The Lagos State Government has created a body known as the Lagos Water Guards Corps, the equivalent of Coast Guard in other parts of the world, to ensure the safety of lives on its waterways.
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola disclosed this on Thursday while distributing life jackets in Ebute-Ojo Jetty located in Ojo Local Government area of the state.
The Governor also ordered the compulsory use of life jackets by boat passengers.
Fashola said the state government took up the responsibility of setting up the Corps and providing the life jackets to avert loss of lives in the event of accident on its waterways.
He said: “We have come here to flag- off compulsory use of life vests on our waterways. Ordinarily this should have been the responsibility of our boat operators to procure and provide this as part of their services but because we understand that many of them are small businesses struggling for survival, government has again taken the lead to provide these life vests free. We will do so gradually across all the water points of Lagos.
“I like to appeal to all passengers, whether on locally made canoes, motorboats or the more sophisticated ferries that now ply our waterways, must insist that the boat operators must provide them life jackets because we are going to issue those life vests and all the operators must also insist that every passenger on their boat must wear that life vest or disembark the passenger. This is all about safety.”
He assured that the life jackets and officers of Lagos Water Guards Corps will ensure safety of the passengers.
“We will continue to do our best to make our waterways safe. We have started the dredging. We have completed the dredging of this place up to Lagos Island and we have installed lifebuoys which are the navigational signs of boat operators.
“I have just been briefed this morning that one of the lifebuoys has been stolen. If government provides facilities to aid and assist our lives and safety and some unscrupulous people remove it; that means community leaders owe us responsibility to be vigilant. Those who do that are saboteurs and must be exposed,” Fashola said.
The governor also said that about 1.6 million people currently ply the state waterways monthly.
“Very soon we will complete the concessioning of other water terminals in the state and we expect to see increased passengers using the Lagos waterways,” he stated.
Earlier, the state Commissioner for Transportation, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, said the provision of the 2,000 life jackets was the first phase of the 10, 000 life jackets earmarked for distribution.
He said the state government in addition has continued to carry out massive awareness campaign on water transportation safety in the state.
The Lagos State Government is at loggerheads with the Federal Government over the creation of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) which is the state’s equivalent of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on March 23 this year declared LASWA illegal affirming the powers of the federal government over control of the waterways nationwide.
Justice Saliu Saidu, in his ruling, ordered that NIWA, by virtue of its enabling Act has a clear mandate to manage the nation’s vast inland waterways, exclusively.
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