Promoting water transit with life jackets

The stakeholders, who gathered at the Five Cowries Terminal office of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), have just one main assignment: to make the Lagos State waterways safe for users.

The concern to make the waterways safe has been recurring since a slew of accidents in various parts of the state have triggered concern about the safety of the state waterways.

Such was the pressure to change the narrative of incessant accidents on the state’s waterways that the government arraigned a boat operator in the state High Court, for culpable homicide, in an accident where 11 passengers died.

The government had always insisted that life jackets are sine-qua-non on the waterways. LASWA’s General Manager Damilola Emmanuel at various fora had urged passengers to stop boarding any vessel that could not offer life jackets. He said passengers donning appropriate jackets stand the chance of surviving in any accident.

The centrality of the jackets was again underscored last Sunday when the stakeholders gathered at the LASWA office. They had gathered on the behest of OsaGo Riders Limited, a tech-driven new age firm that is making strong inroad into boat building and water vessel construction and logistics.

OsaGo, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), donated 500 life jackets worth N13 million to LASWA for distribution to boat operators in riverine communities, in the five divisions of the state.

The stakeholders at the event include; Lagos State waterways Authority-LASWA, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transport Association of Nigeria (ATBOWATON).

Receiving the jackets, at the terminal Head Office of LASWA and at the Tarzan Jetty-ATBOWATON Secretariat, Emmanuel said the gesture had further underscored the government’s insistence on making the waterways safe.

He said yearly, the government provides life jacket to operators as part of its commitment to making the waterway safe. “The life jacket guarantees safety on the waterways,” he said.

Emmanuel urged corporate philanthropic and well- meaning Nigerians to join hands in the development of the state’s waterways, saying a safe and secured waterways will reduce the burden on the roads. “We want a standardised life jacket on our waterways, this life jacket is of a high quality and met approved standard, it has been tested. We will continue to encourage those that are committed and abide by the rules of the waterways to be in business even as we continue to enforce the regulations against defaulters,’’ he said.

He said those who do not have life jackets or ones that are not of good quality have been barred from operating the state’s waterways. “Orange is the colour we approve because it is easy to see even at night,” he added.

On eradicating accidents on the state’s waterways to the General Manager said the agency would continue to take responsibility and play its role as a regulator of the state’s waterways. He said as part of its advocacy, the agency has opened up complaint lines where passengers could complain any infraction they observed on any vessel before such would snowball into an accident.

OsaGo Ride’s Head of Business Development, Toyin Adebola, said the firm decided to donate the jackets to partner with the government in making the waterways safe.

He said from Ikorodu to Badagry, Lagos had very beautiful coastline. He noted that the tourism industry have been badly affected as a result of accidents and insecurity of the waterways.

“We are making this donation because safety is paramount if we are going to promote tourism and water transport business in Nigeria. If we want the 120,000 people that are commuting on the water transport in Lagos, you must assure and guarantee them of their safety and that of their property and we are committed to that aspect of water transportation,” Adebola said.

The donation, Adebola said, was part of the broader safety initiative by the government to improve safety on the inland waterways for both passengers and boat operators.

Lagos State Chairman, ATBOWATON, Lawal Babatunde thanked OsaGo for the donation, promising that its members would make good use of the life jacket.

The President of the association, Ganiu Shekoni Balogun (aka Tarzan the Boatman), said the quality of the jackets is commendable, adding that any firm willing to partner in making the waterway safer should feel free to work with the association.

But beyond the positives of the jackets, Balogun urged passengers to obey safety instructions on the boat.


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