Challenges of managing Lagos Waterways

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 challenges of managing Lagos waterways and the many efforts being made by the agency to make them safer than it has been.

What is the main area of focus of LASWA?

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 ecosystem of the waterway.

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.

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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.

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 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 to 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.

I have been here for about four years. First, as a 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.

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.

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