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Lack of dredging, wreck removal blamed for Niger State boat mishap

Recently, tragedy struck on the waterways in Niger State where a passenger boat capsized along Malele-Kebbi Waterways, claiming the lives of over 76 persons.

This, operators say, was due to the fact that no serious attention has been paid by either Federal or State Governments to dredge or remove dangerous wrecks along the Malele-Kebbi Waterways.

It would be recalled that, a boat with more than 160 passengers, including children and women, sank after hitting an object and breaking up while travelling along Nigeria’s largest river in Kebbi state, in the northwestern part of the country.

It was confirmed that at least 76 persons died in the accident while about 83 were missing and also feared dead.

BusinessDay findings show that there are several abandoned wreckages on Nigerian inland waters, which have been impeding safe navigation of vessels and boats especially at night.

These wrecks have been causing accidents on the waterways. This highlights the need for government at different levels to join forces to build a healthier marine ecosystem, by removing these wrecks and dredging inland waters to ease navigation of boats.

Gani Tarzan Balogun, president, Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON), who described the mishap as a national tragedy and embarrassment, said the recent mishap was not the first on that route.

While stating that such mishap usually ends in blame game against water transporters and boat operators, Balogun pointed out the need for full investigation to find out if overloading of passengers or other sundry operational failings, was behind the accident.

He said ATBOWATON has been organising training and retraining for its members, donating life jackets and supports traditional institutions to help drive home the need for obeying the safety regulations on the waterways by both operators and passengers.

“The truth is that ATBOWATON cannot singlehandedly keep the waterway safe and also create enabling operational environment. It is not all accidents on water that are attributable to overloading and non-wearing of life jackets. There are system failures on waterways such as lack of mapping, dredging and wreck removals. Those are the major issues across the waterways in those areas and until both the State and Federal Governments, begin to appreciate the fact that the River Niger from Malele down to Kebbi, and further ahead, needs serious attention as a channel with huge economic activities, more of what happened in Niger State, may still reoccur,” he warned.

On people’s response, Balogun said Nigeria as a nation has not come to the reality that waterways transportation is the safest means of moving persons and goods.

Balogun further disclosed that a special team of ATBOWATON investigators has been dispatched to Malele to work with the state’s branch while the national leadership is planning to visit the Emir of Borgu, and Niger State Governor to not only register the association’s sympathy but to find ways to mitigate accidents on Niger State Waterways.

He also noted the urgent need to construct a world class Jetty at Malele.

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