The Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, has attributed boat mishaps to violation of safety regulations by operators.
Moghalu said it has been observed that most of the accidents on the waterways occurred because the operators chose to sail at a time they are banned from doing so.
He said that boat operators are banned from sailing from unapproved jetties as well as in the night.
Moghalu who spoke to newsmen at a media parley in Lagos weekend disclosed that boat operators are banned from sailing between 7pm and before 6 am, adding that some of the accidents on the waterways occurred in the night.
Besides, he disclosed that investigation showed that those who lost their lives during such accidents were those who had no life jackets.
He also disclosed that in the Nasarawa boat mishap, all the 15 passengers that were rescued had life jackets as against those who lost their lives.
According to him, abuse of the law by boat operators was despite every effort in educating them against sailing at odd hours and without enough life jackets.
The NIWA MD said his agency had trained as much as 450 boat operators on the issue of safety regulations and the danger involved in flouting such regulations.
He said, “Since I became MD, we have distributed life jackets to area offices constantly. We have a Task Force across the country that monitors jetties and waterways but it is sad to know , check the records, 90-95 percent of the accidents that happen on the waterway are either in the night or early in the morning.
“The reason is that the vessels they are using have no light or navigational aids. We have done everything to stop it. We have banned vessels moving from any jetty in Nigeria once it is 7pm and you cannot take-off unless it is 6am in the morning. But people will now take boats and put them on a shoreline, any bank, and sail, at times they don’t carry life jackets. At times, they wear expired life jackets. We keep on carrying out sensitization programme, we keep educating them, we have trained 450 boat operators. We are licensing them, we keep retraining them… We see that they renew their licences , just like you renew your vehicles licences. We insist on that. Today, electronically you can register boats. Boats have licence plates now on them because we want to control it. We tell boat operators , we beg them, educate them.. There are jetties that are shut down, not secured and we don’t want passengers to go from there. The last accident that happened in Nasarawa, it was in the night, the boat did not take off from a jetty, they went and took the water line. One, you have water line, that is where they took off from. A good number of them were not wearing life jackets. In fact the 15 that were rescued have life jackets on them. Those ones that had no life jackets lost their lives. What are you doing in the night when you are using a boat that has no life jacket or navigational aid. So, these are some of the challenges we have. We talk to our people that every life is important. We are doing sensitization on radio, TV, we beg people to operate at the right time”.
He also disclosed that Churches, mosques and traditional rulers have been approached to assist in educating people on safety regulations for boat operators and passengers.
On the issues of security on the waterways, he said that the Authority has been partnering with the Nigerian Navy, Police, Army and other security agencies to ensure safety on the waterways.
He disclosed that everyone has been concerned on the need to ensure that the nation’s waterways were safe.
He commended the various security agencies for being part of the efforts to ensure that the security template was such that people will use the waterways just like they use the roads.
Moghalu added that his agency has been doing its best to clear water hyacinth on the waterways.
He said, “Water hyacinth is not a constant thing, It comes and I was made to understand that it comes from Benin Republic. It travels, because by the time you clear it this year, next year, the same place you cleared it , you will see water hyacinth growing, come down. So, it is something we are doing on a constant basis. We see it as part of our responsibility but like I said before we don’t have all the resources to clear all the water hyacinth in the country in one budget year. So as it comes, we clear, it is like wreckages ”.