The forum which kicked off in Lagos for boat operators, barge and tugboat owners, dredging companies, sand diggers and private jetty owners is expected to be replicated in other inland waterway locations across Nigeria where sensitization is needed so as to curtail rampant boat mishaps.
According to the Managing Director, it is no longer business as usual as human life is involved. NIWA will do all that is humanly possible to ensure the enforcement of exant safety rules on the inland waterways. He announced that as part of the measures to curb boat mishaps, crafts in use will now be certified and re-certified on a continuous basis. Similarly, boat captains and boat owners themselves are going to be certified and re-certified in a progressive manner to ensure that boats plying thewaterways meet the safety stipulations as per international standards.
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In response to complaints about the refusal of some passengers to wear life jackets, he said any intending passenger that refuses must be denied opportunity to use the boat no matter who he may claim to be.
“Night navigation is now a punishable offence on the part of the boat captain, boat owner and any other person involved in permitting it. No NIWA-controlled jetty will be allowed to permit voyages after 6 pm. Night navigation is now an offence and NIWA is determined more than ever before to prosecute those who get involved in it.”
He announced that vessels violating this order will henceforth be impounded; if they are discovered to be rickety and fall below the standards that conform to safety expectations, they will be destroyed.
Training and certification centres are now to be established in Lagos, Warri, Cross River State, etc for the training and retraning of boat captains.
On the lingering disagreement between NIWA and Lagos State government over the control of the waterways in Lagos area, Mr Ibrahim Danladi, the agency’s General Manager, Legal, explained that there is no disagreement in the true sense of it. What is playing out is misinformation and distortion of information.
He disclosed that on July 18, 2017, the Court of Appeal considerd issues in contention and took a position in a landmark judgement deliverd by Justice Hussein Mukhtar, JCA. And until that is upturned by the Supreme Court, the prescriptions on waterways designated for NIWA to regulate stand.
In his contribution, the police representative expressed concern about the disruptive operations of loggers on the waterways. He stated that adequate sensitization must be carried out to acquaint them with the dangers plying their trade on the waterways pose to safety of navigation. He stressed that night dredging is now rampant and must be stopped.
He also observed that fishermen’s nets spread across the length and breadth of the waterways constitute a big danger to seamless navigation. He underlined the need for NIWA and Marine Police to synergize and put in place a reliable patrol system to check the excesses of night operators.
In his remark concerning local sand diggers, the NIWA boss promised that in trying to enforce the exant laws, the agency would liaise with those involved to agree on the best ways to address the menace in order not to create problems for the practitioners in their business since that is their means of subsistence. He announced that the Marine Police, NIWA and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) were already actively collaborating on how to enforce decisions on issues of security on the waterways.
On their own part, the Barges Association of Nigeria bemoaned the risk dredgers constitute on the waterways and advised that they be prevented from operating close to the ports from where barges lift cargoes to various jetties.
Henceforth, NIWA will begin random checks on jetties. If it means shutting down those that violate safety protocols, the agency will do so without hesitation, Chief Muoghalu assured.
Provision for first aid will be made at approved jettoies to cater for incidents that require immediate resuscitation actions as these may occur.
On water hyacinth, the managing director restated the agency’s commitment towards routing it from the waterways.
Stakeholders expressed concerns on lack of enlightenment about NIWA’s activities in remote riverine areas with no presence of the agency itself, NIMASA and NPA. To overcome the negative effects of this, the forum was told, NIWA will design jingles and circulate flyers to carry her crusade on safety to such areas. NIWA also promised to collaborate with trade unions on ground in those remote villages to achieve her aim of the dissemination of information on safety on the waterways.