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An excursion up and down Lagos’ lagoons throws up unseen beauty and untapped potentials of the waterways
Sometimes the most wondrous view is not seen in daylight. This is especially true if you cruise on the Lagos lagoon on a night the sky is a charcoal-black canvass that is spangled with twinkling stars. As your vessel slides on, the water’s dark surface shimmers with reflected light that sparkle like shards of broken diamonds, you would be surprised at how colourful the night can be. The experience goes up a notch if you are sailing with a company of friends and the evening agenda include dining and dancing.
That was the experience at the New Year party organised by Tarzan Marine Service (TMS) Limited for the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET) on January 13, 2018. The occasion’s sole objective was “to unwind” and the gathering of writers of tourism and culture, led by Andrew Okungbowa, was further enriched by the presence of Hon. Paul Adeboye Kalejaiye, chairman and CEO, Lagos Ferry Services.
We began the day laggardly with an excursion down the Lekki lagoon with TMS CEO, Ganiyu Tarzan Balogun in charge. As we sailed towards Badore the ‘Lagos boatman’ schooled us on the dynamics of water transportation. The djinns of the waterways are low tide and water hyacinths. He emphasized the imperative of hydrographic survey, channelization and deployment of safety buoys to prepare the waterways for safe navigation.
On and on, he dropped valuable nuggets. Do not be deceived by the seemingly endless waters around. It is not totally bottomless. In some places, the water is as shallow as one-feet and hazardous to vessels at low tide.
A few minutes later at 3:11 pm, we ran aground––grounded by shallow water. The djinn of low tide. In the middle of the expanse of water, the journalist herd was out of their elements, like a fish out of water. What are we to do now? Perhaps, we may have to step out of the boat and push it back into deep waters, someone suggested. The boatman knew what to do. He allowed the boat to bob about on the water, buoyed by waves, unto an area of appreciable depth and at 3:16 pm the outboard snarled back to life.
We went on a whirlwind tour onward to the Tarzan jetty in Badore and to Ijede where we saw an ongoing construction of a jetty by the Lagos State government.
We found the Ikorodu terminal long completed, standing action-ready. After a few minutes’ inspection, we set off for Liverpool at Apapa.
Kalejaiye’s responses to journalists’ queries gave a big picture of the ongoing efforts by the government of Lagos State. We listened with rapt attention to the LAGFERRY boss even as we soaked our senses in the panoramas unfurling along the route. We drank in the view, left and right, as we traversed the lagoon unhurried. Great views––Banana Island, Lagos Island, Egbin Power Station, Epe, Iddo Train Station––passed by.
We saw the broad undersides of the Lagos bridges––Eko, Carter and the Third Mainland bridges––their varying awns, angles, arches and span were stunning visages that epitomised man’s mastery over nature. A lot of places obscured on land were bare to the eye in new perspectives and parallax. A new-angle view of the University of Lagos campus. A quaint point of view of the palace of Oba of Lagos. Marina’s riveting spectacle, now tainted by offshore platforms and rigs. Tarkwa Bay’s detritus of rusty shipwrecks. Verdant vegetation of Snake Island. Derricks and containers backdrops at Apapa and Tin Can Island ports. All, old views in new lights.
The potential of water transportation vis-à-vis the opportunity to cut down the stress of Lagos traffic was not lost on us. An interconnection of jetties and terminals would shave off wasted hours on Lagos’ roads and save Lagosians the agony of delays in terrible traffic that clog their ways from the island to the mainland. We clocked our progress––Badore to Ijede took seven minutes; less than half an hour from Ikorodu to Mile 2, and far less from Mile 2 to the Liverpool Jetty. With such rough calculation, it was easy to arrive at fair time projections for journeys through the waterways. In 60 minutes, a barge bearing vehicles can move from Lekki down the lagoon to the Ijede jetty that connect the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. In 35 minutes, a ferry can traverse the length of Lagos from the island to Apapa, Mile 2 and onward to Ikorodu or the far-flung Badagry peninsula.
That reality is one of the pursuits of Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode who has made water transportation a top priority and is investing in the Lagos State Ferry Services (LSFC), starting with the rebranding of the agency now commonly known as LAGFERRY.
We completed the circuit with a visit to the site of the Mile 2 terminal that has been designated as the future headquarters of Lagos Ferry Services. We found the edifice already reduced to rubble. The concessionaire, we were informed, has commenced the process of construction that will transform the previously jaded structure into a sophisticated terminal.
In accordance with its status as the control and command centre of the Lagos waterways, the Mile 2 terminal is designed to harbour a mall, an ATM gallery, and a petrol station among other facilities.
The Mile 2 terminal has a historical angle. “This is where ferry corporation started in Lagos State,” Kalejaiye informed, noting that the site is in itself a “strategic location” for ferry services.
He spoke of an ongoing discussion with LAMATA to extend the walkways at the Mile 2 hub to the waterways and under the bridge in a manner that will create a network of rail, road and water transport system. For the big picture, conjure a vision of a multi-modal transport hub of ferries, trains and cars.
According to the LAGFERRY helmsman, Lagos is not spending a dime on the construction of the terminal. The concessionaire reportedly has been granted a two-year moratorium and 10-year operation license.
He wrapped up the ‘Gospel of the New Lagos Water Transport System’ with fresh revelations that the state government is expecting delivery of the first batch of ferries in the first quarter of 2018.
The ferries are to be named after water bodies and divisions of Lagos namely Ipakodo, Itesiwaju, Jubilee, Alausa and Ologe.
In the meantime, the agency is intensifying its sensitisation campaign. “At the moment we are doing a lot of safety advocacy. We are distributing free life jackets to user agencies and we monitor traffic on the waterways,” Kalejaiye said.
After the sun dropped out of sight, we moved to an expansive barge upon which a red carpet was rolled out to commence the second phase of the excursion.
A new group, a motley crew of entertainers, brought in to rev up the revelry, joined us.
The twilight seduced us with beautiful vistas around us. To our right was Lekki Phase I. To the left was Ikoyi. Behind us was Victoria Island. Ahead was the majestic Ikoyi-Lekki Bridge with its tapered head stabbing at the sky, and when the barge drifted under it, its awesome span we savoured with selfies.
The Ikoyi bank of the lagoon was dotted with ornate buildings of avant-garde architecture and eye-catching Victorian structures. There were also clusters of luxurious yachts of different models and sizes.
The rest of the evening unfurled rapidly in different whorls of mirth and merriment. The stage belonged to the performers on board and surprisingly, the women among them stole the show. The two young women, both good dancers, but more talented in other esoteric fields. The first, an artist, drew the iconic face of Fela upside down. The second, a contortionist––slim and supple like Fido Dido––twisted her body into unimaginable odd forms and positions. If it was to be an award night of sort, the night belonged to those incredible young women of talents.
I sat in my corner calm and content when abruptly, an old English nursery rhyme popped into my head:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream
The wondrous views were worth my day.
Will I do it again?
Gladly, any day.