Worried by the persistent occurrence of tragic accidents on Nigerian inland waters, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has unveiled plans to ensure safety and security of passengers and cargoes on transit on Nigerian waters.
Speaking to newsmen on Friday on the sideline of Stakeholders’ Meeting for Key Operators in Maritime Industry Dredging/Inland Waterways Transportation, George Moghalu, managing director of NIWA, said the authority under his leadership has a target, which was to make water transportation a viable means of transporting both bulk cargo and human passengers.
According to him, NIWA intends to achieve the above mentioned target through constant clearing of waterways, removal of wrecks and water hyacinth, developing new jetties and rebuilding inland shorelines, in order to ensure safe and secured boat navigation.
“We are concerned about the level of accidents on our waterways and we have identified that most of these accidents happen in the night or very early hours in the morning. From our assessment, the principal reasons are the boats do not have enough navigational aid, are rickety or the boat drivers are either not qualify or not permitted to operate or there were no live jackets,” he explained.
Moghalu, who stated that the authority is presently out to bring to the information to the people on why it is important to operate safely, said that NIWA has also given directive to its area managers to ensure that no rickety boats are seen on the waters. “No boat should operate on our waters, if it is not licensed to and if such boat is seen, it should be impounded.”
He also stated that no unlicensed boat driver would be allowed to ride a boat on Nigerian waters, adding that the authority is building a database of qualified boat drivers in Nigeria, which would be circulated to all NIWA’s operational bases.
“We have also said that every vessel that does not have navigational aids will not be allowed to operate in the night or morning. We are going to resist it and no rickety boat would move on our waters. These are some of the steps that we have taken to ensure safe and secured navigation on Nigerian inland waters,” he further stated.
The NIWA boss further revealed that the authority had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with an American company to supply live jackets in order to make the jackets available at all Nigerian waterfronts.
“This is to ensure that nobody would give excuse of not having live jackets to wear before riding on the waters. We have a training facility in Lagos and Warri to train boat operators in order to be officially licensed before such persons can ride boats,” he said.
He further revealed that NIWA is also building new jetties in places like Yenogoa, Anambra and Abeokuta, and rehabilitating some others, adding that the authority is also clearing wrecks and water hyacinth in Lokoja, Warri and others places to aid navigation.
Earlier, Tarzan Balogun, managing director of Tarzan Boats Company, who expressed concern over lack of security of the business of boat operators in Nigeria, pointed out the need for government to encourage local boat operators and local boat builders.
He also lamented multiple taxations, which has been killing the business of local boat operators in Nigeria.