Being a megacity and emerging smart city, it is quite obvious that efficient traffic management can best be experienced in Lagos State if the three modes of rail, road and water transportation are effectively integrated to complement one another. Commuting the over 20 million people of Lagos State largely on the road has, thus far, proven ineffective.
Aside her now famous appellation of the ‘Centre of Excellence’, Lagos State is also prominently acknowledged as the ‘State of Aquatic Splendor’. It is, however, the latter tag that appropriately captures the topography of the State. It is an open secret that Lagos, the smallest, most densely populated and most cosmopolitan State in Nigeria has about ten Lagoons, with the Lagos and Lekki Lagoons being the major ones.
The others are Yewa, Badagry, Ologe, Iyagbe, Kuramo, Apese, Epe and Mahin lagoons. The Lagos lagoon is fed by several rivers, the most important of which are the Ogun, Ona/Ibu, Oshun, Shasha and Oni. These water bodies inundate the state with so much storm water during the rainy season, leading to flash flooding and consequential damage to the surface of the road.
But then, could this be all the water bodies do to Lagos? Definitely not! They provide water for agriculture as well as domestic and industrial use. However, the major concern of this piece is the role the lagoon plays and is capable of playing in the management of traffic and transportation, which incidentally is the first pillar of the development agenda of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration.
Lagos State is littoral in topography; all her five administrative divisions are accessible through the water ways. For instance, it is possible to access Badagry, the West end of the State from Epe, the far East end by ferry boats traversing Ikorodu, Lagos and Ikeja Divisions in the process.
Before the construction of roads leading to the mainland, water transportation was the prominent means of commuting in Lagos. Imported merchandise for distribution into the hinterlands and local produce designated for Lagos onward journey overseas were conveyed on the waterways.
This activity gave prominence to three major markets, Ebute Market, Ipakodo in Ikorodu division, Ejinrin in Epe and Agbadirigi in Badagry. The water transportation was soon abandoned following roads construction and the development of communities along the road corridors.
Today, the reality is that road transportation has been overstretched. The introduction of Minibuses, Keke Marwa and Okada (Motorbikes) has mostly compounded the management of traffic across the state. In as much as these diverse means of road transportation cluster Lagos roads, the bus-stops continue to play host to stranded passengers.
Many attempts to move a chunk of the commuters on to the waterways for a cool soothing cruise in short time to their various destinations have been frustrated by the phobia for water travels. A few boat mishaps, occasioned by disrespect for rules and regulations, especially the use of rickety boats, overloading and over speeding have also not helped matters.
However, the narrative seems set for a change as state of the art commuter ferry boats some of which were named after Ipakodo, Alausa and Ejirin will soon be deployed to the waterways. With capacity for 40 to 60 passengers, the ferry boats will commute Lagos residents from Badagry, Epe, Ikorodu, Badore, Ikoyi amongst other routes.
With over thirty jetties, there is no reason why Lagos should not diversify its mode of transportation. For instance, it takes less than seven minutes to cross from Ijede in Ikorodu to Badore while from Baiyeku to Langbasa it is about fifteen minutes. The journey of about two and half hours on a good day from Ipakodo to Ikoyi takes less than thirty minutes from the Ipakodo Ferry Terminal.
A well developed and properly coordinated water transportation will also help in haulage across the State, thereby relieving the roads of heavy duty trucks which contribute in no small measure to the depression of the roads leading to their failures.
It is glaring that for Lagos to be a functional smart city there must be diversification of the mode of transportation. There must be interconnectivity of the rail, road and water transportation. The overdependence on road transportation is largely responsible for the agony being suffered when the persistent rains washed the surface of many roads in Lagos metropolis, creating potholes and craters that made traveling on the roads unpalatable.
Ponds were made of many roads making navigation very difficult, largely because drainage channels had been compromised and many a times there was rise in the lagoon and ocean bodies leading to tidal lock. Interestingly, it was mostly in communities abutting water bodies where advantage of water transportation should have been taken.
It is, therefore, important to develop more of the routes on the water ways, provide more of the modern ferry boats that comes along with aesthetics, speed, comfort and confidence in the use of the water transportation; more private sector operators should be encouraged to invest in this mode of transportation while government provide more facilities and regulations.
There is also need for media campaigns and organized tour of major waterways in the state with the aim of drawing the attention of more people to the reality of water transport and disabuse their minds of the phobia for the mode as largely spread by the older generation.
A visit to most of the functional jetties in the state to observe and listen to people who have been taking advantage of the facilities will also help. Ultimately, there is the need to also make the cost of water transportation affordable.
While we await the completion of the light rail from Mile 2 to Marina, and its extension to various other routes within the State, in order to speedily ensure the integration of the three modes of rail, water and road transportation in the state, it is imperative that we take advantage of the water bodies that nature has endowed us with to our advantage.
On the whole, the need to embrace intermodal transportation mode cannot be over-emphasized, given the complex and indispensable nature of the sector in Lagos. By the time the Lagos light rail project becomes effective and expanded, coupled with renewed efforts to improve water transportation in addition to numerous on-going roads development projects across the State, it is expected that a more robust public transportation would evolve in the State and Lagosians would be the better for it.
Ogundeji is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Alausa, Ikeja