Lagos State chapter chairman, Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters (ATBOWATON), Engr. Lawal Saheed, has stated that the major objective of the members of association is to ensure the safety of passengers and not profit of the firms.
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, thereby helping the unreached rural areas to be reached.
“The history and role of ATBOWATON cannot be overemphasised, 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.”
Responding to media enquires regarding the presence and role of its members in water transportation development in Lagos, Saheed added that ATBOWATON was a partner to Lagos State government and had at various times stood in the gap to provide succour to stranded Lagosians who live close to waterfront 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 and from the islands to the 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 be seen moving passengers in droves, putting safety ahead of other considerations.”
According to the Lagos chapter chairman, the presence of ATBOWATON members in 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 government to support ATBOWATON members to sustain the effective boat transport services across the length and breadth of the 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 have 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 waterways, 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 collectively can increase the percentage of passenger movement from its current 15 per cent to 30 per cent progressively over time, if the taxes, levies and sundry charges on 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 price in recent times.
“I think time has truely come for Lagosians to know how much sacrifice ATBOWATON members have made over time to enthrone legacies in water transportation. As I said earlier, our members, particularly our president, most times deployed 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 pro bono as corporate social responsibility, which our competitors are not known to do.”
On concession of jetty terminals, 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 organisation 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,” he said.
The Lagos chapter chairman of ATBOWATON disclosed that the Lagos State jetty concession process was shrouded in secrecy and called for transparency and a review of the effor, which has put its members at a great disadvantage.
“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 collecting fees. It is very sad and we want the governor to look into the matter so to ensure justice is done.”