By Lanre Adesanya
Well meaning individuals in the waterway business after a brain storming session, on the incessant occurrence of boat mishaps in Lagos state have jointly call for synergy and functional development to tackle the recurring menace.
This was the aftermath of A Day Stakeholders Meeting on The Incessant Boat Mishaps On The Waterways In The State: Causes and Solutions organised by the Lagos State House of Assembly.
Dredgers, boat operators, security operatives,first responders along the coastline and consultants in waterways transport, were on hand to furbish participants with needed information on cause and effects of boat mishaps, recommendations and probable solutions.
The representative of Man ‘O’ War, Mr. Oladehinde Charles set the championed the cause by alleging illegal dredgers and boat operators of not following the rules of the operation.
He harped on the need for awareness amongst the passengers on the use of safety jackets and other safety measures, as well the importance of first aid box, provision of manifest, distress call and compliance with safety limits.
In his presentation, DSP Ogunbale Benjamin, who represented Marine Police, pointed out that abandoned logs and timbers sometimes lead to boat mishaps, saying that this is common in Makoko Area of the state.
“Some objects are submerged inside the water and these also cause accidents on the waterways. Weather is also a natural phenomenon that could cause boat mishaps and it could make the operators run into unseen objects.
“Also, some of the operators are incompetent because they cannot navigate properly. Over speeding is another problem and some passengers even encourage boat captains to over speed.
“Moreso, some boats are not seaworthy as they easily give way inside the water. There is also a problem of inadequate safety equipment on the part of LASWA. Overloading, and pollution are other problems in the sector,” he said.
Benjamin then suggested that the waterways should be cleared properly, while the operators should be properly certificated to eliminate charlatans.
He advised the usage of light by fishers, provision of safety apparatuses, prevention of overloading and effective sand dredging on the water, adding that dredging has caused a lot of shallowness inside the water.
A representative of the Nigerian Red Cross, Mr. Godwin Johnson advised that first aid boxes should be provided for victims, while volunteer Red Cross officers should be employed to man the jetties.
A boat operator, Mr. Akeem Balogun emphasised that there are several invincible objects in the water that impede activities on the waterways.
He also revealed that logs and timbers break the boats and allow water into the boats, thus leading to accidents.
According to him, “Dredgers ought to put signs on their pipes to prevent accidents on the water. Most times, they would heap sand on the waterways and this leads to boat mishaps.”
A maritime consultant, Mr. John Chukwu however, came up with a radical view as he advised that there is need for maritime master plan with a map showing navigational road.
Chukwu stressed that the map would show the route and the depth and that there should be underwater photography that could show the routes in the water.
“The map would be made public like the street maps. The waterways would open up economic activities. We need to dredge the water ways and we will have signboards on the waterways like we have on the road,” he said.
Another operator, Engineer Lateef Adio Onikoyi alleged that sentiments had always hindered the work of LASWA, which he said should be alive to their responsibilities.
Onikoyi said that it is appalling that most operators do not have the knowledge of marine operation and that most boat captains do not have operational licenses as against what is acceptable abroad.
A big player in the sector, Mr. Tarzan Balogun of Tarzan Boats also condemned the blockage of waterways by logs, adding that water hyacinth is another issue that should be tackled.
In his reaction, Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa urged the stakeholders to raise alarm each time they notice any anomally in the sector.
He promised that all their observations would be given speedy treatment by the House, which he said would work closely with the state Governor to protect lives and properties in the state.
The Chairman of the adhoc committee of the House, which organised the meeting and the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade told journalists that the legislature generally follows procedures.
He said that the House decided to call the necessary agencies and officials, when the accidents were happening and that they decided to call a stakeholders meeting to collectively look at the problem.
According to him, there are different stakeholders in the marine sector and they were all invited so that they could express their views on the matter.
“The next thing is to sit down, collate the information collected so far and look at the vital suggestions and the existing laws on water transportation. We will still hold meetings with the officials of the MDAs that are concerned with water transportation on the issue,” he said.