Ferry travel offers escape from notorious Lagos traffic

Updated 22 December 2012

Ferry travel offers escape from notorious Lagos traffic

It may not seem like an especially tough choice: Spend six hours a day in choking road traffic getting to and from work, or take a ferry, skip the gridlock and cut the commute to 40 minutes, roundtrip?
Traveling by road in Nigeria’s sprawling economic capital of Lagos, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest city, can be torturous, with “go-slows” (local slang for traffic) often turning a two-kilometer journey into an hour-long slog.
The lagoon that connects the densely populated mainland to the city’s islands where many work offers an alternative travel option, but for some, ferries are too costly, unreliable and dangerous.
The Lagos state government is trying to change that through measures designed to boost the number of passenger boats in operation while reducing the vehicles on the mega-city’s congested routes.
There are signs the strategy is working.
“It will save me fuel, it will save me time and it will save me other stress,” said Everest Agharesa while seated on a boat at the mainland jetty of Apapa, a lifejacket slipped over his suit.
As the real estate agent scrolled through e-mails on his Blackberry, he said he had just left a meeting and needed to get back to his office on Lagos Island, the city’s historic business hub.
Traveling between the mainland and the islands typically involves battling gridlock on one of the city’s notorious bridges, including The Third Mainland Bridge, which, at 10 kilometers (six miles), is Africa’s longest.
It has become a key artery for Lagosians since opening in 1991, but the population was much smaller then.
Now the city’s road network can hardly cope with its 15 million people, forcing officials to consider a range of solutions including new roads, a light rail network and an expanded ferry service.
Yinka Marinho, who left his job in the oil sector to head the Lagos State Water Authority, said ferry travel is becoming ever more popular.
“When I came two years ago, only 200,000 or 300,000 people were taking the boat every month. Today, we estimate that at least 1.3 million” are using ferries, he said.
Companies looking to enter the sector face a number of obstacles, notably including a lack of properly constructed jetties.
“We are trying to make the waterways more attractive to operators,” Marinho said.
Another issue is that the city does not yet have a comprehensive, reliable ferry service.
Currently, the sector consists of roughly 70 boats, individually owned by small businessmen in an informal set-up that is unpredictable and raises security concerns.
Among those who said he felt uneasy about water travel was Ezekiel Adewole, who works at a bank and complained about the cost, which increases at night.
He said he pays 600 naira (three euros, $ 3.95) in the morning and up to 800 naira after sundown.

Prices vary — and, in typically Nigerian fashion, are often negotiable — but many said the ferries were generally more expensive than minibuses, thousands of which snake through Lagos each day, often overloaded with passengers.
Seated on a boat at the Oniru jetty, Adewole confessed that although he did not feel safe when traveling by water, avoiding road traffic was extremely appealing.
Furthermore, security was out of his control, he said: “We put everything in the hands of God.”
Youssouf, a 42-year-old consultant who did not want to give his family name, said he hardly saw his children during the week because of his 40-kilometer (25-mile) commute from the mainland neighborhood of Ikorodu to Victoria Island.
“Before, with my personal car, I used to leave at 4:30 am, and at night I was arriving at 11:00 pm,” he said.
His commute has been shaved to 40 minutes roundtrip thanks to the ferry.
“Now I can play with my children in the morning and even at night,” he said. “I can live a normal life!“

Call to ban foreign cooks in Malaysia elicits mixed reactions

Updated 25 June 2018

Call to ban foreign cooks in Malaysia elicits mixed reactions

  • The government has rowed back from Human Resource Minister M. Kulasegaran’s call saying it was “merely a suggestion,” and it will “consult various stakeholders.”
  • Some 250,000 foreign workers are employed in service industries in Malaysia, including restaurants, hawker stalls and cafes.

KUALA LUMPUR: There are mixed reactions from restaurant and food stall owners across Malaysia to a call by Human Resource Minister M. Kulasegaran to ban foreign cooks by Jan. 1, 2019.

The government has since changed its tone, on Saturday saying the call was “merely a suggestion,” and it will “consult various stakeholders.”

Some 250,000 foreign workers are employed in service industries in Malaysia, including restaurants, hawker stalls and cafes.

Kulasegaran’s call came amid government attempts to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country.

Adrian Pereira, director of the North South Initiative, a non-profit that promotes the rights of migrant workers in Malaysia, wants the government to engage with all stakeholders to ensure rights-based approaches that are backed by market data.

“We mustn’t forget that there’s a huge informal sector that also hires migrants as cooks,” he said.

“We can’t assign nationality to the work. Once we go down this road, in future work will also discriminate against color, religion etc.”

Suhaila owns a food stall that serves local Malay dishes. She hires only Indonesian cooks, who have been working for her family’s stall for more than a decade.

“They already know how to cook the local dishes, and the food tastes good. There’s no difference,” Suhaila told Arab News, adding that she does not mind employing Malaysians as waiters, but not the cooks as they are her “main source of income.”

She disagrees with Kulasegaran’s call, saying not all local cooks can cook local dishes. She said she once hired a local cook, but the dishes were not as tasty as those made by her Indonesian cooks.

Hamid Khalid, owner of the restaurant Nasi Kandar Arraaziq, agrees with a ban, telling Arab News that he does not hire foreign cooks because customers prefer to eat food made by Malaysians.

But Khalid, whose waiters are mostly foreign, complimented foreign workers for their hard work and low labor cost.

Alex Lee owns the Smokehouse Restaurant, which serves mainly British food. He employs mostly Malaysian cooks, and one foreigner who works as a sous chef.

“From a protectionist and job-security point of view, I think it (a ban) is idiotic,” Lee told Arab News, adding that most food business owners constantly face a shortage of workers.

It is the responsibility of restaurant owners, not the government, to preserve local food’s authenticity, said Lee, cautioning the government against “short-sighted, faux-populist” policies.