‘Why investment in Lagos targets promoting tourism’
The Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Folorunsho Folarin-Coker spoke with GBENGA SALAU, on efforts being made to explore the tourism potentials in the state
Why are Lagos waterways being underutilised despite their potential for huge tourism growth?
In the past, there was a cultural fear of water and little or no regulations for using the waterways. The waterways were only really used by fishermen or members of the historical clubs such as the Yacht Club and Lagos Motor Boat Club.
However in the last 10 years or more, the Lagos State Government (LASG) has put in place rules and regulations, such as the licensing of boats, insistence on the use of life jackets; a more equipped and effective marine police; the presence of organized tour boat operators such as Fiki, Tarzan, Metro ferries and Prest Cruises.
In recent times, a jet ski club has also opened up for the brave.
All in all, the waterways are buzzing with traffic of locals and tourists all heading to the numerous beaches along the Lagos coastline, such as Tarkwa Bay, Ilashe, Ikare Beach, and even the cove at Eko Atlantic City.
This is in spite of the challenges associated with the waterways such as:
Poor infrastructure – insufficient or inadequate jetties and terminals, fuel filling stations at strategic locations across the waterways; proper signage to identify landmarks and communities, danger spots etc.
Clogged channels which damage boats; seasonal obstruction and damage by water hyacinth; boat and ship wrecks which litter the waterways are all issues that pose a threat to the development of tourism and safety on our waterways.
Additional issues revolve around the lack of funding, grants, high interest rates and so on, which deter investments in the sector by tour operators.
On its part, the Lagos State Government (LASG) has done its best to enhance security and promote tourism by investing in safety and security. It has provided rescue boats for the Lagos State Emergency Management Services for rescue operations and procured gunboats for the marine police.
Would you say that Lagos State has effective policy in place to regulate activities on the waterways?
In Lagos, regulation of activities by all users on the waterways falls within the purview of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA). The agency has the powers to design and define ferry services and other water transport routes, including the issuance, regulation and control of all such licenses.
Additionally, it has the responsibility to clear and maintain waterways; and install route buoys and markings along the waterways.
The laws as they exist are adequate. Enforcement is however critical and the Authority is working hard to ensure that rules are complied with.
What specific investment has Lagos State Government put in the tourism sector?
Every investment the State makes in every sector of its economy; Infrastructure, Health, Transportation, Security, Power, etc., is an investment, which inevitably impacts on and drives tourism in Lagos State. If a road is fixed, it makes it easier for people to move around; if the police are equipped, then visitors and residents feel more safe; and so on and so on.
What has been the budget of this government in the last three years to show that Lagos is indeed prioritising tourism?
In 2014, the budget for Ministry of Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations was N386,989,278. In 2015, N845,079,306. In 2016, the budget for the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture – N2,554,064,558.
This increase is reflective of the administration’s commitment to making tourism a major source for alternative revenue generation. We have an active desire to make Lagos Africa’s next top tourist destination. We are also working with the Private Sector through PPP’s to grow the sector and boost tourism.
What are the safety measures put in place on Lagos waterways to prevent accidents?
Safety on our waterways is ensured by Lagos State Waterways Authority and the National Inland Waterways Authority. With a population of over 20 million people and growing at an annual rate of 6 per cent, the need to make use of inter-modal transportation is vital to ease the congestion on our roads. In Lagos, water transportation now accounts for moving 1.5 million passengers monthly and the State Government has been effective in organizing safety awareness campaigns for passengers and operators, ensuring that operators emphasize the use of life jackets and has occasionally distributed free life jackets.
The state has completed the dredging of the Ojo waterways leading to Lagos Island, installed lifebuoys and navigational signs for boat operators in the state and is working on the concession arrangements of more ferry terminals in order to increase efficiency and patronage. Similarly, the state government has suspended, for now, all illegal sand dredging on waterways across the state. This is to ensure that new operational modalities agreed upon by all stakeholders are arrived upon.
The Lagos State Safety Commission recently conducted a safety audit of some beaches in the state and plans have been drawn up to put safety measures in place; this will be carried out state-wide to ensure international standards are met for waterfront recreation, tourism and water transportation.
There simply cannot be any room for complacency if we really want to drive Lagos to be the top tourism destination in Africa.
So, how many MOU’s has your ministry signed so far to transform the waterways into a viable tourism hub?
The Ministry has not yet entered into any MOU’s, but we are however engaging stakeholders such as the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATAN), the National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) and other stakeholders with a view to developing tour packages along the Lagos tourism circuit that will incorporate boat tours and promote water tourism.
Badagry is a good spot for tourism development in the state, but oil has been discovered there, will that not pose a threat to exploring Badagry for tourism purpose?
The discovery of oil and its exploration will not impede tourism growth in Badagry. Badagry is a natural tourist destination. It has a rich history, numerous heritage sites and beautiful beaches. We intend to fully harness and preserve (where necessary) the sites as holiday destinations. Oil exploration will, in fact, help boost Badagry‘s tourism. I imagine that the oil companies will help improve the infrastructure in the area and through their various Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) projects will also assist the State in meeting some of its goals in tourism infrastructure development, health and education.