Mr. Kayode Odumosu, an accountant and educationist tells BLESSING ORUCHE, how his school Principal shaped his life and why he is no longer keen about going abroad among other issues.

Growing up for Kayode Odumosu was fun. He recalls that parents were never worried about kidnappers and as such could allow their children  board a bus from Island to Mainland and vice-versa.

“At the age of ten, my family moved from the Island to Mainland in Surulere. It was wonderful back then, because issues such as kidnapping wereonly fairy stories to be imagined  but not experienced. I used to board buses  called SKOLEE at that age, going from Yaba to Lagos Island for primary school at St Paul’s Breadfruit.I repeated the same thing coming back, but the journey from Yaba back to Surulere used to be completed on foot.”

He claims that attending Christ School,Ado Ekiti,Ekiti State for his secondary school education had very positive impact on his life.“I will say I am an Ijebu boy born in Lagos but  bred in Ekiti. During my university days at Ife, my ex-Principal, Reverend Canon Mason, a Welsh, was still visiting us then. His zeal, diligence,  principles, discipline and care were some of the attributes I admired so much.He was a man who shaped my life and that was why when I finally set up my school I called it Mason College named after him. I imbibed and implemented his methods of operations, such as  prayers, songs, discipline even uniforms and above all close supervision of my students”

He speaks loftily about his passion for Ekiti land saying, “thank God I studied there, because it shaped my life. I learnt so many things from them, like being down to earth and desiring the truth to be told no matter the consequences.”

When he was at the university, he played volley ball, and represented Nigerian at the universities games in Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana. Speaking about his social life, he says he has affiliations with prominent Yoruba social groups and others saying. “When I was young my father belonged to  popular Island Club and the Yoruba Tennis Club. After my father’s death, the club invited me as a son to fill the vacuum. I agreed and may be active someday. However, i went back there briefly when my second daughter was going to get married.The only club I had always wanted to join as a member was Ikoyi Club and i did so officially when i became the youngest company secretary for a publicly-quoted company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange at the age of 29. At Ikoyi Club most of the time, we attended as a family. It was good for our children’s upbringing. There were  many activities  for them especially swimming . However, as my work load increased during the running of my schools, the busy schedule took the better part of me.” I have four biological children all female,all graduates,all married,and all same mother.Thank God! But each of them still recollect their experiences at Ikoyi Club in those days. Its now left for them and their husbands to take over and for them to take their own children along too.Exception being my first girl who works with Barclays and lives in England with the hubby.

Odumosu says he craves the best form of relaxation during the weekend.“I listen to music a lot, and watch television whenever it suites me especially for quick updates on world news. I can decide to stop whatever I’m doing and relax myself at any time often starting with deep breathing exercises on my chair My weekends are usually fun-filled with social activities; name them, weddings,christenings/birthdays, burials  or other family events.” To him, weekend menus are the same with his everyday food consumption. “I don’t have any particular preference, any good menu goes.And if my wife who has been my friend for 40yrs  says she does not feel like cooking TFC or garri and groundnuts with extremely cold water and no sugar come into useful play.

I and my family had patronized so many restaurants in Lagos, both on the Island and Mainland. But presently I get discouraged from going so far from Festac for a good lunch or dinner because of my phobia for hectic traffic.”Sunday of course is usually an exception.

On his favourite colour, he says he has preference for navy blue, especially when  combined with white. That combination, he says, was the uniform of his school.

Expectedly, Odumosu still has love for sports particularly  for Arsenal in the EPL. “My best sports are football and volley ball, though I don’t play any longer  I enjoy the games on DSTV.” He says he  also takes delight in playing scrabble game. “One particular game which interests me more now and which I play everyday is Scrabble.I love to compete against the computer and beat it hands down.Nothing else makes me happier than when I do that. “I have never really planned a trip to watch my favourite team, Arsenal, play live. But during the course of one of the trips  with my wife, we visited the Highbury Stadium in North London before it  moved to the Emirates.

I have so many of Arsenal jerseys, most of which my kids bring or sent to me for me,” Odumosu says with excitement. The trained accountant ,auditor and Chartered Secretary had eventful working years with the prestigious Coopers and Lybrands and Akintola Williams /Wisan Management where he says he met lots of expatriates along with whom he went round the world.

“We usually traveled where ever our clients were. Eventually, I joined Modandola Investments as the pioneer company secretary.It was a quietly strong group of companies which had about 23 companies under it and more than 100 expatriates. My bosses at different times thought me so many things, as a young aspiring man.For example Mr Akintola Williams made me realised there was NOTHING important about chieftancy or Otunba titles.  The last company I worked for, before setting up my school was Chrislieb where i was also the Group Company Secretary. I later set up my first school PASS in 1988 with some partners  and then Mason College Festac Town in 1994” he adds.

His perception of life is quite different, especially as regards religion. “When i was growing up,we all grew up together as Christians and Muslims but we knew the programmes of the Muslims and they knew ours.We even attended their mosques and did SUKU NABIYAH together. But today PERSONAL interpretations of the Bible and Quran are responsible for several problems in the world today. People keep struggling for supremacy all the time, which is not necessary,” Odumosu points out.

Though he no longer runs his schools, he is still very busy as a blogger managing eight blogs, saying, “I have imported most of my teaching aids from my schools into my blogs, and I do connect with so many people from about 202 countries round the world who visit my blog, most of whom are lecturers, teachers and students.” The educationist says he is still in touch with his students on Facebook and his blogs.

“My students are planning a  reunion in December,” he says. Talking about his 21 years experience as educationist, Odumosu believes that the Nigerian child’s education has greatly improved.He does not believe compositions in Queen’s English can be used to define the quality of today’s graduates.Today the Nigerian graduate is more exposed and street-smarter to what is going on around him and faraway from him.He is more exposed to what can be called LIFE 101 than the ideals of quality education when we were growing up.I have written loads and posted many articles on our blogs about this.

“As an educationist I believe that one of the things our parents should always look out for, when enrolling their children is whether the proprietor or proprietress knows anything about  computers and the internet.This is because computer education is the most important in a child’s life today. Otherwise the computer teacher may not be competent enough to give the students what is required. Another one is the school library.That is the brain box of every school and  libraries have been central to my life from the age of 10.

“My international experiences have influenced my life positively, even though I believe home is home, but there are so many things I was able to pick during my trips.

After I started working at Coopers and Lybrand, I  visited Ghana,Liberia, Serria Leone, and the Gambia. We were auditing the accounts of  the West African Health Ccommunity then.

“When I was with Akintola Williams (WISAN MAGT), I was able to travel to countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland, Britain, Germany, US, Canada, Brazil,Turkey and another one was on the cards for India when one of our clients decided to employ me with almost triple my remunerations at Akintola Williams.I had to go and plead with Mr Williams specially to give me his blessing to move on.We had clients in all these places, and most of the trips were work- related, while  others were holiday trips,” Odumosu recalls.

An interesting experience which he recounts was about a board meeting of a Nigerian company  held on a ship, from Barcelona to Tunisia on the Mediterranean Sea and that was how he visited Tunisia.”It was on the ship i experienced the importance of ballroom dancing and the need for acquiring proper table manners right from secondary school.I therefore ensured they were both included and implemented in the training of my students at Mason College.We started Ballroom Dancing seriously before any school in Lagos and definitely before Maltina Dance competitions started.

Today when people talk about traveling out, Odumosu feels it is not important to him.“I have seen it all. I’m no longer keen on the idea. Today I spend my time in Nigeria enjoying the life style I have created for myself. It pleases me so much to live here and no other place in the world .In Nigeria a lot of things have gone bad. Wrong operations, but I believe  God has a plan for this country and things will turn out for the better.Opportunities abound in our country. The population is a plus and minus. Sometimes all you need to survive is the population to patronize what you are selling or services you are providing,” he says.


Mile 2 under-bridge: Where victims are raped, robbed


The relative sanity and peace that had existed at the Maza-maza end of Mile 2 under bridge, in Amuwo Odofin Local Govern­ment Area of Lagos State may soon fizzle out, if the army of homeless miscreants that have recently taken refuge there is not urgently checked. Gradually, people have started falling victims to the boys, who hibernate under the bridge during the day time, only to emerge at night to attack their victims and melt into the dark.

Recall that prior to the construction of the new 10-lane road network from the Lagos Island to Okokomaiko by the state government, both Maza-maza and Mile 2 ends of the bridge were known for notori­ous activities as hoodlums flagrantly and incessantly waylaid, raped and dispos­sessed innocent citizens of their money and other valuables. In the past, they would drag their prey from on top of the bridge to under, where they would rape, rob or even kill them for ritual purposes. Sometimes, they would threaten to drown their victim in the lagoon in order to elicit compliance, if they only wanted mon­ey or sex. That time, many people who were declared missing were later found under that bridge with their vital organs sometimes missing.

The earliest time one could walk across the bridge was between 7:00am and 6:00pm; any period before or beyond that time was very risky. People who became victims of the roughnecks then, were strangers who didn’t know what was happening there. Everybody who was conversant with Mile 2 or who lived around the area knew how danger­ous the spot was.

People who knew what went on around the place avoided it like plague; they wouldn’t even walk across the bridge in broad daylight. To them, the fear of walking across the bridge was the beginning of long life. It made many people to dread Mile 2 even till today.

But, all that fizzled out when the new 10-lane road construction started. The emergence of Julius Berger’s bulldoz­ers ended the reign of terror on and under the bridge. The construction work destroyed all the dark alleys and covens artificially constructed by the bandits for their nefarious activities. All their hide-outs were exposed when the company’s earth movers bulldozed into their enclave under the bridge, expos­ing every dark spot. With their jungle destroyed, they fled the bridge and ‘Lago­sians’ heaved a big sigh of relief. People started walking across the bridge at any time of the day without fear of being molested, robbed or killed. Life came back to the bridge as business activities of petty traders picked up and began to boom. The bridge became once again a safe haven, with people milling around it even as late as 10:00pm.

The Mile 2 end of the bridge which was the deadliest point suddenly became a mini mechanic village, where auto technicians who cannot afford the high cost of renting workshops display their technical wizardry. With the auto-me­chanic engineers plying their trade at the place, food vendors as well as herb sellers, recharge card sellers, local liquor (Ogogoro) sellers and other petty traders were equally attracted to the place. And with the new development, the hoodlums finally lost out in the battle to regain the place.

But, the same cannot be said of the Maza-maza end of the bridge as the boys are gradually re-grouping. They have actually started raping, molesting and robbing innocent passers-by, who tried to cross over from one side of the road to the other using under the bridge. Such victims felt that the boys, who gather un­der the bridge to smoke and gamble, are only taking refuge since they could not afford decent accommodation. But, they would only realise what the boys were up to after they have had a raw deal with them. A casual visit to the place will con­firm this development. A lily-livered man cannot walk through under the bridge in broad daylight, let alone a woman. They are always gathered in clusters of three, four or five. While some engage in different gambling games, others are simply puffing cigarette and Indian hemp accompanied by intermittent sipping of hot drink; just as some others position themselves carefully at the elevated point directly under the bridge to take a nap. At any time you go there from morning till evening, you will find a good number of them sleeping, gambling or smoking, sometimes under the nose of policemen.

The gangway that enables people to access both sides of the road under that bridge is so messed up with faecal mat­ter that the air within the entire area is fouled. They defecate openly by the road side without giving a hoot. Others feel comfortable dropping their faeces inside the lagoon. As they squat to pollute the lagoon with impunity, in the full glare of passers-by, who would rather close eyes to the sore sight and scamper through, a stick of cigarette or Indian hemp with a thick smoke polluting the entire vicinity, accompanies the exercise.

There seems to exist at the place a tell-tale warning signs, which says: ‘no waiting, no loitering; just keep mov­ing.’ This is because the faces you will see under the bridge, if by omission or commission, you find yourself there, will be so scary that your heartbeat will exponentially increase. You will see clus­ters of roughnecks with tattered dresses, red gloomy eyes, and rough stony faces, plaited and dishevelled hair as well as skinny, frail figures, all drinking dry gin as well as smoking cigarette and Indian hemp indiscriminately. The stench from the human faeces and Indian hemp is choking to a point that one needs no nudging to scamper through.

On hand to ensure that their daily menu of cigarette, Indian hemp and dry gin are in constant supplies, are young ladies, who also satisfy their sexual urge at night. The ladies do not live there with them; they only go there to supply the ‘goods’ during the day and to assist them relax their nerves with sex at night.

Death at dawn

Sources close to the bridge disclosed that on the eve of Christmas 2013, a mid­dle-aged woman was allegedly attacked and killed on top of the bridge. She was killed and dumped inside her Sienna Toyota Space Wagon and abandoned on the bridge. Her handset and car key were placed on top of the car. There were insinuations that she could have been killed by assassins, who hid under the bridge and only emerged to execute the dastardly act at the most auspicious time. There was also an unconfirmed re­port that the attackers might have melted under the bridge after the heinous crime the previous night. The woman was found stone-dead the following morning.

Another businessman at Ojo Alaba International Market was also attacked at the Maza-maza end of the bridge in May when he had a flat tyre at night. Ac­cording to the man who simply identified himself as Larry, he was dispossessed of all the money on him, his handset and wristwatch. He was lucky that they didn’t attack him with any weapon. They only robbed him and left.

Commenting on what goes on around the bridge, a timbre merchant in the Maza-maza market near the bridge who preferred anonymity corroborated the report that the place is no longer safe at certain times of the day. “Well, just like others have told you, the place has gone back to what it used to be before the construction work started some four years ago. Just look at them smoking and drinking by this time of the day. After smoking and drinking, they would sleep off because probably, they didn’t sleep throughout the previous night. They will be hanging around there smoking, gam­bling and sleeping until around 7:00pm when they will all disappear. They would then strategise for the day’s job. Do you need anybody to tell you what they do at night?” he submitted.

Speaking further, he said: “I have never fallen victim but I have heard of people who were attacked. They attack and dispossess their victims of money and other valuables. They attack people who use the bridge in the early hours of the day, especially travellers. They even extend their notorious activities to the garage in Maza-maza where all those transporters pick passengers travelling to the East. Cases of travellers who lost their luggage at the park are common. Those who steal people’s bags at the park are the boys you see smoking and drinking under that bridge. They come back to enjoy their spoils during the day, when every serious-minded person should be at work.”

Investigation revealed that they disperse in the night to various notorious spots within the neighbourhood, where they terrorise innocent people. Some of them, it was gathered, move to as far as Moshalashi and Church bus-stops along the Badagry Expressway, where they at­tack unsuspecting citizens. Their victims at the bus-stops are usually workers or business people who leave their houses early in the morning or those who return late in the night.

Modus operandi

A middle-aged man who said he was once a victim volunteered some informa­tion on their mode of operations at the bus stop. He said: “Initially, they used to hide in the shrubs around these bus-stops, only to emerge and attack their victims who may have come out early in the morning or those who returned late at night. But, when people discovered their antics and devised another means of stopping before or after the bus-stops, they changed tactics. Now, what they do is to plant one person at a distance before the bus-stop while another person stations himself some distance away from the bus-stop. Others will hide in the shrubs at the bus-stop, waiting for their prey. As soon as a potential victim alights from the vehicle, before or after the bus-stop and the bus zooms off, the person standing will attack at once and dispossess the victim of his or her bag and disappears. At this point, you won’t have the courage to pursue him; you will think of how to cross over the road to save your life first. They would disappear into the thick bush that separates Festac Town from the express way. They are so conversant with the routes in the bush so much that even if a team of policemen arrive at that moment, they will not be able to trace them. That was how they attacked me.”

Raising the alarm on the imminent danger the presence of the boys under that bridge may likely pose in no distant time, an auto mechanic at the Festac side of the bridge said urgent steps to flush them away from the place was the only solution to avert the impending danger. He said: “Although, their criminal activities around the bridge are still skeletal as most of them go out for op­eration in other places, they would soon concentrate on and around the bridge, if they are not flushed out urgently. Look at what they do there; they defecate ev­erywhere under that bridge. Some even drop theirs inside the water, thereby exposing the people who live around to dangers of air pollution. They smoke cig­arette and Indian hemp, gamble, woman­ise and drink all sorts of alcoholic drinks from morning till night. It is never a dull moment for them and their number is increasing by the day. Something urgent needs to be done. We don’t want to re­lapse to what we experienced before the construction work on that road started. We know what the place used to be. We don’t want that era to come back. Those concerned should rise up to the occasion and act promptly.”




In hushed tones, and cluster of twos and threes, they discussed the latest incident; men and women, decked in various outfits ready to embark on another voyage across the lagoon from the Majidun jetty in Ikorodu all the way to C.M.S in the heart of Lagos Island. Time was 9:00 am Monday, May 19, 2014 and the mood this time was far from what it used to be. News of a boat accident at Victoria Island two days earlier where one person, a lady identified as Claire, died and eight others escaped miraculously, had sent shivers down the spines of many.

While scores elected to go by road on this day for fear of what is gradually becoming a frightening trend, the few others who kept faith with the system that sunny morning, did so with their hearts in their mouths. A handful in this category told our correspondent they were also worried about their safety travelling by this means of transportation.

“I also heard about the news of the accident, I am a little bit scared but I know that God will surely take control,” a woman who sat next to our correspondent in one of the boats headed for C.M.S, said. Several others looked extremely alert, rather than relaxed, as the boat throttled on vigorously, emitting fumes from its engine.

Today, exactly two weeks after the latest tragedy, there is still fear and apprehension in the air. Visits to jetties in other parts of the city like FESTAC, LASU-Ojo, Apapa, Liverpool, Lekki, Epe, revealed how poor traffic had become. The situation is a far cry from what it used to be. A lot of people are staying away for fear of a possible tragedy.

The accident on May 17 is the third major incident in less than three months this year on Lagos waters. Earlier in March, about 12 people died when a boat they were travelling in capsized in the FESTAC area while few weeks later in April, another nine perished in the Oworonshoki axis of the lagoon in similar circumstances. The boat, filled with workers heading home to Ikorodu after the close of the day’s business, sank after its nose hit a log of wood on its path. It took efforts of local divers and officials of the National Emergency Management Agency to rescue 22 others. For the survivors, it was a chilling experience – a close shave with death.

Bimbo Adamolekun, who lives at Oriwu in Ikorodu but works with an IT firm in Victoria Island told Saturday Punch during a conversation inside a BRT bus in the course of the week, says that he does not trust the system enough for him to patronise the local boat operators running the route.

“My colleague who lives in Ikorodu too told me about the ferry at Majidun and another one at Ebutte. But I am scared to even go there. I don’t know how to swim in case anything happens so I prefer to find my way through the traffic than to risk my life. As far as I am concerned, the water is not safe.”

There are dozens like Adamolekun who the poor state of commercial boats and the rising cases of water accidents continue to scare away from the jetties.

Daniel Peters, one of the survivors of the FESTAC boat mishap, doubts if he’ll ever have the courage to go by that means of transportation again. The experience, he says, continues to hunt him.

“I just thank God for my life, the situation was not funny. We were more than 24 on the boat and the load was just excessive. It was the last boat for the day and everyone rushed in.

“As I was in the boat, suddenly, water started entering into the boat. At first it was like a joke but before we knew what was happening, the boat capsised. That was how we all fell under the water.

“It was battle for survival. I know how to swim but other people were pressing me under water. So, I was gradually losing strength. But when it occurred to me that I was going to die if I did not act fast, I mustered energy and swam with my last strength. That was how the divers saw me and came to my rescue.

“It was a miracle and I thank God. I don’t know if I will have the confidence to travel on boat again. I am afraid because I don’t know what might happen,” he said.

The growing cases of accidents, apart from causing panic among patrons of the water transportation system in Lagos, has equally raised fresh questions on the real state of many boats operating commercially on the waterways. Our correspondent took, through several boat rides, moved round to experience first-hand, how safe it was to travel on these mini vessels. The discovery, indeed calls for urgent intervention.

At the Majidun jetty for example, most of the boats on parade were discovered to have gone past their best years. Even though some of the operators would claim they are in good condition, findings by Saturday PUNCH show that many of the vessels look old, ill maintained and are fast crumbling.

Navigational gadgets like radio transmitters, tracking devices, fire extinguishers and first aid boxes are missing in many boats plying Lagos waterways. The jetties are not also equipped to aid and monitor the operations of the boats, it was also discovered. In cases of emergency, accidents or attacks by pirates, locating a boat could be a tall order or an almost impossible task. Patrol boats are also an uncommon sight on most of the routes visited.

According to the United Kingdom’s Department of Transport (Maritime and Coastguard Agency), a standard commercial boat should have lifebuoys, life jackets, distress signals, fire extinguisher, on-board communications and alarm systems, emergency lighting (hand-held) and medical supplies as basic equipment. These items which are key elements in safety practices are missing in nearly all commercial vessels in Lagos.

A boat operated by Bell Marine in which the reporter travelled from the Majidun jetty to Lagos Island in the course of the investigation, vibrated all through the journey as though it was about to rip apart. Signs of crack and weariness were visible all over its body. The floor of the boat, dressed with splintered planks, was almost an eyesore, shifting away from positions at regular intervals throughout the journey. You would almost beg to disembark at the nearest stop if you lacked the guts.

Though, every passenger got a life jacket before hopping on the boat, many of these safety vests were in questionable conditions, Saturday Punch observed. The situation is not peculiar to Bell Marine; it is almost the same across board.

At Dominion Logistics, another licensed commercial boat operator also stationed at the Majidun jetty, vessels in different states of disrepair were seen anchored on the shore. A mechanic with the company, Feyijimi Friday, told our correspondent that only four of their boats were currently working. According to him, the high cost of purchasing and maintaining a boat, is among reasons why many of the vessels are overworked and eventually wear out.

“The boats are expensive,” he revealed. “To get a good locally built boat, you will have over N1.5m and sometimes you will have to buy the engine separately and the cheapest is N500, 000. It is not everybody that can afford this. That is why as operators, we repair and manage what we have.”

At C.M.S, another very active jetty, Jamiu Abiodun, himself a boat mechanic, told Saturday Punch that greed on the part of some operators was responsible for the terrible state of most of the commercial boats and the rising cases of accidents. According to him, rather than employ competent hands to man the boats, some owners, while trying to save cost, engage quacks who know nothing about the business.

“There are different types of boats and the prices are also different. There are foreign-built and local boats but because the foreign ones are too expensive, a lot of people go for the local ones. But the problem is that many of the operators don’t want to employ good captains who they will pay a reasonable salary.

“To get a good and experienced captain that can operate and maintain a boat well, at least that person will be paid N70, 000 monthly. But because many operators don’t want to spend money, they give the boat to people who they pay as little as N15, 000 for a month. People like this don’t know anything about operating or maintaining a boat and that is why some of them look the way they are now,” he said.

It was a similar story at the Liverpool Jetty in Apapa when our correspondent visited. Operators were helping passengers into their fragile-looking boats – many in disturbing conditions. Without this strategy, one of them told our correspondent, the vessel could fall on its side. He admitted many boats here were old and weak.

During the trip, the engine of one of the boats boarded by our correspondent stopped at intervals, coming back to life after some intervention from the man operating it. There were 11 other passengers including a kid of about 10 years in this ramshackled boat which had a bucket ready to bale out water. The boat was leaking from three sides. It is nothing strange here and so the passengers cared less in spite of the apparent danger. But, it is far from the type of boat you expect to see on the waterways of a mega city.

Most commercial boats operating on Lagos waters are built locally with substandard materials that age too quickly. Standard specifications and other safety criteria are largely not considered by the manufacturers who also fail to put weather consideration in their designs. Engine capacity, another major consideration for a commercial vessel, is not also adhered to by many of the local producers as boats are fitted with engines whose capacities are not commensurate with the type of workload they presently shoulder. Windshields, wipers, headlamps are also given less attention – many of these items are not replaced when worn out. They are among factors that contribute in making an average locally-built boat a disaster waiting to happen.

Though, the Lagos State Waterways Authority, the agency saddled with the responsibility of licensing and regulating the activities of commercial boats, says it conducts a check to ascertain the sea-worthiness of the vessels three times in a year, many of the boats seen ferrying commuters across different destinations, still lack the basic safety equipment required for the business.

When confronted with what LASWA was doing to address the rising cases of boat accidents in Lagos and why most of the vessels were in questionable conditions – far from what obtains in other civilised societies, Managing Director of the agency, Mr. Yinka Marinho, told Saturday Punch that the situation had improved a lot from the time the agency was established six years ago. He said though LASWA regulates most of the activities on major routes on the waterways, it is not totally responsible for all that happens as there are other agencies and outfits that also have oversight functions in this regard.

“Part of our responsibility is to ensure that any boat coming in to take part in transportation business within the state must first be inspected by us,” he told our correspondent. “This agency is a regulator, a regulator of anything that moves within the waterways.

“So, our first job is to have the inspection team of LASWA look at the boat, check that it has all safety gadgets that we consider essential, check the sea-worthiness of the boat and we do this three times in a year for each boat that operates on our waterways.

“But when people want to pour blame on us for all the wrong things they feel are happening on our waterways, they forget that there is the National Inland Waterways Authority that also issues licences to boaters and controls a fair portion of the channels. So, we are not completely responsible for all that happens on the waterways and also round the clock as our operations only runs from 6:00am to 6:00pm,” he revealed.

Earlier in the year, the Lagos State government outlawed night travel on its waterways. The move was part of strategies to improve safety and eliminate avoidable accidents. But sadly, boat operators and local fishermen continue to break that rule, exposing themselves and the lives of passengers to danger. The last two accidents, according to findings by Saturday Punch, happened at night, hours past the stipulated time for boats to ply the water channels.

“The Marine Police have more oversight functions towards the evenings on the waterways,” Marinho cuts in. “We are hoping to have some meetings with them where we can look at the whole issue of night travel and work out a systematic way to stop and enforce the ban on night travel.

“The waterway is a different environment at night due to visibility and the lagoon is so vast and so dark, there is so much that can happen that cannot be seen because of the darkness. Most of the accidents that have happened are at night when people are not supposed to be travelling. Everywhere in the world, it is emphasised that people should avoid night travel.”

A top official at the office of the National Inland Waterways Authority, Marina, Lagos, told Saturday Punch that the agency was also taking measures to ensure safety on water. The official, who opted to remain anonymous, said the agency was cooperating with other relevant bodies to ensure things work appropriately for the benefit of all those patronising water transportation.

At the moment, LASWA controls about 59 jetties and landings covering 13 major routes and pockets of smaller feeder channels. Dozens of privately-owned commercial boats operate on these routes apart from the ferry service run by the state government. NIWA on its own controls four jetties but at the moment, only two were found to be active by our correspondent.

Apart from the questionable state of most of the boats running transport business across the Lagos waterways, almost all the ones checked operated first party insurance policy – the type that provides meager cover only for vessel owners and not for the passengers who are largely exposed to danger and need protection the most.

“The state is working on an insurance policy on all transportation modes. In the water business, most of our operators have some sort of insurance. We are trying to standardise it to have a better cover for all boaters.

“The insurance that the state will look at is mainly for the passengers. The boat operators would be in charge of their own vessels but our major interest is to cover the passengers,” the LASWA boss said.

But in spite the current safety question hanging over water transportation in Lagos and the poor state of commercial vessels, some commuters still prefer to stick to this system. Many in this category told our correspondent that regardless of the risk, they prefer to go by boat because it is faster and less stressful.

Already, the Lagos State government has started distributing free life jackets to boat operators and local fishermen in riverine communities. On Thursday, May 8, the government gave out about 2,000 life jackets as part of moves to promote safety on water. It is the first phase of the 10, 000 life jackets earmarked for distribution across the state. But industry watchers want the administration and relevant authorities to do more by providing good and well-equipped boats to further protect passengers and boost activities in the sector.

At some jetties at Victoria Island and Ikoyi, though, vessels controlled by private and well established operators like the Metroferry Marine Services had a semblance of what a proper commercial boat should look like. The company, in its fleet, boasts eight-passenger ferries with seating capacity for 50 each, six “water taxis” with a capacity for 25 passengers, four-passenger transport vessels with seating capacity for 28. It is among a tiny few trying to change the face of water transportation in the state even though they are also miles behind when compared to what obtains elsewhere.

A visit to Bonny Island, Rivers State by our correspondent recently also exposed how far-behind commercial boats are in Lagos. The Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas company, as part of its commitment to the community, has provided well equipped and standard ferries and boats to move people from the island to mainland Port Harcourt, the state capital, at different times of the day. Passengers apart from enjoying maximum comfort while on board, were guaranteed their safety. From your seat, you could signal the captain where you wished to disembark. It is that easy and interesting. Jude Onwuleri-eki, a marine engineer based in Port Harcourt, believes this is the way a standard ferry or commercial boat system should operate. Sadly in Lagos, a city whose population swells by the hour, the situation is still a distant contrast.

In April 2012, the Lagos State government entered into a ferry manufacturing agreement with Aluminium Boats Company of Brisbane, Australia to build boats for its water transportation system. An initial batch of 60 ferries each with a 200-passenger capacity was billed to be deployed across various routes to ease the stress of road movement. Two years on, the wait still continues. Only two boats of 54-seater capacity operated by the Lagos Ferry Company currently run commercially. Last year, the Governor, Babatunde Fashola, while inspecting some facilities at Mile 2 where construction work is ongoing, assured that retrofitting work being carried out on five 80-seater aluminium ferries to be deployed for subsidised water transportation would be ready on time to further ease movement. That promise is yet to be delivered one year after. All you see instead are rickety boats ferrying passengers daily on trips that could end in tragedy. Except the situation improves drastically and safety comes before profit, much of Lagos’ over 17 million population might continue to go by road in spite of the perennial traffic debacle than turn to the waterways which promises faster arrival at destinations.

Additional report by Ademola Olonilua.

Copyright PUNCH.

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