Lagos State Governor , Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Thursday, 8th May, 2014, flagged off the state’s Water Transport Safety Awareness Programme with distribution of 2000 life jackets to operators in the water transportation sector in the Ebute Ojo, appealing to operators and patrons of water transportation to always insist on the usage of the life jackets when on board.
The Governor, who spoke at Ebute Ojo in Ojo Local Government Area added that all passengers who intend to board a canoe, ferry or outboard motorboat must insist that the operator provide them with a life jacket before boarding the means of transportation.
He said in the same vein an operator should disembark any passenger who refuses to use the life jacket which is representative of what a seat belt is in a vehicle in terms of protection and safety of the occupants.
While taking time to explain the need for safety consciousness at all times, the Governor warned against overloading the ferries or boats simply because life jackets have been provided, informing that the recent ferry mishap that was recorded in South Korea resulted from overloading.
He also appealed to all those who overspeed on the waterways and pilot the boats and ferries under the influence of drugs to have a rethink as such acts only endanger the lives of innocent passengers of the boats.
He advised all the operators who are beneficiaries of the life jackets not to keep them at home but keep them inside their boats or ferries always so that it can be useful to the passengers.
According to the Governor, though in some other areas it is the operators that would be expected to buy the jackets the themselves, because most of the operators are peasant and subsistence businessmen who are operating on small scale basis, the State Government has decided to assist them utilizing part of the taxes paid by responsible residents, adding that the tax payers in the State should be commended.
He gave a commitment that the present administration would also provide life jackets to all operators across all the water transportation points across the state just as it has started with Ojo area which is a riverine area.
Noting that boats and ferries being mechanical devices, accidents cannot be ruled out, the Governor said when such an accident happens and the passengers put on life jackets those involved could be rescued adding that the reflective colours of the jacket is also designed to attract attention for help.
Governor Fashola said as at today, the water transportation capacity of Lagos is improving as it now accounts for moving between 1.5 to 1.6 million passengers monthly compared to 200,000 passengers that use the mode of transportation some seven years ago.
He informed that very soon, the state government would complete work on the concessioning of the other ferry terminals in the state and expects that as this is done passengers those who would patronize the waterways would increase.
He added that the state has completed the dredging of the Ojo waterways down to Lagos Island and has installed lifebuoys and navigational signs for boat operators in the state, noting however that he has just been informed that one of the lifebuoys has been stolen by unknown persons.
He said if the government has provided such facilities for water transportation and it gets stolen, it means the community where such acts took place also owe it a duty to expose those who did it.
Fashola who also spoke about the activities of traders on the Lagos Badagry Expressway said as construction work by the state is progressing on the road, it would not permit the continued activities of street traders on the road.
He said he has observed that the road has been taken over by those selling planks and furniture, appealing to them to move away from the highways or else the government may be forced to devise its means of taking them off the highways.
Speaking earlier, the state Commissioner for Transportation, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, said the provision of the life jackets underscores the determination of the state government to make the waterways safer for both the operators and the passengers.
In his vote of assurance, the Vice- Chairman of the State Water Operators, Hon Lawal Babatunde Saheed, thanked the Governor for the support given to the water operators in ensuring that there is safety on all waterways in Lagos.
He appealed to the Governor to assist the operators in cautioning dredgers to try as much as possible to ensure that they put caution signs on the waterways in order to prevent cases of accidents.
He gave a commitment that the operators would make very good use of the life jackets and ensure that all the passengers take the issue of the usage very seriously so that there would be safety on the waterways.
The Governor later presented and adorned some of the operators with the life jackets while he was also adorned by the General Manager of the Lagos State Waterways Authority, Mr Yinka Marinho, at the event which attracted members of the State Executive Council including the Secretary to the State Government, Dr (Mrs) Idiat Adebule; state Commissioner for Rural Development, Pastor Cornelius Ojelabi; state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Lateef Ibirogba; and member of the State House of Assembly representing Amuwo Odofin , Hon. Ramota Akinola- Hassan and several other guests.