While the negligence on the part of the Nigerian government and greed on the side of boat operators could be attributed as the reason for increased incidents of boat capsize, one can draw wisdom from Samuel Lover’s apt saying on safety and take strategic steps when boarding passenger vessels in the country.
In the last two weeks several incidents of boat capsizes have been recorded across Nigeria with the most traumatic recorded in Sokoto where 21 people died in the accident.
The vessel carrying 50 passengers overturned in strong currents in a river in the Gandi district of Sokoto state around 10:00am Suleiman Karim of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) told newsmen.
At such a time when the nation is indicating interests in ensuring the utilization of the waterways as an avenue to decongest the roads, it has become unfortunate that the waterways have become death traps for passengers.
Speaking to MMS Plus on this menace, the Chairman, United Waterways Passengers Association, Mr. Pius Aguda expressed remorse at the increased incidents even as he called on the Federal Government to enlighten boat operators and other stakeholders on the basic standards in the practice.
“Overloading passengers is a major problem that has to be addressed. This is one of the major challenges as a result of greedy commercial boats operators. In their quest to get more money from the passengers, they end up endangering lives of the passengers” Aguda said.
He added that the quality of life-jacket and the usage has also become an issue that requires urgent attention as he lamented that hefty individuals shouldn’t wear undersized life-jackets.
“Provision of a life jacket to the passengers would only help if the jackets are shared based on the individual’s weight. For instance, it is never possible for a man that weighs up to a 100kg to survive when wearing a life jacket that can only withstand the weight of 60kg. In this case such a person would drown while some will survive if their jackets is in the same match with their weight but not all boat operators are enlightened on this issue so they buy life-jackets of similar sizes usually small sizes” he said.
As the country’s maritime and boat industry continues on the part of growth, the industry is long due for a classy maintenance repair and overhaul facility to serve the domestic and regional maintenance requirements of the maritime industry and provide support for the cargoes and boats in their effort to provide safe trip service to the passengers making of the water means of transportation.
The class of boats used on the waterways should be topnotch and durable to withstand the rigors of turbulent waters.
As part of efforts to correct this unfortunate trend of boat mishaps, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has issued basic operational standards for the business of ferry services. These standards include; all commercial boats must have 2 nos. engines and a functional speedometer, double hull and bottom design, fitted with appropriate navigational aids including GPS and Echo sounder system, appropriate and adequate cabin lighting system.
NIWA also insists that passenger vessels are fitted with adequate safety accessories including; fire extinguisher, paddle, life boys, shore to sea communication gadgets, provision of pyrotechnics and hand flare, functional key starter, horns and alarm system.