The Senate on Wednesday mandated the National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA) to enforce the use of life jackets by passengers travelling across waterways and oceans in Nigeria.
The upper chamber also directed the Federal Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing to urgently construct the Lafiagi road that links Kwara and Niger states.
These resolutions were sequel to a deliberation on a motion on the December 1 boat mishap in Kwara State.
The bill was sponsored by Mohammed Lafiagi (PDP, Kwara North).
At least, 19 children reportedly drowned when a boat conveying 22 people capsized while crossing the River Niger in Lafiagi, Edu Local Government Area of Kwara.
The victims were attending a traditional wedding ceremony in a community in Niger State.
Leading the motion, Lafiagi stated that the use of canoes and boats is the only available means of transportation for the border towns of Lafiagi in Kwara and their neighbours in Niger State.
This, he said, is as a result of the abandonment of the 46km road project that should link Kwara and Niger states and mitigate the incessant occurrence of boat mishaps in the riverine community.
Lafiagi said, “Such ugly incident occurs intermittently as a result of lack of access road in the riverine community. If the only road that links Lafiagi to its neighbours in Niger State had been constructed by the government, such incidents would have been eliminated or reduced considerably.
“If the 46km road is constructed or a bridge is built across the River Niger, businesses and trade activities will be enhanced with the reduction of the attendant risk to the lives of our people,” the lawmaker who was a Third Republic governor of Kwara said.
He warned that unless something is done urgently by way of government intervention to arrest the dangerous trend, the people of Kwara and Niger states would continue to sit on a time bomb.
In his contribution, Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North) stated that the necessary authorities were not doing their jobs well. He frowned at the fact that passengers are ferried across rivers without life jackets.
Atai Aidoko (PDP, Kogi East) called on NIWA to educate the operators of local canoes as well as reduce the price of life jackets and make its use mandatory for every passenger.
Sam Egwu (APC, Ebonyi North), however, blamed state governors for doing nothing about the access roads and water transportation in the states.
He described the use of canoes in this century as unfortunate.
“How much does it cost to buy modern facilities? No amount is too small. Honestly, I blame governors who have towns and cities that use canoes to travel.
“I implore the state governors to do the needful,” Egwu said.
Supporting Egwu, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu West), said nothing stops a state that cares from fixing the roads and demand reimbursement from the Federal Government.
He said, “We always have this distinction between federal and state roads, which is bad. While we ask the Federal Government to fix roads, states concerned should try to fix their roads.
“Another issue is that we have this attitude of focusing on developing just the capitals of the states. It is necessary that those who live outside these cities should be shown concern too.”
The Senate also mandated the Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing to return to funding the Bagana-Toto bridge in Nasarawa State.
The lawmakers observed a minute silence in honour of the departed children and resolved to send a delegation from the Senate to condole with the people and government of Kwara State.