By Stephen Ubanna
Barely one week that George Moghalu, the Anambra state-born Politician and Managing Director Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, inaugurated a task force to control and enforce waterways protocols in the south west state of Lagos,an Ikorodu-bound boat had capsised , 15 minutes, after it took off from the popular CMS ferry, terminal on Sunday, September 25, 2021.
Note that the members of the taskforce were drawn from Lagos Waterways Authority, LASWA, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MAWUN, Association of Tourist Boats and Water Transportation of Nigeria, ATBOWATON and the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA including the agency. The Ikorodu –bound boat mishap may have forced the NIWA task force personnel to go back to the drawing boat to restrategies on how to patrol the Lagos water to avoid a repeat of such mishap in the future.
The 17 -passenger boat named Temi 3 Global, boat which had capsised crusing to Ikorodu from CMS terminal, in the heart of Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre was said to have hit an underwater obstacle that broke its hull, resulting in the mishap.
Given an insider information of the steps taken by NIWA to rescue the Passengers, of the Boat mishap, Sariat Braimah, Area Manager, NIMWA, disclosed that they raised a search and rescue team , the comprising of LASWA, the National Emergency Management Authority, NEMA, the Maritime Police, fishermen and other Boat operators to the site of the incident near Adekunle water front to rescue the victims.
Many believe both for the quick intervention of NIWA, to raise an emergency team, instead of waiting for the task force personnel to take up the responsibility of searching for the Boat mishap Passengers, they would have all drowned. NIWA, had said in a Statement that 16 of the Passengers of the Temi 3 Ikorodu-bound boat were rescued but the 17th person was not lucky as he died on the way to Hospital for Treatment.
This is not the first time that a Passenger had capsised in Lagos waters. Last year, there was a similar incident involving a 19-Passenger boat that had departed Ebute Ero route, Ikorodu to CMS ferry terminal . Olufemi Oke-Osanintolu, Director General, Lagos state Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, had said that 14 Passengers were rescued, after the conclusion of the search and rescue operation at Ikpakodo ferry terminal, Ikorodu but five died.
There is no gain saying the fact that there had been other Passenger boat mishaps in different parts of the country. From Anambra, Bauchi, Benue,Cross river, Delta, Kebbi, Kwara, Ondo, Rivers to Sokoto the story is the same: Passenger Boat mishaps and loss of lives. Take for instance, in 2020, alone, over 200 lives were said to have been lost in boat mishaps in the eight states.
The 150 Passenger Boat travelling between Lokon Minna in Niger , Ibrahim Babangida, a retired army General and former military President home state and Warrah, in the north west state was said to have broken into two. Although it was reported that the ferry had carried 150 Passengers but another account has it that it carried 180 Passengers, an in indication of overload.
The Kebbi Boat accident may have made news both within and outside the country because it had claimed the lives of over 100 Passengers as only 20 were said to have been rescued .This may have informed why people described it as’’ the worst Boat accident in Nigeria waters in the recent time’’.
Informed sources told The Value News that boat accidents along the River Niger are common with overcrowding being one of the major cause, as well as collisions with tree trunks under the water. This is in addition to lack of Compliance by ferry and boat workers to operational policies, non-usage of life jackets and other life –saving appliances, night voyages obstructions on waterways violation of route usage and faulty engines.
The incessant boat accidents may have encouraged the NIWA Leadership to embark on aggressive enlightment and education of ferry operators and Passengers in the littoral states as a way to address the boat mishaps. The agency was said to have also embarked on routine maintenance and dredging of inland waterways to clear obstructions.
Determined to reduces of boats mishap in in Nigeria waters , Moghalu, the NIWA boss, had said that that the task force which had been inaugurated to Patrol Lagos waters to control and monitor the movement of Passengers to avoid violation to existing rules s and regulations, will be ‘’duplicated across its area offices across the country.
The agency has gone a step further to Launch an ’’electronic Platform’’, which is expected to take off on January 1, 2022. The Platform, NIWA, Managing Director, had said would be saddled with the responsibility of handling all registration processes for Passenger boats and creafts online.
Until Mohalu, the Chief Executive of NIWA, woke up to fully address the incessant cases of boat mishaps across the country, Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had taken up the challenge to address the problem, by going tough on the untrained and uncertified boat skippers who often ignored safety procedures and endangered the lives of their Passengers.
Working closely with LASEWA, Jamoh, had said the harmonization of Standards and Procedures for Safety in the the the country’s territorial waters ways by the two agencies, would go a long way in ‘’minising unsafe practices by operators of Non-Conventional vessels , which are not subject to international Standards but rely mainly on national regulations.
The NIMASA , Director General, had attributed the regular boat mishaps in Nigerian waters to the large number of boat skippers that are untrained and not knowledgeable enough as they do not have Certification, insisting that they ‘’they only know how to manoeurvre the boat and risk people’s lives’’.
A LASEWA, official who spoke to The Magazine on condition of anonymity disclosed that the boat mishaps in Lagos waters may have been worse both for the Collaboration with NIMASA, which had taken up the responsibility to monitor the small crafts plying the Lagos waters.
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