The media must come in with massive campaigns and awareness against sharp practices in the water. This is said to be the only way sanity could return to water transportation which is said to now be dominated with overloading and mindless deployment of rickety crafts.
The call for media partnership was made in Port Harcourt at the weekend by the regional manager of the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Bernard Ekawo, a surveyor.
Ekawo made the call when members of the Energy and Maritime Reporters (EMR) paid him a visit to mark the International Seafarers Day.
Speaking, the regional manager said partnership with the media cannot be overemphasized because, according to him, the media play a critical role in propagating information about policies and programmes.
He said NIWA was ever-ready to collaborate with EMR especially in those areas such as safety on the waterways.
He said: “Avoidable incidents like the one in Pategi, Kwara State, would have been averted if partners like you had worked with us in information dissemination. Our preliminary investigations revealed that the boat was sailing at night. Also, the boat was overloaded such that a boat that ought to carry 50 passengers ended up with 250. Such avoidable incidents would have been averted if we had partners like you to disseminate information to the public. We crave your indulgence to create awareness on safety in the waters. Discourage night sailing and use of rickety boats. Your coming is very apt to enable us meet our targets.”
NIWA is fresh from mourning the death of over 108 persons in the River Niger on June 11, 2023, at Pategi in Kwara State where a boat was conveying wedding guests at night and capsized.
Just this weekend, medical students on an annual meeting in Calabar sank in the Calabar River killing three students who were part of a water cruise. Early reports talked about faulty engine and leaking boat.
International press view Nigeria’s inland waterways as very unsafe because of total negligence of rules, poor maintenance records of water crafts, overloading, and night sailing. NIWA seems helpless, and is only bemoaning the situation, showing that NIWA needs to be empowered and equipped to carry on mass raids and inspection and licensing of water crafts and punish offenders.
This is said to be the reason why the EMR, a beat association in the Rivers State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), visited NIWA to lend support in creating awareness and attracting government support for NIWA to do its work.
Speaking, the chairman of EMR, Martins Giadom of Radio Rivers, pledged to leverage the power of journalism to create awareness in water issues especially transportation and advocate for their rights, and facilitate dialogue among stakeholders.
He said those who work in the waters deserve attention. “By amplifying their voices and shedding light on their plight, we strive to bring about positive change and ensure their well-being.”
On seafarers in particular, Giadom said they make huge sacrifices for humanity. “These courageous men and women, through their dedication and resilience, navigate the vast oceans, connecting continents, and ensuring the smooth flow of international trade. They form an integral part of our global economy and deserve our utmost recognition and support.”