The Kebbi state Government said it has set new safety measures for boat operators to address the recurring boat mishaps, which has claimed 33 lives since April in the state.
Chairman of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Alhaji Sani Dododo, disclosed in an interview with newsmen in Birnin Kebbi on Monday that all boat operators must comply with the new measures.
“As part of our efforts to curb recurring boat mishaps, we held a meeting with traditional rulers and boat operators and we came up with solutions to the incessant problem in the state.
“We resolved that henceforth, there will be no transportation on rivers after six in the evening and passengers and loads must be transported separately.
“The number of passengers to be taken in any boat must be specified and written on the boat to avoid overloading, and life jackets must be worn by all the passengers in addition to three extra jackets for emergency to be placed on each boat,” he said.
Dododo said the measures were precautionary to stop the current practice which endangers lives of passengers.
“We discovered that a boat that carries 40 passengers is usually loaded with over 100 passengers at a time together with their loads including goats, sheep, cows and camel, all jam-packed in one boat on a river voyage,” he said.
He added that some boat operators held the superstitious belief that they would never die in river because they inherited the business from their ancestors.
“They think the river would not kill them since the business was passed unto them from generation to generation.
“We will not fold our arms and rely on superstitions while people are dying,” he said.
According to him, the agency will collaborate with the local government councils and Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority to enforce compliance to the new measures.
The SEMA chairman said the agency would embark on sensitisation campaigns targeting boat operators and local divers on safety and emergency response in case of any mishap.
Dododo revealed that the agency had adequate staff and was well-funded to carry its mandate, adding that it would set up emergency response offices in the Riverine areas of the state.