The Lagos State Government has warned water transportation operators against the non-use of life jackets.
It said no one should travel on its waterways without the use of life jacket.
The warning came on the heels of a canoe mishap in Epe on March 28, in which six people, including a prince drowned. None of the victims wore a life jacket.
Commissioner for Transportation Kayode Opeifa said the tragedy could have been averted if the victims had worn life jackets.
Speaking in Lagos on Friday, Opeifa said while the state commiserated with the bereaved families, it would continue to make its waterways safe for travellers.
He described the waterways as one area where the state should have a comparative advantage, adding that everything was being done to make water transportation a viable means of commuting and a pleasurable experience for all.
He said while the state was embarking on the aggressive cleanup of water hyacinth, a major impediment on the waterways, it has also improved safety standards for operators.
He said the government would continue to strengthen its enlightenment campaigns for all operators, irrespective of their size, to use life jackets rather than relying on their swimming skills.
Opeifa said: “Life jackets are to water operator what an helmet is to a motorcycle operator. It enhances the chances of survival on the lagoon or sea anytime there is a mishap and we are yet to understand why some people would continue to operate without it despite all that the government is doing to spread the awareness about its importance. Last year, government distributed about 2,000 life jackets to all operators especially those operating in commercial transportation in the riverine areas. We will continue to acquire this tool and distribute to them as this remains the only way to ensure that as many passengers as possible are saved from hazards on the water.”
He said the Lagos State Waterways Agency (LASWA) would continue to enlighten, monitor and enforce operational standards among commercial water transport operators.
As part of government’s efforts to deepen water transportation, the commissioner said more jetties are springing up in many riverine areas in an attempt to make the system safer and encourage more passengers to consider it as a preferred transportation alternative to the congestion on roads.
“We shall continue to make our waterways attractive and soon we shall take delivery of seven big ferries to take people, but no one should take any ferry or canoe without a life jacket.
“We are determined to make our waterways safe but all the operators and commuters must comply with basic safety standards. With life jackets, these tragedies could have been averted,” he said.
“We have learnt that some of the victims even swam to the shore. This means that with a life jacket, they could have been saved.” I feel bad that many of the victims are educated and that nine of them were crammed inside a small boat meant only for five passengers. The canoe may have capsized as a result of the overcrowding. We sincerely regret the tragedy and would love everyone to take a lesson or two away from the incident and be more determined to make that the last tragedy we would ever record on our waterways,” he added.
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