The Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has blamed lack of infrastructure to safeguard the lives of the people travelling by boat on water as the reasons why lives were lost to mishaps over the years even as it said that over 296 lives were lost to boat mishaps across the country in 2013.
NIWA gave the figure during the inauguration of the Waterways Emergency Preparedness Unit (NWEPRU) at the weekend in Abuja.
It noted that the deaths could have been averted if infrastructure were put in place to safeguard the lives of the people travelling by boat.
However, to forestall further mishaps and deaths, the authority had kickstarted a campaign tagged, ‘No life jacket, no travel’ in conjunction with Enviroplus, with a view to discouraging sea travelling without life jackets.
The Head of Projects and Programme, Enviroplus, Olubankole Omokive, said the campaign would be done in two phases, with the southern outreach covering Lagos, Anambra, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, while the northern outreach would cover Kano, Kaduna, Kwara, Kogi, Benue and Niger states.
Omokive noted that the NIWA team would be working closely with communities along the waterways with a view to sensitising them on the safety measures to be employed while travelling on water and to equip them with necessary infrastructure in case of emergencies.
He noted that 22 out of 36 states of the federation use water as a means of transportation, stressing the need to have an emergency outfit in place to take charge of emergency response in the waterways.
“The communities along the waterways are the first responders whenever there is a boat disaster, so there is a need to provide them with necessary skills and equipment, so we are looking into having voluntary responders and we would structure them into groups and provide them with all the needed facilities,” he said.
He attributed the cause of boat mishaps in the country to poor visibility, lack of communication, poor investment in water transportation infrastructure, among other things.
“We are setting up standards for marine emergency operators with the aim of scaling down to the barest minimum, the number of deaths in the waterways,” he added.
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