Expressing concern over the recurring incidents of boat mishaps in the country, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), yesterday announced the introduction of a new water transport code.
The move according to the Authority was apt following the recent boat mishap that claimed over 19 lives along the Ojo area of Lagos.
The Area Manager, NIWA, Mrs. Sarat Braimah, who spoke at a sensitisation exercise for three communities, stated that the water transport code gazetted last month would be strictly enforced in all the riverine communities across the country.
“By next week, NIWA will do a thorough enforcement in all the jetties in the country. All the fake and substandard life jackets will be seized and burnt so that we will know that we have eradicated this menace completely to start a new life with these communities,” she said.
She also said due to efforts to curb the menace of boat accidents and consequent loss of lives, the Authority had gotten a new law to mete out 7-year imprisonment to owners of jetties where boat operators violate regulations.
Braimah said the new legislation was part of government’s effort to curb the incessant loss of lives occasioned by non-compliance to waterway regulations.“The Ministry of Justice has gazetted a new waterway regulation which stipulates seven years imprisonment for community leaders who operate jetties as well as private operators where boats are overloaded.
The same penalty goes for operators and passengers who fail to use life-jackets and other non-compliance to waterway regulations,” the NIWA Area Manager said.
She directed the seizure of substandard life-jackets found at retail stores around the communities even as she described substandard life-jackets to be as deadly as fake drugs.
While donating authentic life-jackets to the communities, the NIWA boss also seized the opportunity to differentiate between fake or substandard life-jackets and standard ones.
Noting that most boat accidents occur at early hours or late at night, she reiterated that NIWA had banned night sailing beyond 7pm.
Speaking at Sagbo Koji, one of the riverine communities visited, Braimah said: “We are here to rub minds with your community in order to curb boat accidents and consequent loss of lives.
“You can tell us where the government has lapses so we can improve, while we work together to remove the human element problems. Most boat accidents are results of human element which is non-compliance to regulations.”
“We have repeated it severally that there should be no night sailing from 7pm. It is better to stay alive and travel the next day than to endanger your life at night. I’m pleading with the three Baales here to help us achieve this.
“Boat drivers should have licenses because training is key. Don’t patronize unregistered boats and unnamed boats. There will be NIWA stickers to identify registered boat.”
Addressing boat drivers, she warned them not to drive boats without paddles as they would be unable to ferry such boats to the nearest shore if the boat engine suddenly fails.
Some of the community leaders, Baale Anthony Avime, Sagbo Koji; Baale Houeto Bernard, Whla Koji and Baale Sohome Bishop Koji commended NIWA for the sensitisation visit.
Meanwhile, the Community Youth Leader at Sagbo Koji, Mr. Bobby Sanni has advised the Authority to include youths in their taskforce because most police officers and NIWA operatives close from jetties at 6pm, but the youths could help spotlight nocturnal operations.
In her response, the NIWA Area Manager assured that the Authority would partner the youths in the community to achieve its mandate, even as she led the NIWA team to the Irede community around Abule-Osun, and Ibeshe community for the sensitisation campaign.
Other misnomers pointed out by the NIWA boss in boat operations included dangerous driving and over-speeding, driving rickety and leaky boats, passenger manifest violation, non-availability of fire extinguisher, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, fighting at jetties, obstructing and assault of taskforce on duty.
She also gave out emergency numbers of the Authority to community leaders and boat operators at the different communities. (ThisDay)