The Association of Tourists Boat Operators and Water Transporters (ATBOWATON), Lagos Chapter, said it prioritised safety of commuters over profit as COVID-19 ravaged the world.
Its Chairman, Lawal Saheed, said in a statement on Tuesday that its operators had pioneered the opening and sustainance of abandoned and unprofitable water ferry routes.
He said the operators also discovered new routes for the benefit of littoral communities in Lagos, thereby helping the unreached rural areas to be reached.
“The history and role of ATBOWATON cannot be over emphasised as we are in the front of helping to develop rural Lagos, providing desirable and gainful boat ferry services to the people.
“We have provided the necessary protective materials for the safety of our passengers due to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our members are caterpillars of development, providing access to inter communal movement, supporting the state government in reaching the unreached.
“From Victoria Island to Badore, Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry, Ojo, Liverpool, Festac, Takwa Bay and many other places, bridging services and human movement with safety in sight and not just profit,” he said.
Saheed said the association, in partnership with the Lagos State Government, had at various times, stood in gap to provide succour to stranded Lagosians who lived close to water front communities.
He said the association had at critical times intervened to keep abandoned jetties afloat and usable, spending their hard earned money.
“A lot of our members invested to broker new routes and maintain access roads upland to most of jetties at no additional cost to government and people living by the waters or using same to reach their homes in the hinterlands.
“Pioneers, like our National President, Mr Tarzan Balogun, invested so much in Badore, Ikorodu and Victoria Island waterfront and there are also many small time operators that were consistent in providing services for the people.
“Between Ijede, Badore, Ikorodu Epe, Badagry, and Victoria Island, our members can be seen moving passengers in droves, putting safety ahead of other considerations,” he said.
Saheed called on the state government to support ATBOWATON members to sustain the effective boat transport services across the length and breathe of state.
He said the support was needed to open up more communities to development and give room for more job openings in tourism and recreation.
“Our members know the waters and the challenges, and has continued to offer more affordable services to poor rural communities in Lagos.
Saheed said ATBOWATON collectively could increase the percentage of passengers movement from its current hold of about 15 per cent to 30 per cent progressively over time.
He said this would only be possible if the taxes, levies and sundry charges of the members were reduced.
He noted that access to financial palliatives should also be provided for the members to purchase new boats and accessories which had skyrocketed in recent times.
Saheed expressed bitterness about the neglect of ATBOWATON members in the bidding, allocation and concessioning process of jetty terminals.
He noted that most beneficiaries were portfolio operators with no boats or experience in maritime operations.
He said the entire process was shrouded in secrecy and called for transparency and a review of the effort which had put its members at disadvantage.
“Ikorodu jetty was given out to an organisation without experience in running jetties, so also Elegbeta, Ojo, Badagry, Epe and many others.
“When ATBOWATON has members with track records and verifiable investments in the sector like Tarzan boats, Seacoach, seacat and Texas connections,” he said.
“You can imagine operators with investments and presence worth millions of naira, paying levies to organisations without any visible contributions to water transportation in Lagos.
“These arrangements don’t even add value to passengers comfort or aid operators in any way other than just collect fees.
“It is very sad and we want the governor to look into the matter so as to ensure justice is done,” he said. (NAN)