The National President of the Association of Tourist Boats and Water Transport Operators of Nigeria (ATBOWATN), Mr Ganiyu Sekoni Balogun has said that wrecks removal and channelization of the nation’s waterways were responsible for fewer accidents recorded on the waterways in 2017 compared to previous years.
Balogun who said that there were more new entrants into the waterways business as well as increased number of passengers as a result of the wreck removal and channelization, also pleaded with the government to establish floating fuel stations for boat operators on the waterways to avoid the risk of carrying fuel in their boats.
Balogun made this assertion on Sunday in Lagos in a nedia chat.
According to him, the removal of wrecks buried by the nation’s waterways by the concerned authorities as well as the massive channelization embarked upon by Lagos state government last year attracted more businessmen as well as prevented accidents.
He noted that government had moved forward a bit in providing the necessary infrastructure to make the waterways safe and navigable leading to influx of more operators into the industry and more passenger traffic on the waterways even as he added that government needed to do more.
He explained that the new Regine of water transportation in Lagos is carrying the stakeholders along in their activities adding that such was not the practice in the past.
In his words, ”We have been having a lot of meetings together on what they want to do, government’s plan which we don’t used to know before. Those days, we read of them on the pages of newspapers but now it is different.
“In that direction, there is still more to be done but at least, they have started and more people are coming into the boat business as well and more people are also using the waterways.
“Last year, I don’t think that accidents on the waterways were as much as it used to be in the past years because some of the wrecks have been removed and government is also trying to channelize the waterways by dredging. So we are pleased”.
Speaking on the expectation of the association from the government for the industry in the current year, the Tarzan boss called for the establishment of floating fuel stations on the waterways to save them the stress of having to carry jericans to the filling stations on land to buy fuel for their boats which he said exposes members to risk.
“Then we don’t carry excess fuel anymore, the danger of excess fuel carrying is that if there is a spark and there is fire, instead of one gallon of fuel and you have ten gallons, to control that fire will be very difficult because if you are going to Badagry now, you need to buy enough fuel that can take you to Badagry and come back, meanwhile, you should be able to buy fuel when you get to Badagry.
“Besides scarcity, normally, it is difficult to get fuel because if you carry jericans sometimes, they will seize them from you especially in Badagry that is very close to the border, they may be thinking that you are involved in illegal bunkering but if there are fuel stations on the water, on your way going to Badagry, you will only need the fuel to take you to Badagry and when you are going, you can stop by the fuel station on the water, buy fuel and continue. All you need to get is money in your pocket as it is the case on the road.
“Then, another thing government should look at building jetties along the waterways so that other people can start benefitting. Government needs to build more jetties which could be handed over to private operators for efficiency.
“Security on the waterways has improved a lot but government still need to put more money for the security agencies like; the marine police, the Navy, NIMASA so that they will have enough engines and fuel to run their boats. Government is doing more but it can do better so that they can feel safe on the water”.