August 3, 2023

NIWA, NiMet sign MoU on waterways navigation safety


By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja

THE National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, and National Meteorological Agency, NiMet, have pledged synergy to enhance maritime safety and reduce the spate of boat and watercraft hazards.

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, and the Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, Prof Mansur Matazu, made the pledge when the former paid a courtesy visit to Matazu, on Wednesday, in Abuja.

The MoU, which will last for two years and could be renewed afterward, calls for the two parties to cooperate and share information to help them carry out their respective roles and responsibilities related to safe maritime and waterways navigation.

While lamenting the increasing number of boat accidents in the country, Moghalu said: “We have the information to work with. If we have information regarding weather conditions, we can advise our boat operators not to put their vessels on the water at a particular time based on the prediction from NiMet.

“It hurts us to see accidents on the waterways. In many instances, some of the incidents are avoidable, but they happen most of the time due to human error. They overload vessels despite knowing the capacity of the vessel, refusal to use life jackets, operating at the wrong hour which is operating after 6pm especially for vessels that don’t have night navigational aids.

“Sometimes, being who we are, we try to stretch our luck. We were confronted with a situation where we gave life jackets to some people but they say they don’t need it because they are fishes and they can swim very well but I tell them that even fishes die in water. When we have information, we will be guided in our actions. We are conscious of the fact that information is powerful and that is why we feel the relationship we have started will improve the efficiency of both agencies and serve the interest of Nigerians. We have also set up 13 rescue stations in 24 of our offices.

“We already know flooding will happen but we need to take measures like opening up the drains and managing the refuse. We also need to dredge the channels to open them so that the water can find comfortable routes to move around.”

On his part, speaking on the importance of the partnership, the Director General of NiMet, Prof. Mansur Matazu, said there was a need for close monitoring of activities in the waterways to prevent loss of lives and livelihood.

“We have very busy navigational activities and this is confronted with lots of extreme events that have led to loss of lives and livelihood in Kwara State. It is time for this partnership, we have eight marine weather stations being manned 24/7 and we recently established a central marine forecast office in Lagos and we will have another central office under this partnership.

“Most of the floods in the country are either flash floods or riverine bank overflow; and we don’t have to blame other countries for its operations because we have seen that the waters have been generated within this country and that shows that we need to monitor on a real time basis what happens within the water.

“I am sure the relationship will benefit beyond the water resources because we will come up with lots of environmental monitoring mechanisms early warning that we can support other sectors of the economy. Warning is important but compliance to the warnings is the most important”, he said.