The Lagos Chapter Chairman of Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters (ATBOWATON) Engineer Lawal Saheed has disclosed that the Lagos State jetties concession process was shrouded in secrecy, thereby calling for a review of the process.
He lamented that the concessioning was not done in good fate, and that this has put his members at a disadvantage.
Saheed stated that the major objective of the members of his Association is to ensure the safety of water users and not profit making alone as being pursued by some concessionares.
He also credited the members for selflessly pioneering the opening and sustainance of abandoned, unprofitable water ferry routes and discovery of new ones for the benefit of littoral communities in Lagos, there by helping the unreached rural areas to be reached.
On concession of jetty terminals, Engineer Lawal Saheed expressed bitterness about the neglect of ATBOWATON members in the bidding and allocation process, noting that most beneficiaries are portfolio operators with no boats or experience in maritime operations.
“Ikorodu jetty was given out to an organization without any experience in running jetties, so also elegbeta, ojo, Badagry, epe and many others when atbowaton has members with track records and verifiable investment in the sector like Tarzan boats, Seacoach, seacat and Texas connection.”
“Can you imagine operators with investments and presence worth millions of naira, paying levies to organisations without any visible contributions to water Transportation in Lagos.? These arrangements don’t even add value to passengers comfort or aid operators in any way other than just collect fees. It is very sad and we want the governor to look into the matter so to ensure justice is done” He laments.
” The history and role of ATBOWATON cannot be over emphasized as we are in the fore front of helping to develop rural Lagos and provide desirable and gainful boat ferry services to the people. Our members are caterpillars of development, providing access to inter communial movement, supporting the state government in reaching the unreached from Victoria Island to Badore, Ikorodu, epe, Badagry, Ojo, Liverpool, Festac, Takwa Bay and many other places, bridging services and human movement with safety in sight and not profit.” Lagos chairman explained.
Responding to media enquires regarding the presence and role of its members on water transportation development in Lagos, Engineer Lawal Saheed further added that atbowaton is partner to Lagos government and had at various times stood in gap to provide succour to stranded lagosians who lives close to water front communities and at critical times, intervened to keep abandoned jetties afloat and useable, spending their hard earned money.
” A lot of our members invested to broker new routes, and maintain access roads upland to most of jetties at no additional cost to government and people living by the waters or using same to reach their homes in the hinterlands.
Pioneers like our national president, Mr Tarzan Balogun invested so much in Badore, Ikorodu and even what we know as Victoria Island waterfront and there are also many small time operators that were consistent in providing services for the people to from the islands to mainland without which nobody can readily lay claim to the development of these places. Between Ijede, Badore, Ikorodu Epe, Badagry, and Victoria Island, our members can seen moving passengers in droves, putting safety ahead of other considerations.”
According to the Lagos chapter chairman, the presence of ATBOWATON members on Lagos Waterways transportation and their importance cannot be demystified by any competition with acclaimed advantage which ATBOWATON members helped to enthrone and sustain.
He called on Lagos government to support ATBOWATON members to sustain the effective boat transport services across the length and breathe of state in order to open up more communities to development and job openings in tourism and recreation.
“Our members know the waters and the challenges, and has continued to offer more affordable services to poor rural communities in Lagos. And we want to thank NIWA for removing wrecks and abandoned vessels from the waterway which has contributed immensely to safety and near absence of accidents on the waterways in recent times.” he added.
Conservatively, according to the chairman, ATBOWATON collective can increase the percentage of passengers movement from its current hold of about 15 percent to 30 percent progressively over time if the taxes, levies and sundry charges of its members are reduced and also if access to financial palliatives are provided for the members to purchase new boats and accessories which have skyrocketed in recent times.
“I think time has truely come for lagosians to know how much sacrifice atbowaton members have made overtime to enthrone legacies on water transportation. As I said earlier, our members, particularly our president most at times deploy his cranes and hyarb to remove wrecks along ikorodu channels and that is just one of many intervention we carry out to support the state government even during local government elections and health campaign to the rural areas, we give out our boats probono as corporate social responsibility which our competitors are not known to do” he said