Concerns on safety and adequate regulatory supervision may scuttle federal government’s bid to boost inland water transportation following a series of fatal boat mishaps on various waterways in the country.
The latest took place weekend in Lafiagi, Edu Local Government area of Kwara State where 12 people were confirmed by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to have lost their lives.
A statement by NIWA's spokesman, Tayo Fadile, said two persons were rescued from the capsized boat while search and rescue efforts are still going on by a combined team of NIWA, marine police, fire service and local divers.
He dismissed earlier reports that 19 persons died in the boat mishap.
On November 7, nine people lost their lives when a passenger boat heading to Ojo from Coconut jetty in Lagos was involved in a mishap. Also on July 2 this year, 20-passenger capacity boat belonging to Blue sea capsized mid-sea enroute Ikorodu from Lagos Island.
And on May 26, at least 24 passengers escaped death when two boats collided and capsized in Ojo area of Lagos State.
No fewer than 99 persons died in six boat mishaps that occurred in Kebbi, Niger and Lagos States between April and September 2017.
Fadile said that the NIWA Area Manager in charge of Niger and Kwara States, Mr. Abubakar Wathanafa, had visited the scene of the boat mishap for an assessment report.
“The Area Manager attributed the cause of the accident to failure to adhere to NIWA Safety guidelines which includes overloading of the boat, using dilapidated and old boat and failure to use life jackets by the passengers,” the statement said.
It appealed to river transport users to always adhere strictly to NIWA safety guidelines.
While commiserating with the government and people of Kwara State on the incident, the organisation said it would continue to work to ensure that such unfortunate incident was reduced to the barest minimum.
Although NIWA through its enabling law has the responsibility of regulating inland water transportation, experts are of the view that it lacks the requisite logistic capacity to monitor and enforce standards on all major waterways in the country.