Francis Ezem

The National Inland Waterways Authority NIWA has expressed deep worries over the increasing cases of boat accidents, saying that the agency has stepped up its statutory safety regulations to curb this trend.

NIWA, Nigeria’s apex agency for regulating the inland waterways is also not comfortable with the huge dumping of plastics, especially used to package foods and drinks into the lagoon which constitute danger to safe navigation and may therefore sponsor a bill at the National Assembly to outlaw use of plastics.

Managing Director of the authority, Dr. George Moghalu, who addressed a press conference in Lagos at the weekend shortly after a meeting with stakeholders, expressed deep concerns over the increasing spate of boat mishaps, warning that the authority would urgently take steps to reverse this trend.

The MD also disclosed that most of these accidents happen either early in the morning or at night, warning that the authority might be compelled to ban boat operations in the early hours of the day and at night due to poor visibility that could lead to accidents and eventual loss of lives.

It was gathered that while this is being worked out, the authority has commenced strict registration and licensing of boat operators in the country with the proposed introduction of automated systems as well as issuance of stickers for easy identification of duly registered boats and operators.

Investigations also showed that in addition to directing its area offices across the nation to impound rickety boats and those without navigational aids, the authority is concluding plans to commence massive enlightenment campaigns at relevant jetties and loading points for the passenger boats.

The sensitisation, it was further gathered, would focus on the boat passengers on the need to ensure that the operators adhere strictly to all the required safety standards including provision of life vests before they board any boat in order to reduce the carnage on the nation’s waterways.

According to the NIWA-boss, the authority has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding MoU with a private firm for the provision of quality and standardised life vests for boat passengers, which will distributed to the registered and certified boat operators as part of the sensitisation programmes.

 He disclosed that the authority is upping its regulatory ante in terms of ensuring that only standard boats and duly certified and registered operators are allowed to operate as well as clearing the waterways of weeds, plastic wastes and removal of wrecks, adding that NIWA may approach the National Assembly for a bill to outlaw the use of plastic containers to package foods and drinks in the country.

He said that the authority would propose in the new legislation the use of cans and paper, which can be easily recycled to reduce the dumping of plastics into the nation’s waterways, which take several years to decompose.