Kwara Boat Tragedy, Culprits will be punished- NIWA Boss
National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) at the weekend said that it will make use of local manpower to enforce operational guidelines on the nation’s water ways to prevent a reoccurrence of the boat mishap in the Kwara state community in any part of the country.
A total of 107 deaths were recorded in the boat accident in the Patigi local government area of Kwara state at about 3:00am last Monday where 146 escaped death when the boat capsized.
Speaking with journalists in Ilorin at the weekend after leading a delegation to make on-the-spot assessment of the situation in Patigi communities, the NIWA managing director, Dr. George Moghalu, said that preliminary investigation had revealed causes of the incident, vowing that all indicted persons would be punished.
Moghalu said that there were instances where boat operators had been arrested, sent to prisons, and their vessels were either impounded or destroyed when considered not river-worthy.
He lamented that not all vessel operators were licensed or registered, saying that the organization would continue registration of vessel operators to ensure safety of water ways.
Moghalu, who said that investigations on the Kwara boat mishap was still ongoing, added that preliminary investigation revealed that the vessel was very “heavily overloaded carrying over 250 persons including luggages. The people were not wearing life jackets and they were travelling in the dead of the night at about 2:30am.
“It was a rainy night. The rain came with wind. Apart from the rain increasing the water level, the wind was moving and forcing the both left and right and then smashed the boat against a tree. These are some of the issue that came out in the course of our preliminary investigations. Meanwhile, there is still a lot going on to forestall future occurrence”.
He also said that the investigation had showed that 90 per cent of accident on water occur either in the night or very early in the morning, adding that, “Most of these vessels don’t have night navigational aids, making the movement a risky venture. The vessel carried passengers five times more than what it should”.
The NIWA managing director, who said that the organization was determined to enforce standard operating procedure with a set of operational guidelines, added that it would use local enforcement agents, made up of youth, to enforce the guidelines set for security purposes at all times.
“A team to assess environmental impact assessment of the incident would come to the area in order to determine provision of either jetty or ramp to improve movement in the area. Part of our responsibility is to ensure security and safety of the people.
“Part of the message to the people is that you cannot operate your vessel after 6:00 pm. The operational time is between 6:00am and 6:00pm. They should wear life jackets before entering any vessel. The vessel must not be overloaded. We would be using local media, traditional and religious institutions and community stakeholders to pass the message across to the people.
We will also continue training of operators to standardize operation all over the country”.
The NIWA boss, who said that the organization shared the pain of the people on what he described as avoidable deaths, added that President Bola Tinubu was very worried and concerned about the incident.
He also said that the President had ordered investigation on the incident to know exactly what happened with a view to stop reoccurrence.
“We met with the communities, spoke with survivors and relations of victims. We’re assuring you of our commitment as an organization to see what can be done to help. From our visit, the basic request was provision of more life jackets. This we’ve already done with provision of 100 life jackets. They also requested jetty.
“We have 23 area offices, manned by qualified personnel where we continue distribution of life jackets. We carried out sensitization to encourage people to wear life jackets and even help to change expired life jackets.