Residents of riverine areas have had to contend with their worst fears using waterway transport. The need for hygiene and sanity has always been paramount and it has become more revered with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With the pandemic that has ushered in a new season of social distancing, top hygiene, washing hands and surfaces. However, an investigation revealed that such practice was missing at some jetties in Lagos State. The pandemic no longer poses a threat to jetty users because the old life has had its full impact on our waterways.
During the pandemic lockdown last year, the Liverpool jetty in Apapa was a hive of activity, with boat operators violating the distancing regulations, use of sanitizers and disinfectants, and other requirements imposed by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA).
The boat operators have continued to violate the 60 percent capacity rule with overcrowded boats conveying passengers who could barely complain as the waterways thrived as the only viable mode of transport during the lockdown.
While the boat operators stick to the carrying capacity at the jetties where there are representatives of NIWA and LASWA, they arrange to pick up passengers along the journey, eventually overcrowding the boats before getting to the final destination.
Indiscriminate hikes in prices were also carried out by the boat operators despite having the boats overcrowded.
However, Nigeria has 36 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with a land area of 924000sqkm with an estimated population of about 200 million. The country is blessed with a coastline of about 870km and about 3000kilometer of inland waterways. Nigeria currently has six major ports (Tincan Island, Apapa, Warri, Port Harcourt, Onne and Calabar) and 10 crude oil terminals (Escarvos, Bonny, Sapele, Forcados, Tuma, Okrika, FOT, etc).
Even as the waterways facilitate commerce, promote wealth creation, poverty alleviation, and create job opportunities for youths within such regions. The subsidiary sector of the boat building industry also generates employment through active engagement of the young in the welding and fabrication process.