Lax enforcement of safety measures leading to fatalities on Lagos waterways – Nigeria – The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

Between 6 and 8 July, a total of 18 people lost their lives in two boating accidents in the Ikorodu and Mile 2 areas of Lagos State.

While the state government ordered an investigation into the latest incident where at least 16 people died, a preliminary investigation by the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) found most passengers were traveling without life jackets.

A statement from LASWA on the July 8 incident said: “At approximately 7:45 p.m. on July 8, 2022, the Lagos State Waterways Authority and the National Inland Waterways Authority received a call from Distress over an incident on the waterways A W19 passenger fiber boat carrying 16 people capsized along the Ojo area of ​​the state.

“The boat going from Mile 2 to Ibeshe in the axis of Ojo broke the waterways rules of late travel by leaving at 7 p.m. Upon departure, the water tide caused the boat to drift towards a stationary barge, causing the boat to capsize. It is said that not all passengers on board, including children, put on their life jackets.

In an earlier statement from LASWA on the July 6 accident, the regulator said: “A 20-passenger ferry carrying 17 passengers named ‘R&N 2’ suddenly capsized within 200 meters of the terminal and was submerged immediately after leaving the Ipakodo Ferry Terminal in the Ikorodu area of ​​Lagos State

“Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) Water Wardens and Search and Rescue Team were mobilized to the scene of the incident resulting in the rescue of 15 people alive.

“While two unconscious female passengers were rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment. They were however later confirmed dead in hospital.

“The captain of the boat is currently under investigation by the relevant authorities, while a full investigation into the cause of this accident is ongoing at the time of this press release.”

The outcome of LASWA’s investigation into the July 6 accident was not yet known when another boat capsized, killing 16 people on July 8.

However, after LASWA discovered that passengers affected by the July 8 boating accident did not have life jackets, even though the operator had violated the night travel rule, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered a full investigation into the incident.

In a statement, Sanwo-Olu, who expressed sadness over the incident, sympathized with the families who lost their loved ones.

The statement added: “Police are investigating what happened and are treating said incident as a criminal. The boat, believed to be unlicensed, has clearly breached the waterways rules of ‘no overnight travel’ and no Additionally, not all passengers were wearing life jackets and the boat did not depart from a government-approved jetty.

“Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and others are assisting investigators,” the statement added.

Sanwo-Olu maintained that anyone who contributed in any way to the tragedy would surely face the wrath of the law to ensure there are no such incidents in the future.

“The rules and regulations of the waterways are clear; they must be respected in accordance with the highest value that the Sanwo-Olu administration places on human life.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families. May the Almighty strengthen them in these difficult times,” Sanwo-Olu said.

Although the state government and the appropriate agency claimed that only 16 people died in the latest accident, an investigation by The Guardian found that 22 people died in the incident.

This means that the boat operator, in addition to breaching the non-night travel order, also had their boat overloaded, thereby breaching safety rules and applicable regulations governing waterway operations in the State.

With the traffic situation in Lagos making vehicular traffic cumbersome in most parts of the state and resulting in the loss of several person-hours in transit, water transport is becoming increasingly popular among residents of the state .

Considered by many to be a reasonably safe, fast and stress-free means of transport, the way operators have thrown security measures overboard and the resulting loss of life is now a major cause for concern.

The Guardian’s visit to some piers in the state showed a decline in the use of life jackets, as well as adherence to international best practice for water transport.

Where lifejackets are offered they are largely worn out, while some operators have decent vests for sale.

At Badore, which is one of the busiest piers on the Lekki Ajah axis, The Guardian observed hordes of passengers crowding into the only boat anchored at the pier, paying no heed to the number of passengers on board.

One of the passengers, Mr Akin Oshinyomi, alleged that the government had done a very poor job of monitoring the activities of private boat operators.

“For example, operators increase their prices at will without resorting to the fate of commuters. There is also the glaring failure of enforcement of the use of life jackets,” he said.

Similarly, at Tarzan Pier, The Guardian found that many commuters generally use their life jackets due to the poor condition of those provided by boat operators.

Another passenger, Blessing Ogbonnya, regretted that boat operators and regulators are dealing with the issue of life jackets with protective gloves even after many passengers have lost their lives in the past.

Be that as it may, the Ovori of Ibeshe, Oba Alani Gausu, who is the traditional leader of the community where the majority of the victims of the July 8, 2022 boating accident originated, also lamented the lax enforcement of safety rules and regulations on waterways.

Speaking on the incident when a delegation from NIWA’s Lagos regional office visited him, Gausu blamed lack of training and human error for the crop of deaths recorded by the Sumola Aniajogun family of Ibeshe .

He therefore urged regulators to provide ongoing training for boat operators to ensure these preventable deaths do not occur again.

He said: “The boat tragedy that resulted in the deaths of 17 passengers last Friday comes down to human error.

“The boat operator did not do what he should have done before putting passengers on the boat and pushing the boat into the water. How can a boat operator put passengers on a boat and push the boat into the water before checking if it has the correct engine oil mixture in the boat engine?

“Due to this error by the boat operator, the tide pushed the fully laden boat under a barge and all the passengers including the boat operator drowned. It all comes down to a lack of boat operator training. Many of them are out of school Many of them operate under the influence of drugs It is important that NIWA, Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) and others stakeholders provide training to boat captains.

“If boat captains are well trained, the scenario where drivers operate outside the stipulated time of 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. will not happen. The unfortunate boat that sank was carrying passengers beyond its capacity. The boat was overloaded and operated outside the safe navigation time.

“So we need more training for boat operators to make sure there are no repeat incidents like this,” the monarch said.

Also commenting on the incident at the monarch’s palace, NIWA’s Lagos Regional Director, Sarat Braimah, assured the monarch of increased patrolling of the waterways to prevent future occurrences of such tragedies.

She said: ‘The pier from which the ill-fated boat departed had been closed from June 2021 until December. Police were stationed there to stop the use of this pier. How they used the pier illegally without getting caught still baffles me.

“Now we will increase patrols and train boat operators in riverside communities.”

Ironically, despite NIWA’s claim that the pier the boat took off from was an illegal pier that had been closed and the unfortunate incident, the boat operators still moved passengers the next day and at press time. .

Commenting on the Ikorodu accident, LASWA Managing Director, Mr. Oluwadamilola Emmanuel said that in addition to visiting the families of the deceased, the operator was mandated to provide the captain of the boat to assist the authority in the rescue. investigation, after which the case would be settled. transmitted to the maritime police for conclusion.

Asked why the boats were still taking off from the allegedly illegal Mazamaza/Mile2 jetty, Emmanuel claimed that the boat did not take off from said terminal, but from the Mazamaza landing stage, which is not an approved or designated jetty. by LASWA.

Regarding the challenges faced by LASWA in enforcing the rules and regulations on the Lagos waterways, he said that the inland waterways of Lagos have a multitude of stakeholders ranging from dredgers, tug and barge operators, sand miners, fishermen, loggers, tourists/entertainers and transport vessels. .

“All of these stakeholders are managed by different departments, both state and federal, and as such, we sometimes have overlapping guidelines. The ferry network is mostly operated by informal boats, with no formal skills or average training,” he said.

Emmanuel added that: “Many passengers still suffer from hydrophobia, which manifests itself mainly during incidents.

Additionally, unapproved sites/jetties are also cropping up along inland waterways without prior approval, or not being built to standard.

While emphasizing that unapproved landing sites/jetties without necessary permits or documentation would be closed, he explained that “the list of approved jetties under LASWA oversight will be released soon, while we continue to promote the use of vests of rescue and to raise awareness among waterway stakeholders on its use on inland waterways.

State Information Commissioner Gbenga Omotoso says waterway safety is about more than just wearing a life jacket, although every passenger is required to wear a life jacket before boarding. of a boat.

Omotoso, who recalled that the state government recently distributed life jackets at Ibese jetty for the safety of Lagosians, added that the government will continue to sensitize private boat operators on the need for them to Obey and follow all safety rules and regulations.