s our headache. We can cure it.
— Adesegun Damazio