In recent times, many Nigerians have lost their lives as a result of the incessant boat mishaps in Lagos and in other parts of the country.
These are hapless Nigerians who were probably trying to avoid traffic gridlocks, which have become common on most of the nation’s busy and bad roads.
Between 2017 and 2018 alone, thousands of Nigerians lost their lives along Nigerian inland waterways across the riverine communities of the country due to boat/canoe accidents. Within the same period, industry watchers put the figure of those who died in water accidents at 1005.
Not less than 99 persons died in six boat mishaps that occurred in Kebbi, Niger and Lagos States between April and September 2017 alone, according to survey. Two boat mishaps each were recorded on River Niger, Niger and Lagos State, within the period. 47 people were rescued, while some unspecified number of persons got missing.
The worst of the mishaps was recorded in Kebbi on September 14, 2017 when 53 persons, who were mostly traders, lost their lives on River Niger.
Just two weeks ago, no fewer than three persons were confirmed dead, five were missing while 12 were rescued after a passenger boat en route Ojo from Coconut jetty, a suburb in Lagos, capsized mid-sea.
The 20-seater passenger boat, including two boat operators, capsized when it collided with another wooden boat.
Some of the factors responsible for accidents on Nigeria’s waters are wrecks, and other waste items thrown into the waters.
Apart from these, Daily Sun learnt that human factors such as outdated live-jackets, mechanical faults, over-speeding, over-loading, piracy attacks and collision are responsible for some of the accidents. Natural occurrences like rainstorm and turbulent weather also share in the blame.
Added to the above challenges confronting water transportation in the country is the conflict between the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), which would continue to mar operations as they battle for control of the waterways.
The duo have been at loggerheads since 2008, a situation which has been causing a setback in the industry.
So many lives have been cut short due to recklessness and negligence by boat operators. The inefficiency and poor policy implementation by the government agencies mandated to monitor and create smooth sail on the waterways are sources of concern. For instance, in August 2018, a boat travelling from CMS to Ikorodu capsized, claiming five lives.
The August event came two months after a May 25 incident in which 24 passengers escaped death when two boats collided and capsized in the Ojo area of the state. The accident occurred at 7:45pm close to the Ojo Terminal.
Twelve passengers were not as lucky on August 20, 2017. They all died in another boat accident in the Ilashe area of the state. It was learnt that the boat capsized shortly after leaving an unauthorised jetty.
Similarly, a police sergeant, Mary Adesoba, attached to the Zone 2 Police Command, Onikan, Lagos, lost her life on October 10, 2017, after a boat capsized on the Third Mainland Bridge waterway.
The boat was enroute Ebute-Ero from Ikorodu around 10am when it hit a submerged object. The boat that claimed Adesoba life was conveying 21 passengers. Other passengers were rescued by the Marine Police.
The incident that could have been the most shocking was when the Managing Director of NIWA, Olorunnimbe Mamora, and other officials were on a voyage and managed to escape death by the whiskers.
It was gathered that the boat in which Mamora, who was on tour of the facilities of the authority in the Lagos area office was travelling on, hit an abandoned wreck hidden under the brown water.
While confirming the near mishap, his Personal Adviser, Mr. Emmanuel Ilori, said the wreck was an underwater wreck. He said the present management of the authority was seriously concerned about the safety and security in the nation’s waterways.
His words, “safety and security of inland waterways is the priority of the present management of NIWA. It is not only the issue of wrecks removal, we will remove wrecks and causes of wrecks and that is what we will be looking at fundamentally.
So, we are working to prevent boat mishaps on the inland waterways and to be sure that when wrecks are removed they are not dumped into another place where they will become another hazard.”
He said the authority would also survey under the water and place danger signs in areas where there are wrecks.
“What we are looking at is to survey the wrecks. It is not only wrecks that we see on the surface alone because we also have wrecks under the water. That is why we say when people remove wrecks, we want to understand how they will dispose of the wrecks and they won’t cause another hazard elsewhere.”
Speaking with Daily Sun, a Marine Engineer who spoke on condition of anonimity said it was unfortunate that in this 21 century, Nigeria was still where it is in terms of maritime development.
He said, “as a Marine Engineer, I monitor all the incidents that happen across the Nigerian inland waterways. I can tell you that more than 1005 persons lost their lives between 2017 and 2018.
If you go to any government agency that is responsible for manning waterways, they may not be able to provide you this number because in Nigeria, we don’t keep data. People are afraid of moving through the roads and now the best alternative way is becoming a deathtrap and government is not concerned about it.”
He said boat operators are just allowed to do whatever they like as there is no serious authority regulating their operations, adding that there are some quacks and inexperienced operators who just drive to make a living without knowing the rules and regulations guiding the boat business.
He stressed the need for government to establish an institution where operators will be mandated to attend boating education training to learn the rudiments of the business.
He added: “Boating laws and regulations, navigation rules, knot tying, trailering and what to do in a weather-related emergency are topics that must be included in the training.
Taking a boating education class and being alert while on the water can lower drivers’ chances of run-ins with other boats. All boaters need to know the meaning and implication of stand on and give way.”