For several years, residents of riverine areas have had to contend with their worst fears using waterway transport. The need for hygiene and sanity has always been paramount and it has become more sacrosanct with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With the pandemic ushering in a new season of social distancing, top hygiene, washing hands and surfaces, MMS Plus observed that such practice was missing at some jetties in Lagos State.
During the just concluded one month lockdown to curb the spread of the pandemic, the Liverpool jetty in Apapa was a beehive of actives with boat operators violating the distancing regulations, use of sanitizers and disinfectants, among others stipulated by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA).
The boat operators have continued to violate the 60 percent capacity rule with overcrowded boats conveying passengers who could barely complain as the waterways thrived as the only viable mode of transport during the lockdown.
While the boat operators stick to the carrying capacity at the jetties where there are representatives of NIWA and LASWA, they arranged to pick passengers along the journey, eventually overcrowding the boats before getting to the final destination.
Indiscriminate hike in prices where also carried out by the boat operators despite having the boats overcrowded.
When briefed about these challenges last week, the General Manger, NIWA Lagos Area Office, Mrs. Sarat Braimah noted that NIWA officials has begun investigations into Liverpool, Ojo and other areas with high level of non-compliance.
“Our officials started inspections at these locations on Friday and this would last for a minimum of one week. We want to see what they are doing to ascertain if they are following our guidelines. NIWA officials are going to be there through out next week. We want compliance to the use of disinfectants and distancing. Please, let’s get first hand information before we can react,” Sarat told MMS Plus.
According to NIWA, the boat operators have been told to convey half of their usual passengers capacity, meaning if a boat is supposed to convey 20 passengers, 10 should be carried now to give room for social distancing just like vehicles are not allowed to carry full capacity.
The reverse as been the case on the Lagos waterways with boats operators loading in full capacity coupled with reckless driving of boats by the drivers.
These atrocities on the waterways, endanger the lives of passengers exposing them to dangers of boat capsizes and the most dreaded COVID-19 virus.
Since people can contact and spread the virus for days before they actually develop the symptoms, it would be catastrophic if the nonchalance at the waterways is allowed to continue.