…Says Blue Water Projects Cannot Succeed without Securing Brown Waters
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has said that it is embarking on compulsory training and licensing of boat operators and all private boat owners in Lagos State, so as to reduce the number of accidents on the waterways.
Disclosing this at a stakeholders meeting with the operators in Lagos yesterday, General Manager, Marine Operations, NIWA, Engr Joseph Ororo said that most of the accidents on Nigerian waterways is as a result of human errors.
He revealed that the authority is setting up an academy where boat captains and skippers would be properly trained and issued licenses.
According to him, the licenses can be used all over Nigerian waterways, adding that it would be equivalent to vehicle drivers licenses, while equally serving as a means of national identification.
Going forward, Ororo said that NIWA would be more strict whenever accidents occur, adding that investigations would be more thorough and sanctions applied.
While blaming boat mishaps on human errors, over-loading, and carelessness of boat captains, the NIWA GM admitted that the authority as a regulator has not done all it needed to do in making sure accidents are curtailed.
According to him, NIWA with the collaborative support from accredited institutions, will design a curriculum for training of the skippers.
He declared that the training would be categorised into three phases, which in turn will include practical and theoretical methodologies.
Ororo, while stating that the training will also be extended to executive boat operators, averred that the move became necessary because of the poor academic background of skippers and boat captains.
His words, “This training of our boat operators is long overdue. We have started it in Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states but Lagos is the centre of excellence.
“We are greatly saddened as an authority each time we hear incidence of both mishaps. Most times these accidents are caused by human errors. Sometimes due to the fault of captains and other crew, and to a large extent also, the fault of regulatory bodies”
“We can’t excuse ourselves from the blame game, we haven’t done all that we ought to do, and that is why we are coming up with this training as one of the measures that we must necessarily put in place and enforce”
“There are a lot of rules and regulations guiding boat operations and transport, but most times, we feel very comfortable flouting these rules and regulations” he said
He warned that private boat owners and executives, irrespective of their academic qualifications, would also have to participate in this training or else they would not be allowed to ply the waterways.
Earlier, the Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Engr. Sarat Lara Braimah, said the drivers licence issued to the operators would be valid for three years after which it can be renewed.
She informed that NIWA is stepping up its monitoring and enforcement responsibilities, and that 25 new staff have just been posted to the Lagos Area Office to boost its staff strength.
According to her, most efforts by the Federal Government at this time is placed on “Blue Water Project”, adding that the brown waters is equally very important.
She said without adequate policing and security of the brown waters, the deep blue project cannot succeed.
“We are aware they the country depends more on the blue waters, what about our Brown waters? We are the one that can make our brown waters enviable. That is the purpose we are here today”
“A lot of both mishaps are caused by human error, they are caused by our carelessness both NIWA, boat operators and captains we’re all guilty”
“We want a way forward, we want to be able to do it right, we want our captains and boat operators to be licenced and properly trained. We want a proper formal and informal training. Most of our captains are literates, but we have arranged with our partners to do local language trainings, inland water training, and how to drive a boat”
“I want to use this medium to beg all boat owners, Pls cooperates with NIWA so that we can make our waterways safe” she pleaded
Meanwhile, the boat operators present at the meeting including Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters (ATBOWATON) raised concerns of double taxation and licenses because the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was already performing this function NIWA wants to embark upon.
Eng Sarat however assured that NIWA would have a meeting with NIMASA and resolve the grey areas, adding that it is not the duty of NIMASA under the Laws to train and license boat operators.