The Chairman, Board of Directors of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Maj Gen India Garba (rtd), has lamented the current spate of boat mishaps with attendant loss of lives and property across the country and expressed Government’s concern. Gen Garba noted that the ugly incidents tended to happen more often in the rainy season and proposed an active collaboration between NIMASA and other relevant agencies of government including National Waterways Authority (NIWA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to checkmate the tragic incidents.
According to him, NIMASA is doing well in coming up with innovative measures to reduce boat accidents in the country. The agency has already set up maritime safety volunteers (Search and Rescue Team) who are to be deployed to jetties to assist in ensuring that safety standards are adhered to by boat operators and to also help in providing relief in times of crisis in the waterways. Gen Garba however insists that NIMASA cannot do it alone considering the vast number of rivers and waterways that boats traverse in the country hence the need for collaboration with relevant agencies of government.
In a statement issued in Abuja, the NIMASA Chairman identified overloading and improper kitting of passengers for water journeys as the main factors responsible for the various boat mishaps in the country. He disclosed that plans are underway to deploy officials and security agents to various jetties to ensure strict compliance to safety standard of boat operations in the waterways. “In most cases, it is our recklessness and refusal to stick to safety instructions that lead to these mishaps. Jetty operators must comply with safety standards; they must ensure that appropriate number of passengers are seated in a boat and that they are appropriately kitted with life jackets before embarking on journeys in the waterways”.
“It is disturbing that these tragedies keep recurring. NIMASA intends to collaborate with relevant agencies in order to reduce and checkmate these ugly incidences across the country”, he stressed, noting that President Muhammadu Buhari is quite saddened at the sequence of these catastrophic accidents that have claimed a number of lives in the recent past.
The Chairman expressed his sadness over the deaths and pray God to grant the souls of the deceased eternal rest and their family members the fortitude to bear the tragic loss while assuring Nigerians that something is being done to reduce to the barest minimum, the rate of accidents on our waterways.
In the past one week alone, boat accidents have claimed the lives of 21 passengers in Sokoto state while in Rivers state, a courageous patriot, Mr Berepele Blankson, lost his life after rescuing 13 out of 14 passengers in a boat accident. Equally horrific was the death of 9 Youth Corp members who drowned in a river in Taraba state following a boat mishap, a forth night ago.