There is no doubt that Lagos ferry services launched with funfair in Lagos last week, may run into operational hitch sooner or later. As it was during the past administrations in Lagos, the revived Lagos ferry services may have started on wrong footing.
Thursdays last week, the ferry services spread out its Octopus presence with about fourteen new boats across popular ferry terminals in Ikorodu, Victoria Island and CMS, putting existing water transport operators in jeopardy.
Anchored across the jetties in these areas and proudly bidding for passengers, who were put off by their high fare due to the newness of their boats, Lagferry minders frantically made attempts to woo passengers who preferred patronage of open water taxi operators with pocket friendly fares. There are indications that they did have any serious business plan and are operating based on sentiments and brutish ego.
Disturbed by the reality that passengers refused to buy into their presence with new boats and consequential high fares, the seeming poor logistics and operational backlash on their first day outing was averted through fare crash which forced passengers to their patronage, leaving the water taxi operators in stupor.
Before Lagferry came into the market, Badore to Ikorodu is about 700 naira per passenger on water taxi system, while Lagferry charged 800 naira. To bridge the gap and force their operators out of the market, Lagferry management forced the fare down to 600 naira, a desperate and clear pointer that Lagferry did not do its home work well before venturing into the market.
We gathered that the organization is on three months survey to see how the people will respond to their presence it is however doubtful if this fare mechanism can sustain the operations of the Octopus water transport agency considering the high cost of boat engine maintenance, the wear and tear of daily operation and the lack of experience of its operatives on Lagos waters littered by wrecks and other debris which is one of the major nightmare of operators water transportation in the state.
Indeed, it is not Uhuru yet and possibly far from reality for Lagferry which may be frustrated by the civil service mentality, poor monitoring, corruption and indiscipline which killed the Lagos ferry operation in the past.
Another operational wahala for Lagferry influencers is the poor understanding of the public private sector initiative floated by past administrators in Lagos which concessioned its jetties left to rot and fallow to private organization at the fall of Lagferry years back.
This process was not captured as solution to its massive roll out plan neither were any attempt made to negotiate or vacate the concessions, many with leaseholds of over twenty five years and with investment profile running into millions of naira in turn around and upgrading over the years.
Knowledgeable industry observers told me that Lagferry only obtained National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) right of way permit but arrogantly ignored the legal consequences of operating from jetties already concessioned.
There are no doubt that the organized boat operators are watching the Lagferry challenge which many of them of see as attempt to push them out of the market which they built up over the years when Lagos state government did not have any clue on how to run and manage water transportation as the city groaned on the impact of vehicular traffic, massive urbanization and high population.
To tell the truth, a bitter war on Lagos waters many break out between Lagferry and the private boat operators who felt cheated and ignored by Lagos state government on all fronts as there is no love lost between its ferry service and operational strategies on how to coexist private operators without frustrating the welfare of water transport users who definitely would be at wits end when two groups fine tunes battle strategies for water space in Lagos.