The Federal Government has begun the removal of water hyacinth, a wild weed that grows in the sea from Lagos waters. The leafy water plant, which has constituted grave danger to navigation in Nigeria’s territorial waters in the last three months, has made it difficult for boat operators and other river craft users to navigate safely in the lagoons, creeks and channels.
Though the presence of the weed has become a recurrent decimal in Lagos waters, boat operators said the spread of the weed this year exceeded their expectations. Already, some boat operators and other river crafts users have been counting their losses as the weed has made it difficult for them to operate efficiently.
When THISDAY took a boat ride around Lagos waters earlier in the week, the weeds were found in clusters in Apapa, Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu, and Victoria Island near the newly renovated Federal Palace Hotel.
Some of the boat operators, who spoke with THISDAY last month, expressed dismay that the Federal Government has not done anything tangible to address the problem of water hyacinth in the country, especially in Lagos.
“The losses we have incurred are enormous. My brother, I cannot count in naira and kobo what I have lost since this water hyacinth invaded our waterways. We cannot operate the way we ought to operate. You have to stop intermittently to remove them from the propellers of the engines. Otherwise, you will be stuck in the middle of the sea if the engine fails as a result of the weeds and other debris in the waters.
“That is why we are appealing to the authorities to do something tangible to help us before it is too late. In the past, you can go up to ten trips as long as there are passengers. You cannot do that now, because you have to contend with the weeds in the waters”, a boat driver at Epe said.
THISDAY checks revealed that apart from the delay in the journey, the weed also come with water snakes and other dangerous creatures, which hide in its clusters, thereby constituting danger to life.
Managing Director of MG Vowgas Limited, the firm handling the clearing project, Mr. Godwin Izomor, dropped the hint in a chat with our correspondent in Lagos. He disclosed that the contract for the removal of the water hyacinth was signed in October 2010 but it was only a few weeks ago he was mobilised.
Izomor, who spoke to THISDAY at the kick-off of the water hyacinth removal exercise at Finger Jetty, Tin Can Island, Apapa, Lagos, disclosed that it was a four-year contract renewal yearly.
The Chief Executive Officer of MG Vowgas Limited explained that his firm has the expertise and equipment to handle the exercise in conjunction with its technical partners. He expressed dismay over the amount approved for the project, adding that for a thorough job to be done there was need to increase it. He revealed that the amount approved was a far cry from what the consultant for the project recommended.
His words: “The consultant to the project recommended $150 million for four years but the management of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) approved N240 million. This is grossly inadequate because we are expected to cover states in the federation including Lagos, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Rivers, Edo, Delta, and Cross River States.
“The entire states ought to be 80,000 hectares. This is an average of 10,000 hectares per state. However, with the volume of water hyacinth in Lagos alone, which has already affected the channels, lagoons and creeks, the completion of work in Lagos will cover the entire 80,000 hectares meant for the entire eight states in the country. Already the water hyacinth has impeded the movement of vessels in Lagos ports”.