By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Association of Tourism Boat Operators and Water Transporters (ATBOWATON) has called on the Federal Government to further establish its presence at Badagry waterways in order to attract more investors into the boat business.
While conducting journalists on a 2-days tour of Badagry waterways on Tuesday and Wednesday, Chairman of ATBOWATON at Badagry and Chief Executive Officer of Sim Top Ventures, Mr Tope Fajemirokun noted that the activities of boat operators have developed the economic wellbeing of Badagry people, and that it has brought other ancillary services including buying and selling.
He sought the support of the Federal Government in construction of a world standard jetty in Badagry, and to dredge the waterways.
He added that there is the need for government to collaborate with the investors in terms of safety, security.
Presently, the ATBOWATON Chairman said the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has given the association approval to develop a major jetty in Badagry called; Marina jetty.
Fajemirokun informed newsmen that work has commenced on the project with three Nigerian banks; GTB Bank , Jaiz Bank and Bank of the North backing the project.
Speaking, the Sim Top Ventures boss said “NIWA has given us the approval to develop that jetty, this was why we wrote to the banks, and the NIWA is equally supporting us”
“On our own, we have done the soil test and every other thing, we are waiting for other investors to come around us and support us”
“All we need from the government is just their support, as an investor, without government, you cannot do it alone, we need government presence in Badagry, we want government to come and assist us, if you look at the type of boats we are using now, it is not too safe, as an investor, we want the government to come and support us, so that we can be at the standard that every other part of the world would see what we are doing”
“We need NIWA, LASWA, Marine Police, and Navy, we need their full presence on Badagry waterways”
“We started this operation about eight years ago with just one boat and five passengers for almost two months. After four years, it increased to forty five boats, but today we have over one hundred boats shuttling Badagry waters everyday going and coming”
Speaking on the numerous routes along the waterways, he said
“We stop at Abule Oshun, Ijegun, Coconut, Kirikiri, Liverpool, Ebute Ero and even up to Makoko. Coming back, we have Epe, Whispering Palms, Ajido, Akrakumo, Tokpo, Mariner, Granho, Akpa, Gbaji up to Port Novo. So, the traffic has increased tremendously”
Fajemirokun stated that incidences of boat accidents along the waterways have equally decreased unlike what is obtainable at the early stages.
“Two years ago we had challenges of boat mishaps, then we the operators in Badagry formed a task force which comprised of all the jetty chairmen and Secretary, we ensured that there was no night sailing, and also address issues of overloading, if you are caught as a boat operator, you would pay some fine”
“For the past two years, boat mishap along Badagry expressway has gone down drastically”
Speaking on some of the impediments to the boat business, he noted that fishermen nets along the waterways was one of them. He however assured that the boat operators have now formed a synergy with the fishermen association to ensure a win-win situation.
“When development is coming to a particular place, it is always like that, the fishermen own the water before us, but now we are trying to understand each other and making concessions, we are still calling on the government to give us navigating lights so that the fishermen can see and we would also see our routes, for now there is no conflict”
In terms of training and sensitization exercises for boat operators, Mr Fajemirokun said his company Sim Top Ventures single handedly trained 400 operators in year 2020 alone, with intentions to carryout more trainings in order to ensure safe operations.
Speaking, he said “Last year, I took it upon myself to organise a training in Badagry for boat operators, we (Sim Top Ventures) trained about 400 boat operators in Badagry, after two weeks, the same set of people were trained by LASWA again”
“We are looking at it that, by middle of this year, we would take the training down to Ikorodu where we have our operators as well, we dont want to stay in Badagry alone, by the end of the year, we are going to Epe”