By Gboyega Adeoye
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) has agreed to set up a joint task force to monitor activities of boat operators and other water users, particularly after 7pm on Lagos waterways.
The taskforce which would comprise other relevant stakeholders will be inaugurated next week in Lagos after terms of reference is drawn up by a technical committee and also after strategic notification, contact and approval process are considered by the federal government water transportation regulation agency.
It should be recalled that an unmarked boat owned by a reverine community in Lagos over the weekend at about 10pm in the night capsized midway across the Lagos Lagoon with twenty-one (21) passengers on board, none said to be wearing use jacket. The boat designed for 10 persons had taken from a substandard jetty earlier sealed off by NIWA and overloaded beyond its carrying capacity, hence the avoidable midnight mishap.
Speaking during a condolence and fact finding visit by ATBOWATON leadership led by its National President, Mr Tarzan Balogun, NIWA’s general Manager, Lagos Area office, Engineer Mauzu Sambo disclosed that the federal government regulatory authority appreciates the concern and dedication shown by the organised body of registered boat operators to discourage night travels on water and the regular campaign to its members to desist from overloading and other sundry regulation expectations.
To ensure total compliance, Sambo who commended ATBOWATON as a responsible stakeholder, informed that the authority will partner and corporate with the organised private sector regulatory body of registered boat operators to find and power a safety taskforce to ensure total compliance of extant regulations and to check illegal movements on the waterways after dusk.
He also assured that NIWA would revisit the issue of boat standardization with the urgent need to stop the use of covered boats to ferry passengers which he described as flying coffins and which has contributed to loss of lives during accidents as passengers are herded together and buried beneath water as escape windows are not safety compliant.
Speaking earlier on their mission to NIWA, Mr Ganiyu Tarzan Balogun, President and Lagos chapter chairman Alhaji Lawal Babatunde, all of ATBOWATON noted that the association was concerned about the incident despite the fact that the operator of the boat is not their member and called on NIWA to investigate and seal up substandard jetties in Lagos where unwholesome boat services activities thrive.
The two leaders bemoaned the negative impact of reported infractions on their businesses, nothing that pressures by passengers particularly during closing/rush hours in the evenings help push some boat operators into violations of extant regulations, some leading to avoidable accidents such as the weekend sad occurrence.
The association which also paid similar visits to Lagos state water transportation authority (LASWA) and the Lagos state Marine police office, all in Falomo, prayed for speedy response to emergence on water, noting that the association would soon embark on national campaign on sustained safety measures on waterways.
It also noted that a marine police station well equipped and founded is needed on the Ikorodu axis of Lagos to ensure compliance and monitoring of boat services, particularly during rush hours.