By Joshua Yousouph
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) said it has started the enforcement of license of boat drivers on Lagos waterways.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that the Lagos Area office of NIWA, had last year introduced a mandatory training programme and licenses for all boat operators in order to reduce the rate of mishaps.
According to the Area Manager, Engineer Sarat Braimah, the new license will be valid for use anywhere in Nigeria and will last for three years after which it will be renewed. She also noted that the enforcement of the license will commence in January 2022 as boat operators without the license will be sanctioned.
When contacted in January, Braimah promised that the enforcement on defaulters will commence on the 1st of February, 2022. “The mandatory Small Power Boat & RIB Master training commenced last year and the turnout has been remarkably impressive. Licenses and certificates have been issued to those who have completed the training. Enforcement on defaulters will commence on the 1st of February, 2022” Braimah had said.
However, during a condolence visit and sensitization programme organized by NIWA for boat operators in some riverine communities last month, the Area Manager who was represented by the Head of Marine, Engr. Elsie Egwuatu disclosed that the enforcement of the boat operators’ license has been postponed to August, and urged all boat operators to obtain their license before the due date.
In a chat with Shipping Position Daily last week, NIWA confirmed that enforcement has started in August. The Head of Marine, Lagos Area Office, Engr. Elsie Egwuatu confirmed the development.
Egwuatu said that lots of boat operators are coming to certify their boats and are also obtaining their licenses.
“Yes, the enforcement commenced this August. My observations are that a lot of operators are regularizing. That is, they are coming to certify their boats” Egwuatu said
Also speaking, Secretary of the Boat Operators Unit, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN); Comrade Omotayo Owolabi affirmed to our correspondent that the enforcement has started and boat operators have started getting their licenses.
Owolabi informed that NIWA’s task force has been patrolling the waterways and some boats have been impounded. He noted that the owners have been asked to report to the NIWA office to register and obtain their licenses.
“They have started the enforcement now. Many people are licensing their boats now. It is not easy, but it is a gradual process. It commenced this August. They do go on patrol here and there. Some boats were arrested and people were asked to come to the office to register; which they are doing now.
“Everyone is complying. It is the law. We cannot get it perfectly overnight. It is a process we have to go through which involves money. Although things are really hard, but notwithstanding, it is the law. We have to comply with the law. Many boat operators are complying” Owolabi concluded
On the contrary, the MWUN Liverpool Unit Chairman, Comrade Ayeyemi Omosuyi, told Shipping Position Daily that although the enforcement has started no one has been arrested at Liverpool yet. He noted that they are often informed beforehand before any sanction is meted out to defaulters.
Omosuyi said boat operators prefer to get licenses issued by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) which according to him is quite cheaper than that of NIWA. He however pleaded that NIWA should approach the cost of training and licensing of boat operators with a human face, as some of them cannot meet the demand of the government due to the nation’s economy.
“NIWA is the Federal agency in charge of water transportation and they have to do their work. But based on the economy of Nigeria, everything is very expensive and boat operators are struggling to survive. So we cannot meet the demands of the government. They were asking for a life jacket and Certificate of Competency. You have to obtain their certificates, buy their stickers and have all your licenses on waterways before driving the boat.
“The cost of the certificate is very high for us. We have another means of getting the certificate which is from NIMASA with a lesser price. It is lesser than that of NIWA. People prefer to go to NIMASA than NIWA, because the certificate and training of NIWA is very high. The price of NIWA Certification is around 60,000 while that of NIMASA is between N25,000 to N30,000.,
“No one has been sanctioned. Whenever they want to carry out their assignment, they will inform us. They do not just enter into the water like that. They inform the stakeholders and boat drivers when they are coming to check our activities. No one has been arrested. All they did was that they warned us and we asked them to exercise some patience with us so that we can be able to do that and they let our people be. I am not sure of other jetties, but as far as Liverpool is concerned, no one has been arrested” Omosuyi said.
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