How substandard boats, overnight trips are killing people on waterways – The Sun Nigeria

By Steve Agbota

On On July 6, 2022, at approximately 7:45 a.m., it was reported that a 20-passenger ferry carrying 17 passengers, named ‘R&N 2’, suddenly capsized due to a mechanical fault within 200 meters of the terminal and was overwhelmed immediately after leaving. the Ipakodo ferry terminal in the Ikorodu region of Lagos State. Fifteen people were rescued, three missing, while two were confirmed dead after the boat capsized.

Just three days later, another passenger boat carrying 16 people from Mile 2 in Ibeshe, Ojo, Lagos State on Friday evening capsized with all passengers on board reported missing.

A statement from Sarat Braimah, chief executive of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), on Saturday in Lagos said the boat breached inland waterway rules by departing at 7.45pm.

According to her, the tide of the water forced the boat into a stationary barge, which caused the boat to capsize.

“At approximately 7:45 p.m. on July 8, NIWA and the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) received a distress call regarding an incident on the waterways.

“A W19 passenger fiber boat carrying 16 people capsized along the Ojo area of ​​the state. The boat going from Mile 2 to Ibeshe in the Ojo axis broke the waterways rules of late travel by leaving at 7:45 p.m.

“As he was leaving, the tide of the water caused the boat to drift towards a stationary barge, which caused the boat to capsize. It is said that not all passengers on board, including children, were putting on their life jacket,” she said.

Over the years, many Nigerians have lost their lives as a result of boating accidents in the inland waterways. They were ordinary Nigerians probably trying to avoid traffic jams, which have become common on many of the country’s congested and poor roads. Boating accidents have mostly occurred in riverside communities in the 22 out of 36 states that engage in the water transport system in the country.

Frequent boating accidents on the country’s waterways have been blamed on substandard boats, overloading passengers and cargo, failure to follow safety guidelines and lack of boat maintenance, water hyacinth water, overnight travel by ferry operators, obstructions on waterways, violation of route use, faulty boat and ferry engines, non-use of life jackets and other gear rescue and refueling of the boat on the water, among others.

Blaming bad weather for accidents is like excusing human negligence. Despite campaigns by NIWA, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and other agencies to sensitize and educate ferry operators and passengers on safety, rules and regulations, some owners and Recalcitrant boat operators always flout the rules.

The act of defiance by these boat operators sent thousands of innocent people to their fore grave.

Nigeria Watch data showed that 1,607 lives were lost in 180 boating accidents between June 2006 and May 2015. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, hundreds of Nigerians lost their lives along Nigerian waterways across communities bordering the country due to boating/canoeing accidents. . During the same period, industry observers put the number of people who died in water accidents at 1,005.

As many as 99 people died in six boating accidents in Kebbi, Niger and Lagos states between April and September 2017, according to an inquest.

Several boat accidents claimed hundreds of lives between 2019 and 2020. In July 2019, 15 people died after a boat carrying 21 passengers sank, three people survived while others were missing.

In July 2020, as many as 10 passengers escaped death when their boat capsized on Lagos waterways.

Also, four died while 14 were rescued in a 20-berth passenger boat crash in Lagos. Meanwhile, in August 2020, 10 people died in another boating accident in Lagos.

In September 2020, two died and four were rescued when another boat capsized in Lagos. In August 2020, nine people died in a boat accident in Sokoto. In 2021, more than 250 people were killed as a result of boating accidents on Nigerian waters.

As boating accidents become commonplace, experts have urged the government to prosecute and jail boat owners and operators who refuse to abide by the country’s water transport laws, which they say will reduce the threatens.

Speaking to the Daily Sun, the Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Captain Tajudeen Alao said: “As a major stakeholder, I am concerned that too many accidents are happening in the country’s waterways and that too many lives have been lost.

He said, fundamentally, there are institutional requirements that the government must introduce, adding that the Inland Waters Act includes movements on inland waterways.

He said government agencies, including NIMASA, NIWA and others, must take responsibility for ensuring compliance on the country’s waterways.

“NIMASA as a security agency and administration is an institutional requirement, Marine Policing is an institutional requirement, various state agencies like LASWA are the same with Delta, Customs and Immigration. When you read all of their actions, they all have responsibility for the safety of the waterways.

“The problem with boat accidents is not the enforcement. The problem is our people: the maritime workers’ union, the community where these boats operate, load and travel, because not everything can be governmental.

“These local people need to take responsibility because for many years accidents have been happening and government agencies are enforcing them. Maybe when they lock up one or two people and give them proper publicity, people will straighten up. Even if international law does not affect local domestic law. Local law is even above international obligation.

“But if you look at our local law, Section 94 Compliance and Enforcement and Section 217 Enforcement, laws are meant to be implemented and enforced. And where people don’t listen, then you will act by prosecuting them and imprisoning them. I think it’s very important. NIWA and NIMASA have campaigned enough, but the communities where these things are happening should take responsibility,” he said.

He said the maritime workers’ union should take responsibility because the water is so sensitive that when something happens someone goes drown unlike when something happens on land.

Meanwhile, Braimah said the agency recognizes that some of the accidents are caused by using substandard boats.

To escape this scourge, she says, efforts have reached advanced stages to formulate standards and regulate the boat building industry.

She added that in the long term, thereafter, certain classes of boats will be phased out while certain classes of boats will only be able to navigate given classes of rivers and waterways.

“Discussions are underway to provide surveillance gadgets along the waterways to improve safety and security. Our staff are also deployed at the respective loading terminals to provide talk to passengers about pre-boarding safety and prevent overloading and night navigation.

“A lot can be done and is being done to remedy boating accidents: training boat operators and licensing them to equip them properly to drive professionally. This is what NIWA is already doing, especially in the southern regions of Nigeria. We are about to start the same in the northern parts. We also organize regular safety awareness campaigns in all regions of the country.

“We regularly conduct safety and compliance patrols on the waterways. Niwa has established nine search and rescue stations and will establish 3 more this year, at various locations in Lagos, Lokoja, Port Harcourt, Yauri and New Bussa etc. These stations are intended to prevent but also to respond immediately and provide timely rescue,” she added.

She suggested that the Authority also ensures that river boats are inspected for standards and compliance with safety which is seaworthiness, before these boats are registered and allowed to operate as passenger boats or even for private use.

A sailor, Samson Epkong, said that due to inefficient management and staff, many people in their productive years have been lost to boating accidents and many property lost in recent years. .

“While the precarious nature of water transport in Nigeria is not limited to inefficient management and incompetent manpower, the ignorance of boat operators and passengers in terms of Security was worse.

“Boaters rely on their overrated knowledge of the waterways to transport passengers and cargo to different destinations without proper training and certification in safety measures and navigational techniques,” he said.

He said there are quacks and inexperienced operators who just drive for a living without knowing the rules and regulations that govern boating activity.

He stressed the need for the government to establish an institution where operators will be mandated to undergo training in nautical education to learn the basics of the business.

“Boating laws and regulations, navigation rules, knots, towing and what to do in a weather-related emergency are topics that need to be included in training.

“Taking a boating course and being alert on the water can reduce the risk of collision with other boats. All boaters should know the meaning and implication of standing up and giving way,” he said.

Earnest A. Martinez