January 16, 2024

Review NIWA Act, allow states control waterways, lawyer tasks NASS

Akwa Ibom waterways

File image.

A Lagos indigenous advocate and human rights activist, Yakubu Eleto ESQ, has called on the National Assembly to review the Act establishing the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to allow states control their inland waterways.

In a statement on Tuesday, Eleto said it is unfortunate that Nigerians continue to die in hundreds every month in numerous and unavoidable mishaps because of the failure of NIWA to efficiently regulate the activities of boat operators and enforce safety standards across jetties in the country.

The lawyer said despite the recent Supreme Court ruling giving NIWA exclusive control of the waterways in Nigeria, the Authority has failed woefully to be alive to its responsibility, which is as a result of a capacity problem.

According to the advocate, in the first two weeks of January 2024, three accidents have been reported in the country’s inland waterways with scores killed due to the inefficiency of NIWA.

The most recent accident occurred on January 15, 2024 when a boat carrying 100 people in Niger State capsized with number of dead casualties unknown.

Also, on January 8, 2024, 11 people died when two wooden fishing boats they were travelling in capsized in Bonny Rivers in Rivers State with five of the victims being members of the same family.

Similarly, between January 4 and 5, 2024, eight persons were confirmed dead in a boat accident that occurred in River Niger around Mmiata Anam in Anambra West Local Government Area of Anambra State.

Eleto said, “This is aside from the thousands who lost their lives in the last five years. Unfortunately, these fatalities have been attributed to overloading, careless driving, poor maintenance of boats and non-usage of life jackets – all which are failure of regulatory compliance which wasn’t enforced by NIWA.

“It is unthinkable that two weeks into 2024, scores of Nigerians have been killed due to the negligence and incompetence of NIWA. It is more troubling because we are yet to enter the rainy season. If things are not quickly arrested, the casualties in the rainy season will be worse. But God forbid.

“The current National Assembly led by Senator Godswill Akpabio and Hon Tajudeen Abbas will save thousands of Nigerians from early graves by reviewing the NIWA Act in line with the provisions on the concurrent legislative list which gives the Federal Government and State Governments shared regulatory authority over areas like the waterways.

“Reviewing the NIWA Act will be a life-safer to many Nigerians as the move will give at least 30 coastal states including Lagos authority to regulate and control their waterways to forestall avoidable deaths through strict compliance with standard operating procedures, enforcement of the use of life jackets, and recruitment of water guards to get the job done as it is done in Lagos through the Lagos State Waterways Authority.

“If it can be done in the area of tax collection where both federal and states are allowed jurisdiction, why not in the area of waterways to guarantee the safety of lives and encourage water transportation?”