…NIWA vows to deregister indicted operators, over Boat Mishaps***
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Sunday, urged Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to sack the management of Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) and totally overhaul it, over soaring, recent boat mishaps, which is seemingly becoming daily occurrence on Lagos water paths.
The party in a statement by Taofik Gani, the PDP Spokesperson in Lagos State, the party also asked the governor to declare Lagos waterways unsafe for public transportation, following the death of another 14 persons in Badagry waters, as a result of the collapse of the Lagos Badagry express road.
According to the PDP, more 50 people have been killed in several boat mishaps on Lagos waterways in the last 30 days.
While condoling with the victims of the boat mishaps, the PDP demanded adequate compensation from the state for their families.
“We demand the sack of the LASWA general manager, the overhaul of the agency, compensation for victims, prosecution of erring officials and operators.
“Facts now reveal that over 50 lives have actually been lost, with the last 17 victims being in the last 10 days.
“Therefore, with the increase in deaths on the Lagos waterways, a responsible government ought to have overhauled the management of the LASWA,” the PDP said.
In a related development, a Lagos Lawmaker, Mr David Setonji, has raised alarm over the drowning of 14 persons en route to the coastal city last Wednesday following the total collapse of Lagos-Badagry express road.
At least, 10 persons were confirmed dead, even as four others remained missing after the boat en route Badagry capsized at Kirikiri, Lagos on Wednesday.
Setonji, member representing Badagry Constituency II in Lagos House of Assembly, remarked on Saturday that total collapse of Badagry road forced the victims to undertake the ill-fated journey on waterways.
The Lagos State Government is responsible for the Iganmu – Okokomaiko section of the highway while FERMA is in charge of handling Okokomaiko – Agbara axis of the road. Both have arguably failed to perform.
Also, the federal government in 2018 awarded the reconstruction of 46km Agbara – Seme section of Badagry expressway to CGC Nigeria Limited which had abandoned the project.
“I am devastated by the pictures of the victims of the boat mishap that happened between Lagos and Badagry.
“Our people are looking for alternative means of transportation due to the total collapse and neglect of the Badagry expressway.
“We have made repeated calls for completion of work on this very important access road to Badagry.
“We have suffered greatly and are still suffering. Governance should be about welfare and safety of the people.
”I am pleading and begging government to urgently intervene to make the road safer for people,” said Setonji, Chairman, House Committee on Home Affairs.
A body being recovered from the water after the Wednesday’s boat mishap
According to him, it is like Badagry is cut off from Lagos State.
“The road is in shambles and total mess at the moment, that is why our people resorted to water transport most times,” he added.
The Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) said that an open boat carrying 19 passengers capsized at about 6.00 p.m. while en route to Badagry on Wednesday.
“A survivor’s account states that the boat captain got distracted trying to collect fares from a passenger and the boat was overturned by the current and most passengers were yet to put on their life jackets properly.
“Rescue effort was immediate as the boat was just a few meters from the landing in which they left but only five people were rescued.
“A total of 19 persons were involved in the incident, five were rescued with 10 persons confirmed dead and four still unaccounted for including the boat’s deckhand.
“LASWA has apprehended the boat captain and has handed him over to the marine police for further investigations and sanctions,” General Manager of LASWA, Mr Oluwadamilola Emmanuel had said.
Emmanuel had said that the emergency and regulatory authorities were still on a search and rescue operation, saying that the authority had stepped up its enforcement of rules and regulations on ferry operators.
In the meantime, the Lagos Area Office of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) warned boat operators on Sunday that it would henceforth, deregister and withdraw operational licences of indicted operators.
The warning follows what NIWA described as the disturbing and worrisome boat accidents on Lagos Waterways in recent times.
The Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Mrs Sarat Braimah, said in a statement that the company would also prosecute indicted operators.
She said the regulatory agency would no longer fold its arms and watch deviant operators doing things that would result to loss of lives.
“We have tried to provide the needed enabling environment for the operators, including training programmes to expose them to operational standards yet some have chosen the path of desperation and dangerous behaviours, leading to loss of lives and property.”
Braimah said that the company had run out of patience with recalcitrant operators, noting that no operator would go unpunished for committing any indiscretion.
She disclosed that pre-boarding formalities targeted at passengers’ awareness would now form part of the enforcement regime to help stabilize and encourage first timers.
“Those afraid of water transportation will adhere to safety measures, particularly during turbulence on the waterways.
“Time has also come for passengers to take responsibility, listen and obey boat crew when emergencies or turbulence occur.
“Sadly, some passengers go into a frenzy and panic mood, triggering a fearful alarm and causing bedlam leading to avoidable deaths,” she said.
According to the manager, detailed takeoff protocols, pre-boarding checks and physical inspection of the use of life jackets are to be introduced.
She said also that unscheduled and random checks of boats to ascertain their seaworthiness will be part of the new safety measures.
“The new dawn will be implemented to the letter with passengers addressed in English, Pidgin English and the three major dialects – Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa before takeoff.
“We are going to step up our awareness programme for stakeholders in this month of August and beyond. We are determined to arrest this situation and hereby enjoin all hands to be on the deck,” Braimah said.