Boat mishap: NIWA to deregister indicted operators

Every now and then, there have been media reports of boat mishaps, especially on inland waterways, with attendant loss of passengers’ lives.

The latest of these tragic incidents happened on December 23, 2021, when a commercial boat that left Liverpool in Lagos capsized at Imoba near Ajido on Badagry waterways, after it developed a mechanical problem. Three passengers drowned, while 17 were rescued by the Marine Police.

According to statistics from relevant authorities, eight boat mishaps occurred between 2020 and 2021 in Lagos. On July 4, 2020, a boat enroute Ikorodu capsized, leaving five people dead.

Two days after, on July 6, 2020, another one, in which seven passengers drowned, happened in Ipakodo. Soon after the Ipakodo accident, 12 persons lost their lives in yet another boat mishap at Kirikiri, Lagos.

On July 29, 2020, the Lagos State Waterways Authority, LASWA, announced that an open boat carrying 19 passengers enroute Badagry capsized at about 6.00pm resulting in the death of 16 persons through drowning.

As if July 2020 was a jinxed month, dozens of passengers also lost their lives when their overcrowded boat capsized in central Benue State. On August 31, 2020, another one happened in Makoko, Lagos, claiming two lives.

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The marine boat tragedies continued the following year. On July 28, 2021, 10 persons perished, while four others went missing when a passenger boat capsized in Kirikiri while heading to Badagry, Lagos. According to LASWA, most of the passengers had no life jackets.

Before the Yuletide boat accident of December 23, 2021, a 17-passenger boat, ‘TEMI 3 Global’, which departed CMS Ferry Terminal enroute Ikorodu was involved in an accident on September 27, 2021, resulting in the death of a passenger, while 16 persons were rescued.

Frequent boat accidents on our waterways have been blamed on over-loading, disregard for safety guidelines and lack of boat maintenance. Blaming bad weather for the accidents amounts to excusing human carelessness.

One of the advantages of having a multi-modal system of transportation is to avoid excessive pressure on one particular means of transportation. Impassable roads and unending traffic gridlocks – which force commuters to patronise the notoriously reckless commercial motorcyclists popularly called ‘okada’ – can be said to be responsible for the increasing resort by commuters to travel by boats, including patronising operators of even rickety ones that are not seaworthy.

Government, its agencies and even road users must work hard to ensure that the roads are good and passable. Water and water transportation ought to be visible assets of states like Lagos.

The Lagos State government, therefore, must take steps to overhaul LASWA to enable the agency to effectively enforce safety standards and perform its regulatory roles – all geared towards making the state waterways safer for public transportation.

Government and private bodies with pre-requisite financial wherewithal also need to invest in the business to put rickety boat operators out of business.

Otherwise, frequent boat accidents, both in Lagos and other parts of the country, may rubbish government’s effort to encourage water transportation.

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