By DAPO OLAWUNI
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has announced that it is commencing a new regime of random checks on the waterways to ensure that all boat operators and watercrafts are certified by the agency, and to ensure that all safety protocols are adhered to.
The agency also lamented that it does not have full control of all the jetties all over the country, and that a lot of them are responsible for the boat mishaps recorded as a result of night sailings
Managing Director of NIWA, Dr George Moghalu stated this at an enlarged stakeholders meeting held in Lagos yesterday.
Worried by the incessant boat mishaps on the Lagos waterways as well as other parts of the country, the NIWA boss stormed Lagos to read the Riot Act to all operstors, saying that henceforth, all NIWA protocols must be observed by all stakeholders, and that NIWA police would now be engaging in random checks, chasing, impounding and sometimes destruction of any boat found wanting.
He also said the agency would start prosecuting defaulters.
He said all boats and vessels would undergo a recertification process.
He also said NIWA would now have to train and certify any operator that wants to ride any crafts on the nation’s inland waterways.
Moghalu observed that a good percentage of the boat accidents is as a result of refusal to obey laid down NIWA protocols.
He said most times accide nts occure, it is either live jackets are not worn, vessels are not certified, boat operators not qualified, a case of over-speeding, a case of using the wrong boats and so on. He added that the accidents has something to do with operational methodology and character.
A visibly angry Moghalu stated that “I actually called for this meeting for two major reasons, recently, there has been so many boat mishaps in Lagos and other locations, in the past one month, there has been more than five accidents in Lagos alone.
Those who are dying are important lives, these are Nigerians that we all have responsibility to protect as much as possible, every life is very important, and anything we can do to ensure we dont lose anyone, we have to do it”
“Am sure you are aware that we have protocols at NIWA that states compulsory wearing of life jackets, no alcohol or drugs by the boat captain, protocols that from 6.30 pm, no boat should operate”
“We have also come to know that there is midstream transfer of passengers, and boats still operate despite bad weather, you see boats trying to fill their tank with passengers onboard”
“I called this meeting to let operators know that we are now going to drastically enforce these safety protocols. We are going to move to recertify all vessels, no matter how small or how big, as far as it operates on our inland waters. There is going to be training of captains, no captain would be allowed to operate if he is not certified by NIWA”
“We are going to start impounding vessels now especially those that are not sea worthy or certified by NIWA, we are going to kick-start a regime of random checks, dont be surprised to see our police on water chasing and impounding vessels”
“In conducting the random checks, we would even go to bost yards, by law, you are not supposed to set up a boat yard without NIWA”
“This lawlessness cannot continue, all safety protocols must be observed because we cannot afford to lose any life again” he stated
Moghalu noted that for NIWA to achieve all these, it must have the buy-in of the operators, the boat owners and private jetties.
The NIWA boss blamed activities of private owners of jetties for the increased accidents on inland waterways.
Speaking on this, he said “No NIWA jetty would allow boats to move after 6.30 otherwise the Area Manager would be playing with her job, but we dont have control of all the jetties in Lagos or all over the country”
“The first question I asked in the last accident that involved a lot of persons was that; what time did the accident happen, they said it was 8pm, I said where did the vessel take off from? They said it was not a NIWA jetty. So, somebody owned that jetty, some of these boats are not designed for night navigation and the status of the captains are not known”
“We are going to prosecute, once there is any infringement on any of these protocols, vessels would be impounded and even destroyed if found not to be sea worthy”
“We are setting machineries in motion for the training and retraining of boat operators, we have set up a place in Warri, we are setting up a place in Lagos and other parts of the country for training and certification centres” he said.