By Aisha Cole
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has warned boat operators to desist from transporting passengers beyond 7.00 p.m. to avoid frequent boat mishaps on the waterways.
The Managing Director of the authority, Dr George Moghalu, issued the warning at a media interactive session with transportation correspondents in Lagos on Friday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that no fewer than 13 more bodies have been recovered from the ill-fated boat sailing from Mile 2 to Ibeshe, a suburb of Lagos, on Saturday, bringing the total dead bodies recovered to 17.
The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Zonal Coordinator, South-West, Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, had said illegal operators are rendering services after the end of official hours of 7:00pm, thereby violating the Inland Waterway operations rules.
Moghalu said the authority had constituted waterways task force to arrest any boat operators operating beyond the stipulated time.
The NIWA boss said the Task Force comprised National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Lagos Sate Waterways Authority (LASWA), barge operators, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria and the Marine Police.
He explained that studies by the authority had shown that these boat accidents occur either at night or early in the morning adding that the practice must stop.
He stated: ‘‘That is part of the regulation we are putting in place, We are more concern about peoples’ lives, check the history of accidents even in ferries.
“You find out that over 90 per cent of accident happens in the early hours of the morning or in the night and most of these vessels do not have navigational lights.
“On our own parts, we are laying buoys, trying to put navigational aids on the waterways but at the same time, we are appealing to residents in the Riverine communities to ensure the safety of these navigational equipment.
“We have come to see that vandals, thieves destroy these navigational equipment and make away with them,” he said.
Moghalu said the authority would sanction offenders of laws regulating the use of the waterways.
According to him, the Task Force has the mandate to arrest people, sanction people and prosecute people, it is no more business as usual. There must be sanity on our waterways.
He, however, said that NIWA would continue to encourage boat operators to do the right thing and reduce the incessant boat mishap on waterways by adhering to safety regulations as stipulated by it.