By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Chairman, Board of Directors of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Maj-Gen India Garba (rtd), has expressed concern over the current spate of boat mishaps with attendant loss of lives and property across the country.
Garba said in a statement yesterday that the ugly incidence tended to happen more often in the rainy season and proposed an active collaboration between NIMASA and other relevant agencies of government including National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to checkmate the tragic incidence.
According to him, NIMASA was coming up with innovative measures to reduce boats accidents in the country.
“The agency has already set up maritime safety volunteers (search and rescue team), who are to be deployed to jetties to assist in ensuring that safety standards are adhered to by boat operators and to also help in providing relief in times of crisis in the waterways & quote, he said.
Garba however insisted that in spite of this intervention, NIMASA could not do it alone, considering the vast number of rivers and waterways that boats traverse in this country, hence the need for collaboration with relevant agencies of government.
The NIMASA Chairman identified overloading and improper kitting of passengers for water journeys as the main factors responsible for the various boat mishaps in the country. He disclosed that plans were underway to deploy officials and security agents to various jetties to ensure strict compliance to safety standard of boat operations in our waterways.
“In most cases, it is our recklessness and refusal to stick to safety instructions that lead to these mishaps. Jetty operators must comply with safety standards; they must ensure that appropriate number of passengers, are seated in a boat and that they are appropriately kitted with life jackets before embarking on journeys in the waterways.
“It is disturbing that these tragedies keep recurring; NIMASA intends to collaborate with relevant agencies in order to reduce and checkmate these ugly incidences across the country,” he stressed, noting that President Muhammadu Buhari was quite saddened at the sequence of these catastrophic accidents that have claimed a number of lives in the recent past.
He lamented: In the past one week alone, boat accidents have claimed the lives of 21 passengers in Sokoto State while in Rivers State, a courageous patriot, Mr. Berepele Blankson, lost his life after rescuing 13 out of 14 passengers in a boat accident.
Equally horrific was the death of nine Youth Corp members who drowned in a river in Taraba State following boat mishap, few days ago. Garba expressed sadness over the deaths and prayed God to grant the souls of the deceased eternal rest and their family members the fortitude to bear the tragic loss. He assured Nigerians that something was being done to reduce to the barest minimum, the rate of accidents on our waterways.