Femi Durojaiye

Dredging companies and operators of boat transportation have been accused of being the cause of the incessant boat mishaps on Lagos waterways with their activities.

It was alleged during a Stakeholders Meeting on “The Incessant Boat Mishaps on the Waterways in the State: Causes and Solutions” organised by the Lagos State House of Assembly.

They agreed that dredgers should be monitored and government agencies such as the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Lagos State Security Safety Commission, Lagos Ferry Services and the Ministry of Transportation needed to do more to improve safety on the waterways.

The representative of Man ‘O’ War, Mr. Oladehinde Charles set the ball rolling by accusing illegal dredgers and boat operators of not following the rules of the operation.

He emphasised that there should be awareness amongst the passengers about safety jackets and other safety measures, adding that importance should be placed on first aid box, provision of manifest, distress call and compliance with safety limits.

In his presentation, DSP Ogunbale Benjamin, who represented Marine Police, pointed out that abandoned logs and timbers sometimes lead to boat mishaps, adding that this was common in Makoko Area of the state.

“Some objects are submerged inside the water and these also cause accidents on the waterways. Weather is also a natural phenomenon that could cause boat mishaps and it could make the operators run into unseen objects.

“Also, some of the operators are incompetent because they cannot navigate properly. Overspeeding is another problem and some passengers even encourage boat captains to overspeed.

“Moreso, some boats are not seaworthy as they easily give way inside the water.

There is also a problem of inadequate safety equipment on the part of LASWA. Overloading and pollution are other problems in the sector,” he said.

Benjamin then suggested that the waterways should be cleared properly, while the operators should be properly certificated to eliminate charlatans.

He advised the usage of light by fishermen, provision of safety apparatuses, prevention of overloading and effective sand dredging on the water, adding that dredging had caused a lot of shallowness inside the water.

A representative of the Nigerian Red Cross, Mr. Godwin Johnson advised that first aid boxes should be provided for victims, while volunteer Red Cross officers should be employed to man the jetties.

A boat operator, Mr. Akeem Balogun emphasised that there were several invisible objects in the water that impede activities on the waterways.

He also revealed that logs and timbers break the boats and allow water into them, thus leading to accidents.

According to him, “Dredgers ought to put signs on their pipes to prevent accidents on the water. Most times, they would heap sand on the waterways and this leads to boat mishaps.”

A maritime consultant, Mr. John Chukwu however, came up with a radical view as he advised that there was need for maritime master plan with a map showing navigational ways.

Chukwu stressed that the map would show the route and the depth and that there should be underwater photography that could show the routes in the water.

“The map would be made public like the street maps. The waterways would open up economic activities. We need to dredge the water ways and we will have signboards on the waterways like we have on the road,” he said.

Another operator, Mr. Lateef Adio Onikoyi alleged that sentiments had always hindered the work of LASWA, which he said should be alive to their responsibilities.

Onikoyi said that it was appalling that most operators did not have the knowledge of marine operation and that most boat captains did not have operational licenses as against what was acceptable abroad.

A big player in the sector, Mr. Tarzan Balogun of Tarzan Boats also condemned the blockage of waterways by logs, adding that water hyacinth was another issue that should be tackled.

In his reaction, Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa urged the stakeholders to raise alarm each time they noticed any anomaly in the sector.

He promised that all their observations would be given speedy treatment by the House, which he said would work closely with the state Governor to protect lives and properties in the state.

The Chairman of the adhoc committee of the House, which organised the meeting and the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade told journalists that the legislature generally followed procedures.

According to him, there were different stakeholders in the marine sector and they were all invited so that they could express their views on the matter.

“The next thing is to sit down, collate the information collected so far and look at the vital suggestions and the existing laws on water transportation. We will still hold meetings with the officials of the MDAs that are concerned with water transportation on the issue,” he said.