By Maria Famakinwa
T he popular means of transportation among people living in the riverine areas is boat. But it is unfortunate that this means of transportation is being threatened by the incessant boat accident recently recorded in the country which had led to the death of some hapless Nigerians in their struggles to earn a living.
Findings showed that boat mishaps are more endemic than ever in the country due to increased patronage of water transportation as a result of immense pressure on operators and other water users particularly during the rainy season.
Last year October, five young promising students of Victory International School, Kaduna State perished when their boat capsized. The students according to reports had embarked on an excursion aimed at broadening their knowledge. It was also reported February this year that six children lost their lives in Kebbi State when a passenger boat on the River Niger collided head -on with another vessel. In May this year, another boat accident was reported in Ogun State where seven persons including students lost their lives.
Just last month, came yet another death recorded in Lagos State when five persons were feared dead when a boat capsized. In this August, 21 people were reportedly killed in Sokoto State when the vessel carrying 50 passengers overturned in a river at Gandi district. Barely a week after this, two lives were also lost when a passenger boat carrying 24 passengers capsized in Rivers State.
Those who spoke with The Hope have identified human and natural causes as reasons for boat accidents across the country which include overloading, careless driving, inexperience, turbulent weather among others.
In the submission of Mr Edward Lucky who lives in one of the riverine communities blamed most of the boat mishaps on the failure of passengers to use their lifejackets which he said would have helped to save more lives in case of any accidents. “No one pray for any accident but it is advisable to always prepare for any eventualities which is why there are lifejackets for boat passengers to put on while boarding the boat which majority of them (passengers) refused to use.
“They often complaint that the lifejackets are old. To me, this reason is not tenable in as much as the lifejacket can still prevent loss of lives in case of accidents. Most of the people who died recently due to boat mishaps would have been saved if they made use of the lifejackets despite the claim that they were old. “
On how to prevent future boat accident, Lucky called on the helmsmen to get good lifejackets and make it compulsory for any passenger in the boat to make use of while those who disagree should not be allowed to board the boat.
A trader, Mrs Victoria Mapayi who often travels by boat in the riverine area to buy fish revealed that overloading is the major cause of boat accident and called on the authority concerned to take drastic steps against what she described as greediness on the part of helmsmen to make abnormal profit thereby jeopardising the lives of passengers on board the boat.
“Most of the boats for transportation are not in good shape yet, those who pilot the boats want to make extra profit by overloading it which often results into accident. Even though we tell them the danger of what their selfishness could cause the passengers, they would not listen. We are always scared whenever we are travelling in the boat. Another thing is that most of the helmsmen do not understand the rules that guide piloting a boat especially during the rainy season that requires extraordinary caution to travel by boat.
“Due to lack of experience, they cannot study the weather to understand when to speed or when not to load at all which often results into head -on-collusion with another boat as being witnessed in most boat mishaps.”
Speaking on preventing further boat accident in the country, the trader want those piloting the boat to be trained on safety measures which she added will further enlighten them on the dangers of overloading and speeding. “Aside training, the government should also make laws guiding the activities of the helmsmen which must include the numbers of passengers to carry per trip and discipline any erring boat pilot to serve as deterrent to others. Doing these will go a long way to prevent further boat mishaps in the country.”
Sharing similar sentiment, a man who lives in Ilaje, a riverine community in Ondo State, Mr Leye Tomebi, who also blamed recurring boat mishaps in the country on the inexperience of most of the boat pilots lamented that the three tiers of government had not been doing enough to address boat accidents as they do to road accidents.
His words: “Most boat accidents occur because some of the people who pilot the boat have no experience, they only see it as a way to make ends meet. Imagine a boat that sail in the dark, how would such not involved in an accident? That is to tell you the level of inexperience on the part of some helmsmen. To prevent further boat accidents, we need to check overloading, the pilot need to be educated on when the weather condition is good for sailing, passengers should also be sensitized on the importance of using lifejackets and the boat itself must be in a good condition which is very important.”
Tomebi while calling on the government especially the local government which is believed to be closer to the people at the grassroots who often travels by boat to do more in educating people on the need to prevent further boat accident in the country revealed that majority of people in the riverine areas who travel by boat do not have adequate knowledge regarding its safety which he blamed on the incessant boat mishaps in the nation.