Friday, April 15, 2016 6:50 pm
Stakeholders who gathered at the Lagos State House of Assembly on Friday for a solution to the incessant boat mishaps in the state, revealed that among others, the lukewarm attitude of state government officials to strictly implement the laws governing water transportation is a major reason for such accidents.
They also indicted dredging companies and operators of boat transportation in the state.
The stakeholders met in Lagos to discuss ‘The Incessant Boat Mishaps On The Waterways In The State: Causes and Solutions’ which was organised by the state House of Assembly.
The operators pleaded that dredgers should be properly monitored to ensure that they carried out their operations in ways that would not jeopardise free flow of boats in the state.
Some of the government agencies indicted included the Lagos State Waterways Authority, LASWA, Lagos State Security Safety Commission, Lagos Ferry Services and the Ministry of Transportation. These agencies, according to the operators, need to do more to improve safety on the waterways and ensure that operators and captains are properly registered.
The representative of Man ‘O’ War, Mr. Oladehinde Charles, was the first to accuse dredgers and boat operators of not following the rules of the operation.
He emphasised awareness on the use of life 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.
A Deputy Superitendent of Police in the state, Ogunbale Benjamin, who represented Marine Police at the stakeholders’ meeting, revealed that abandoned logs and timbers sometimes lead to boat mishaps
He said this was common in the 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. Over-speeding is another problem and some passengers even encourage boat captains to over-speed.
“Moreso, some boats are not sea-worthy 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,” Benjamin said suggesting that the waterways should be cleared properly, while the operators should be properly certified to eliminate charlatans.
He advised the usage of light by fishermen, provision of safety apparatuses, prevention of overloading by boat operators and effective sand dredging on the water, adding that dredging has caused a lot of shallowness in the water which also causes boat to capsize.
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 are several invincible objects in the water that impede activities on the waterways. He also revealed that logs and timbers break the boats and allow water into the boats, thus leading to accidents.
“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,” he said.
A maritime consultant, Mr. John Chukwu, advised that there was need for maritime masterplan with a map showing navigational road suggesting that the map should show the route and the depth of the water 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, Engineer Lateef Adio Onikoyi, alleged that sentiments had always hindered LASWA from doing its work. He pleaded that the agency should be alive to its responsibilities.
Onikoyi said that it is appalling that most operators do not have the knowledge of marine operation. Most boat captains, he said, do not have operational licenses as against what is 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 is another issue that should be tackled.
At the event, Speaker Mudashiru Obasa urged the stakeholders to report to the appropriate authority each time they notice any challenge in the sector.
He promised observations and suggestions given by operators and other stakeholders would be given speedy treatment by the House, adding that the House would work closely with the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, to protect lives and properties in the state.
Chairman of the ad-hoc committee of the House in charge of the stakeholders’ meeting and Majority Leader of the House, Sanai Agunbiade, told journalists that the legislature generally follows procedures and that as a result, the House decided to call the necessary agencies and officials to collectively look at the problem of accidents on water and find solutions.
“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.