By Steve Agbota, Lagos
The federal government has given the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) orders to mete out 7-year imprisonment to recalcitrant jetty owners, boat operators and passengers who flout water transport regulations, as part of efforts to tackle incessant boat mishaps and loss of lives.
Speaking at the sensitisation programme at some riverine communities, NIWA Lagos Area Manager Engr Sarat Braimah said the new law is part of the government’s effort to tackle the incessant loss of lives, which is usually caused by non-compliance to waterway safety regulations.
She added that the Ministry of Justice has gazetted a new waterway regulation which stipulates 7 years imprisonment for community leaders who operate jetties as well as private operators where boats are overloaded.
According to her, the same penalty goes for operators and passengers who fail to use life jackets and other non-compliance with waterway regulations.
During the programme, she ordered 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.
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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, adding that most boat accidents occur in the early hours or late at night, even as she reiterated that NIWA has banned night sailing beyond 7 pm.
Speaking at Sagbo Koji, one of the riverine communities visited, she 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 lapsed so we can improve, while we work together to remove the human element problems. Most boat accidents are results of the human element which is non-compliance with regulations.
“We have repeated it severally that there should be no night sailing from 7 pm. 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 boats.”
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 sensitization visit.
Meanwhile, the Community Youth Leader at Sagbo Koji, Mr Bobby Sanni advised the Authority to include youths in their taskforce because most police officers and NIWA operatives close from jetties at 6 pm but the youths could help spotlight nocturnal operations.
In her response, she assured that the Authority would partner with 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 sensitization campaign.
Other misnomers pointed out by the NIWA boss in boat operations include; dangerous driving and over-speeding, driving rickety and leaky boats, passenger manifest violation, non-availability of fire extinguishers, 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 in the different communities.