The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has threatened to shut down the operations of Lalek Marine boat services, the company whose boat was involved in a mishap on Friday night on its way to Ikorodu from Ebute-Ero, Lagos.
The boat had capsized at about 8pm on Friday with seven of the passengers confirmed dead and 14 rescued alive.
NIWA in a statement on Sunday, said that the ill-fated boat failed to adhere to 6pm sailing regime guiding water transportation services in Lagos.
In a preliminary report, the NIWA Lagos Area Manager, Sarat Buraimoh stated that the boat operator, apart from violating the extant time of operation regime which is at 6pm and not 8pm also overloaded the boat against the COVID-19 protocol which allows only 60 per cent carrying capacity for all types of boats in order to encourage social distancing.
“We at NIWA responded immediately and joined the Marine Police, LASWA and other concerned agencies to rescue the 14 passengers and also recovered six others already drowned,” Braimah said.
According to her, the Ebute Ero Jetty, where the boat departed, would henceforth be monitored by NIWA Police, pending the conclusion of investigation to the incident just as the owner of the boat is also being tracked down.
“The MD of NIWA has directed that the Jetty be monitored by NIWA Police to avoid a re-occurrence of the incident and to enable NIWA conduct full investigation to this very sad but avoidable violation.”
The agency expressed regret over the unfortunate loss of lives in spite of its waiver and reduced operational charges to help operators maintain the restrictions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Managing Director of NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, knew that some operators might be tempted to make quick money to make up for the lost opportunities and financial loss experienced during the lockdown and therefore, was futuristic and proactive to reduce the fees and charges, knowing the expected impact of the new normal on operators but, we can see from what happened that some operators are so uncaring and selfish to end the lives of innocent people through blatant violation of the rules of engagement.
“NIWA is still investigating the situation, looking at various scenarios and engaging other agencies and boat operators association to nip this type of avoidable incident in the bud,” she stated.