Water transportation: Is Gov. Ambode grandstanding?

By Frank Meke
There are certain things that benumb me in the governance of our national resources. Indeed, there is strategic information at the whims of government, yet the pretense or what looks like it, worries the soul. It is even more stupefying to see a kind of self justifying and bitterness deployed by government officials to flog truth and those who chose to carry golden cross.
Last week, Lagos action governor, Akinwunmi Ambode gathered “stakeholders” and sought for their intervention on water transportation not only to decongest the gridlock around Apapa port but Lagos in general but the effort fell short of telling us the true picture on investment profile on that corridor.
This all important developmental subject has a lot of windows to it but I will try to treat the open sores and if all things being equal, would continue the series in subsequent outings. It is a tragic truth that investment flow may not come to the brown water economy in Lagos anytime soonest due to the many unexplained problems or challenges facing the development.
I dare say that Lagos government is its own enemy on this quest and therefore there is need for the government to change strategy and possibly democratize the lease hold on infrastructural ownership and management.
Before we attempt the pains on the absence of any verifiable Public Private sector profile on jetty construction and management, I dare submit that Lagos nay Nigeria’s brown water economy is the most abused, dirty and unfriendly road on river in the world.
Apart from being seen and treated as a natural refuse dump for all types’ human generated waste, Lagos water ways are wreck infested, shallow, uncharted and a cemetery for movement of goods and services. I speak from informed, practical experience and willing to give any doubting Thomas a guarded tour on this on huge prosperous but neglected gold mine.
Back to basics, it is a well known fact that construction and presence of strategic jetties is one major honey pot attraction to investment in water transportation. From the era of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu till date, successive Lagos administrations have struggled within budgetary approval to invest and build jetties. However, some of jetties were built without the needs of local expectations and without insight to population growth and futuristic carrying capacity desires.
Osborne, Ikorodu, Badore and Takwa bay jetties are clear cases in point and that brings us to the government concessionary profile. Sadly, this where investors and investment in this area are hindered and needs clear explanation. Again, Ambode need go and ask Ahmed Tinubu how he managed to democratize jetty ownership and management during his era. I believe this won’t be difficult, because Ahmed Tinubu saw ahead the need to champion the growth and prosperity of Lagos through water transportation.
Interestingly, if we must do away with politics of vengeance and bitterness, Ambode may also ask Muiz Banire who was Tinubu’s eyes and ears during those times on this strategy to help dust up water transportation model maps and chart how Lagos could achieve this dream policy through very tempting investment offers to the private sector.
Let me confess that as grass development journalist, I was close to the reality of this practical effort by Tinubu administration to sincerely woo and encourage the private sector to invest and manage jetties in Lagos.
President, Association of Tourist Boats and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) Gani Tarzan Balogun was a leading light and verifiable witness to Tinubu agenda in this light.
Those days, Badore, Ikorodu and other neglected riverine communities in Lagos came to light on this desire to help democratize the ownership and management of jetties, a critical infrastructure to grow ferry or water craft transportation.
Today, and particularly during the era of immediate governor of Lagos state, Raji Fashola, some unexplainable painful steps were taken to reverse this progressive collaboration with the private sector and I dare say that Mr. Gani Tarzan Balogun is a victim.
Added this nightmare is the fact that jetty ownership and management falls within security architecture of the federal government and in a crime prone environment as ours, investors need to navigate this clause with expected signatories beyond the mandate of Lagos government.
In the last three years of this administration, not excluding the era of Raji Fashola, the relationship of the federal government and Lagos state on how to pilot development on Lagos waterways became very divided and fronted with bitter claims and counter claims. Indeed, that the case is in court clearly presents absence of fulcrum for investment not to talk about the profitability of such efforts to stakeholders.
Another area to which Ambode’s Lagos could revisit to truly show how serious investment could make Lagos navigable and to help burst traffic of urban growth is on how to effectively link canals in Lagos to the Lagoon and the Atlantic waters. On this score, Lagos is well ahead and futuristic but I doubt if there was any common sense input to the need to map canals in Lagos beyond flood control measures.
The sad failure of canals in Lagos to even empty floods to the Lagoon and Atlantic belt around Lagos largely can be seen from the uncontrolled pollution and dumping of solid waste on these channels which could become roads on river to rid Lagos of traffic jam and also encourage boating and water recreation.
Another “Sweat crude” danger before Lagos investment drive on water transportation is the uncontrolled reclamation and sand filling of Lagos waterways, lakes and creeks for luxury housing estates. This is a discussion for another day. Significantly, there are lots of unresolved issues on Lagos waterways and until critical stakeholders are told the truth and all guided by it, governor Ambode may not get the desired result. On this score there is need for Lagos government to appreciate the support of the federal government on waterways management and leverage on the win-win effort that saw Eko Atlantic become reality.
We told Fashola the truth when he was in Lagos, now he is confronted with the truth in Apapa which he ignored as Lagos governor. Ambode must not grandstand on this issue and therefore must tie the loose end through co-operation and breaking of barriers to bring Lagos water transportation expected reality.

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