Apparently reacting to the recent boat mishap along the Marina to Ikorodu waterways where six persons were reported dead, the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has threatened to ban ferries plying the state waterways.
The General Manager in charge of Lagos operations of NIWA, Engineer Mauzu Sambo, gave this indication after a meeting between the agency and boat operators in Lagos.
He also said that he had given the boat operators enough time to standardize their boats, but lamented that the operators have ignored the directive.
Mauzu also gave six weeks ultimatum to boat owners to provide roofs on their boats and two weeks for all the boats to have buoyancy.
Mauzu also disclosed that the agency is working towards reconstructing four jetties in Apapa, CMS, VI and Ikorodu areas of the state.
Speaking on the recent mishap, the NIWA boss said: "After the incidence that happened last week and after speaking with ATBOWTON president last night, I couldn’t sleep till this morning”
“And at the end of the day, I said these flying coffins will not ply these waterways again, as far as I am still the General Manager, Lagos, NIWA and I don't need any approval to take that decision”.
Speaking further on the need for operators to be safety conscious, the NIWA GM said, “human live, as I always say is sacrosanct and that is what my belief teaches me that is why we must do everything within our reach to save lives. Water transportation is an important aspect; it requires skills, investments and so many things. So all of us need to do what we are supposed to do"
"I can't sit down here and be writing letters that will take time to be attended to while I am the person in the battle field. I shared this feeling with some people and they said yes and they were talking about operators. I said No, I have giving enough time to the operators. I have the documents of the meeting we had in 2016 with the operators where we agreed on how to standardise the boats and phase-out these coffins", he stressed.
He also said that the agency has given operators the opportunity to provide alternative boats instead of using the old ones.
"So, don't mention operators, they have had enough time, the Lagos state government wanted to phase them out immediately, I said for the sake of humanity, we decided to give them the opportunity to provide an alternative by themselves or by the government”.
He also said that the agency is working with Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to ensure that proper trainings are giving to the boat drivers.
"We try to exploit the options that we have, we have had meeting with ATBOWTON severally in terms of the standidization of the boats. We are also working with other agencies like NIMASA on how we can train the drivers", he added.
He also said that the agency is working on introducing Beach Master to man the jetties adding that they will be trained by merchant navy.
"We are also working with ATBOWTON to ensure that every jetty has a beach master who is going to be trained by the merchant navy"
He maintained that the issue of education and enlightenment is sacrosanct both for operators and users adding that it is a major reason why the agency will introduce beach master
Meanwhile, in his speech, Chairman of United Waterways Passengers Association (UWPA) Mr. Pius Agbude, called for NIWA to ban the sale of alcohol at the jetties, even as he called for the removal of the wrecks on the waterways to avoid another mishap.