Adeola Akinremi spent a day at the CMS/Marina and Apapa jetties, from where hundreds of passengers are ferried across the lagoon every day, concluding that they are an eyesore for a city that prides itself on excellence.
He arrived at the jetty looking strangely around him. Before he arrived there, he had covered his mouth and nose with his left hand. He paid for fare using sign language too. But he muttered a few words that suggested he was not speech-impaired. By this time, he had become distraught. He cut the figure of a frustrated man livid with anger. He started pacing the ground like someone in a panic condition.
For all this, Hakeem Ahmed says, "It's my first time at this jetty, but I'm displeased." He's allergic to bad smells. He had battled chronic asthma from childhood and feared his journey to the jetty for a ferry ride to CMS/Marina would only compound his woe.
"There is something wrong somewhere. I cannot believe this is a jetty. It is more of a cell. It's my first time of using the waterways, but I am disappointed and depressed at the sight of this Apapa jetty. It's hard for me to believe that the governor promoting the use of waterways has ever been to this place. This is not is a jetty. It is a caricature of what a jetty should be," he said.
Grimy, gloomy and creepy. Those are the words that aptly describe the famous Apapa and CMS/Marina jetties in Lagos. Passengers who commute using ferries at these jetties say they are as bad as the condition of a Nigerian prison cell.
From the entry point into the Apapa jetty within the precinct of the Flour Mills Company, it was a tough and hard path to the jetty, as heavy duty vehicles and cars struggled for the right-of-way. They were not heading for the jetty; their movements stopped right at the gate of the Flour Mills Company, where they queued on the road just gain an entry into the company. The traffic appeared the first nightmare for those using the waterways to commute to their destinations from Apapa jetty.
A few steps away from the chaos on the road, the passengers arrived into a stomach-turning stench of the environment. At least, Beatrice Johnson, a staff of one of the banks with its head office in Marina who arrived the Jetty just like Hakeem did not hide her feelings, but since she frequently use the waterways to commute, she has devised a method during her waiting time at the Jetty. "I am always with menthol sweet like Tom Tom for fresh breath and to keep my eyes away from all the dirty things around, I always have a book with me. I frequently use the ferry to cross to the other side. My job at the bank demands that I go out and my clients are mostly in Apapa, so, to avoid the traffic jam on the road I have to use the ferry whether the jetty is dirty or not."
"It's like an abandoned building where lunatics go for a hide," says Kehinde Ajewole. "No good chair, no security, no nothing."
There was nothing on auto pilot at the jetties, so, all a passenger needed to get unto the ferry was to pay a fare of N50, wait for a ferry to arrive and join the ferry to his/her destination.
After the normal waiting time, a ferry arrived. The passengers showed their fare receipts that cost N50 each and simply moved into the ferry. Inside the ferry everyone was for himself, even a first time user of the waterways. Inside the ferry, the passengers were expected to use a life jacket tie to their necks with an attached rope to be strapped around their body for safety.
But as the ferry began to move, only few passengers strapped the 'rope of life'. Others did not care much. For a journey that lasted for about 10 minutes, there was no word from the ferry managers that demonstrated safety measures.
When the ferry arrived safely at CMS/Marina jetty, all the passengers disembarked, again into another scary jetty that emitted putrid smell. The infrastructures at CMS/Marina jetty are decayed and decomposed. They appeared crumbling. The officers inside the darkened cubicles where fares were paid mustered courage to sit there, only because it was official. The environment of the Marina jetty had become a flea market for traders of many merchandise. The beggars were there too.
Kunle Adetola, an Engineer understood why ferry was not being regularly used by some professionals.
"You can lose your life here in a twinkling of an eye," he said. That was not because the ferry might sink; it was for the fear of the unknown.
"There is no protection around here. It's so dirty and dark such that one is in a hurry to get out as soon as a ferry arrives. For now, these jetties are not for those who care so much about security, cleanliness and sightseeing. It 's for those who just want to beat the traffic jam on the road, regardless of what await them at a place like this."
The officials at both Marina and Apapa Jetties were not in their official uniform, so it was difficult to identify real officers of the jetties. At Marina, a man was sighted sharing life jackets to some passengers who were on their way to Ikorodu. Just before the life jackets were handed out to the people, he had called out some handwritten numbers to identify those qualified for the life jackets. When he ended with the numbers, those who did not receive numbers or hear their names called got angry and blocked his way. They caused a temporary delay in the onward journey of the ferry to Ikorodu.
THISDAY gathered later that such arrangement is known as pre-booking, especially during the rush hour.
From Marina to Apapa, it cost N130 to be on a ferry and that was in sharp contrast to the N50 charged on the same journey from Apapa to Marina.
Though, Lagos State government claimed water transportation is an integral component of the development of the state's inter-modal transport system, the condition of Apapa and Marina Jetties leaves much to be desired.
And while it may be true that the physical environment of Lagos is well suited to accommodate water transport, especially that about 17 per ecent of its topography is composed of lagoons and waterways it was not clear what commitment the government had to improve the jetties and its waterways.
Earlier, Lagos State government had claimed its efforts to open up water transportation is yielding a huge success, but there was no verifiable data to make a proof. For instance, the state Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa, said that "ferries currently convey between 1.3 million and 1.4 million commuters monthly." That was in September this year. But, the inadequate number of ferries, the waiting time at the jetties and the less time for operating hours coupled with the rising number of cars on the road may have proved otherwise.
Opeifa highlighted fear as the major factor discouraging Lagosians from patronising the system of transport.
He said, "Government does not run ferries but we regulate their services. We conduct bi-annual checks on them. In terms of waterways, government is investing in infrastructure. Right now, people have phobia for water and we are trying to break it."
True, government doesn't run ferries in Lagos, but the state of the Jetties needs a quick overhaul. Until then, Lagos may not achieve its plan to integrate water transportation into the city's mega plan.