By Bose Adelaja
The National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, on Monday, disclosed that seven years jail term awaits boat operators, jetty owners and passengers who flout inland waterways rules across the country, particularly in Lagos State.
NIWA Lagos Area Manager, Engineer Sarat Braimah, disclosed this during its community-to-community waterways transportation awareness campaign on safety procedures to some riverine areas in the state.
The riverine communities visited were Sagbo Koji in Amuwo-Odofin, Irede Onigbanko in Oriade and Ibeshe in Ojo Local Government, all in Lagos State, where the Area Manager spelt out safety rules to the communities representatives, traditional leaders and residents.
NIWA in the cause of the campaign, confiscated some substandard life jackets at Sagbo Koji, a riverine community in Amuwo-Odofin area of Lagos State.
The Area Manager equally distributed standard life jackets to residents during the campaign.
According to her, the Federal Ministry of Justice has gazetted the Transport Code, which will be enforced once passed into law.
The campaign was geared towards an inclusive response to stem the tide of mishaps on waterways.
She urged boat users to abide by the waterways rules which require them to avoid use of substandard life jackets, closing beyond 7pm, use of unregistered boats and passenger manifest violation among others.
She said: “There are rules and regulations guiding the use of waterways which we would like to intimate you with.
“We are aware that there are natural laws that cannot be controlled but let us look at some human errors and ways to minimise them on our waterways.
“The Federal Ministry of Justice has gazetted the Transport Code which stipulates seven years imprisonment for anybody who violates waterways rules. I will not want you to see us as enemies by the time this takes off,” she said.
Engineer Sarat said pending the passing of the Transport Code into law, NIWA will visit various jetties on its waterways to clamp down on substandard life jackets and enforce safety rules across the jetties.
“We have done sensitisation across the jetties, but this did not work and that is why we decided to meet stakeholders one-on-one before enforcement of safety rules begins in August.
“Our enforcement team will be at various jetties to enforce the safety rules in order to minimise human errors on our waterways,” she added.
At Ibeshe, the traditional ruler, Oba Dauzu Razak expressed readiness to partner with NIWA to enforce the safety rules saying one of his residents who just returned from the holy pilgrimage to Mecca lost six of her children in the recent boat mishap which occurred on Mile 2-Ibeshe water channel in Ojo Local Government area of Lagos, before the Sallah celebration.
“We will go back home, call our people and talk to them in the language they understand because we are unhappy about the recent boat mishap which claimed 19 lives in our community,” said the monarch.
Similarly, the Baale Anthony Avime of Sagbon Koji, Baale Houeto Bernard of Whla Koji and Sohome Beviemi of Bishop Koji explained some of the challenges hampering the enforcement of waterways safety rules in their communities.
In the absence of the traditional ruler of Irede, an Imam with the community, Kareem Isah also enumerated some challenges facing stakeholders in terms of the enforcement.
The Area Manager, who noted the challenges, urged the communities to do away with the avoidable ones and join the Authority to enforce the safety rules in order to minimise loss of lives on the waterways.
Recall that about 17 bodies were recovered on Mile 2 water channels after a fibre boat capsized on the eve of Sallah celebration.