New Telegraph

1000 Days Of LagFerry Service: Sanwo-Olu’s Commitment To Efficient, Safe Water Transportation System In Lagos

With a population of over 20 million, Lagos State, being the economic, financial and commercial nerve center of Nigeria, had faced many transportation challenges such as congested roads and inadequate public transport infrastructure. This has made it crucial to explore alternative modes of transportation. To solve issues around transportation in the state, subsequent administrations have implemented various initiatives to revolutionise water transportation in the state.

The aim is to enhance mobility, reduce traffic congestion, and boost the blue economy. Instructively, water transportation has always played a significant role in trade and commerce in Lagos State. In the past, traditional watercraft such as canoes and fishing boats were commonly used for transportation, especially in riverine communities. Historically, water transportation in Lagos State can be chronicled back to the 1970s, when Lagos was still the federal capital territory of Nigeria.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) operated ferry services to Apapa, CMS, Ebute-Ero, and other locations. Later, the state government under the Lateef Jakande administration also came up with its ferry service when it purchased its ferry boats “Baba Kekere” and “Ita Faji” and operated from Mile 2 to Apapa, CMS, and Elegbata (Ebute-Ero). The duo of former Governors Babatunde Fashola and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode also commissioned and operated ferry services from various terminals between the years 2007 to 2015.

However, with the rapid urbanisation and population growth experienced in Lagos over the years, water transportation took a backseat as road networks expanded to accommodate the increasing demand. Consequently, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, upon assumption of office, with his THEMES Agenda, had assembled a team of experts to fashion out ways of maximising the socio economic potentials of the state’s body of waters with a focus to deliver a multimodal transport means including Water, Rail and Road.

It was an assemblage of a team of experienced and dedicated professionals, including experts in maritime affairs, transport and urban planning, to achieve the vision of transforming water transportation in Lagos State. Consequently on February 10, 2020, Governor Sanwo-Olu launched the commercial operations of Lagos Ferry Services (LAGFERRY) at Badore Terminal, Ajah, Eti-Osa. The creation of the Service is in line with a Strategic Transportation Master Plan (STMP) developed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu during his tenure as the Governor of Lagos state between 1999- 2007.

With a primary objective to provide safe, efficient and reliable water transportation services to the people of Lagos, set objectives of LAGFERRY include: to be the go-to model and alpha solution provider in the business of water transportation, enabling intermodal movement options and promoting commerce and tourism, through the provision of safe, efficient, and technology-driven ferry services manned by a competent workforce to ensure environmental sustainability.

After a year of its operations, specifically in March, 2021, Governor Sanwo-Olu, in line with the dream to take public service delivery in the state to 21st century standards, also launched a mobile app for Lagos Ferry. He also commissioned eight new ferries in addition to the existing fleet of boats already servicing several corridors on Lagos waterways. As of March 19, 2024, LAGFERRY has successfully provided 1000 days of safe and efficient water transportation for Lagosians and local businesses.

The introduction of LAGFERRY has significantly improved the water transportation sector. Armed with the mandate to take full advantage of the state’s waterways, the management team of the Service, headed by it’s Managing Director, Mr. Abdul Baqi Ladi-Balogun, has, without doubt, complemented Governor Sanwo-Olu’s vision of creating a smart-city with a functional multi-modal transportation system through optimising the socio-economic potential of Lagos State’s natural water bodies.

Despite facing challenges such as the global outbreak of COVID-19 and the #EndSars protest, LAGFERRY managed to navigate these issues and have implement a technology-driven transportation model. Marking it’s 1000th day of operations, the Managing Director, Ladi-Balogun alongside his team and employees of the services expressed delight about the journey so far, because, according to them, it has been “an eventful journey of 1000 days of commuting Lagosians and businesses of Lagos on the inland waterways.”

Reminiscing, he said despite months of lockdown occasioned by the global outbreak of CoronaVirus and the destructive #EndSars protests, and other disruptive events of the last two years, the state owned commercial ferry operator was “able to navigate murky waters, positively changed the narratives, and berthed technology-driven safe and efficient water transportation models”. The management has also launched the e-fleet management mechanism that tracks water vehicles in real time and ensure passenger confidence.

Praising support from Governor Sanwo-Olu, while also affirming the support of his hardworking team, Ladi-Balogun said the ferry service has succeeded in practically translating the vision of Governor Sanwo-Olu to create a smart-city with a functional multi-modal transportation system by optimising the socio-economic potential of the natural water bodies in Lagos State”.

These, he also averred, were part of robust initiatives contained in the Strategic Transportation Master Plan (STMP) marshalled by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu when he was the Governor of Lagos state Under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration, LAGFERRY services presently runs along 24 routes from 16 terminals/jetties with 19 commercial boats. The government is also rehabilitating and constructing 15 new terminals/jetties across the state, dredging routes, channelizing, removing wrecks and water hyacinths, etc.

The addition of fifteen soon-to-be-completed jetties, with well networked routes to complement other means in the states STMP, is believed, would give Lagosians greater reliefs around their mobility issues. In addition, the state has also encouraged local manufacturing of boats and other watercrafts. According to the Commissioner for Transportation, Seun Osiyemi, locally manufactured boats are of world standard and would generate employment in the state.

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