By Fred Iwenjora
Pastor Oluwadamilola Emmanuel is the General Manager of the Lagos state waterways Authority ( LASWA).
In the wake of the ban on commercial motorcycles and tricycles in parts of Lagos, Pastor Emmanuel speaks to FRED IWENJORA on the upsurge in passengers on the Lagos waterways urging commuters to try using ferries to save time.
He also speaks on the many efforts being made by the agency to make Lagos waterways safer than it has been.
You recently launched the waterways clean up initiative?
Yes, It is aimed at creating awareness on the littering of the waterways. The Hon Commissioner for Transportation and Permanent secretary, boat operators, owners and passengers were present.
Others present were members of the diplomatic corps and a host of others. We say don’t litter the roads because the waterways have no litter on its own. It is the litter on the roads that get into the water and plastic waste remain in water forever. This sensitization will finally lead to research on how our waterways will be clean. We took the sensitization to Sabo Koji, Ikorodu, Apapa, Lagos Island.
What effect do you see on the waterways in the few weeks of the ban on commercial motorbikes and tricycles in Lagos?
We have seen an upsurge in the use of the waterways since the ban on motorcycles and tricycles in Lagos. More members of the populace are beginning to realise that the waterways are safe for them to commute to and from work and even to convey goods. My message to Lagosians is that they should use the waterways because it is faster and Lagos continues to make it more safer.
What is the mandate and scope of Lagos state waterways Authority?
LASWA is the regulatory authority in charge of sustainable development on Lagos inland waterways. We have been able to position ourselves to be an agency focused on building a safety system while ensuring that we can create an enabling environment for private sector operators to thrive within the Lagos waterways ecosystem. In summary, I see LASWA as a regulatory body working to see that the waterfront is safe and prosperous for all stakeholders.
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I have been here for about four years. First, as secretary, which is the second in command position. I spent two years on that seat I have now spent two years as GM. I will be third year this year.
What is the main area of focus?
We focus on areas where water transportation is used to move passengers. We are even seeing more of movement of goods these days. More people are beginning to realise that the waterways are easier and less cumbersome to move goods. Lagos is divided into East, West and central with lots of activities in the Ojo axis, Ikorodu axis, Apapa, Mile 2, the Island area of the five cowry creeks, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Marina. We are just a regulatory body not a player like the Lagos state Ferry services which is also an operator in the waterway’s ecosystem.
What challenges do you face while fulfilling this mandate?
It has been interesting and challenging as well for a developing sector. But every challenge presents an opportunity for progress and success. We have to manage a lot of stakeholders including boat operators, passengers, boat owners, fishermen, loggers, dredgers and sand miners and other agencies both state and federal who ply the waterways.
It is like when you are building something, there are a lot of foundation issues to correct. The sector was hitherto driven by the informal sector and we are gradually formalising the informal sector.
Who or what presents the most problems and challenge?
Passengers give us the most problems. Most of them are so much in a hurry that they don’t adhere to safety instructions. But generally, the situation has improved and passengers are beginning to comply.
Does your task clash or compliment the federal govt agency NIWA?
We have been in synergy with National inland waterways Authority NIWA. We had a few issues before but we are now working together with the understanding that we are all working towards realisation of same goal. We have an agreement and have set up a joint committee to implement the agreement.
There seems to be a reduction in accidents on Lagos waterways; do you agree?
We have been sensitizing the passengers on safety issues on the waterways and the need to conform.
We won’t stop the sensitization. These efforts have been paying off. We use the social media as well as physical visits to actual jetties to engage with the passengers directly on the importance of the life jackets and need to adhere to safety measures and how to respond in case of emergency. We also have two patrol boats and expecting more from the state government to increase the fleet for more effective and appropriate patrol and coverage of the waterways.
We have been able to build a strong well-motivated team which is gender-friendly because about 40% of the staff are women. We have identified what our mission is and we have grown on it.
Mother Tongue day held in Lagos
Africans, Nigerians and Igbos, in particular, have been urged never to forget their mother tongue because it is one of the most accepted means of identification.
Speaking during the group’s first celebration of the United Nations Mother Tongue Day in Lagos, Founder of the Indigenous language and Culture Initiative ILCI Mazi John Chukwu said “ Today many Igbo people are much interested in teaching their children English Language and even paying huge sums of money to learn Chinese and losing sight of their mother tongue which is Igbo. The result is the decline of Igbo value system and culture said to be a people’s way of life.
According to Chukwu “We cannot continue to wait until the UNESCO prediction of the extinction of Igbo language is made real.”
Speaking further, Chukwu enumerated all his group has been doing to stem the dangerous tide including creating academic and cultural oriented programmes in different schools in Lagos, organized and created Igbo Language fan clubs where pupils and students are encouraged to speak Igbo in drama presentations, Quiz competitions and continue to present Ekwe kuo Ama Agba, the popular Igbo language programme on radio stations as motivation to the preservation of Igbo language since 2014.
In her own remarks, Matron and women leader of the group, Mrs Nneka Chimezie drew attention to the banning of Igbo language in Lagos schools. According to her, pupils and students in Nigeria are constitutionally empowered to study any of the three major Nigerian languages of their choice but not in Lagos. She said “we will continue to dialogue on this oppressive law and seek redress”.
In a recap, President Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos High Chief Solomon Ogbonna in whose conference hall the event held commended the group for championing an initiative “after my heart”.