The Cross River Area Office of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has reiterated its unwavering commitment to enforcing stringent regulations governing water transportation. The agency also announced comprehensive training initiatives for boat operators to ensure compliance with safety standards.
Boat operators and waterway users in Cross River and Ebonyi states received a stern advisory to conduct their operations in strict adherence to safety regulations outlined under the National Inland Waterways Authority Act. NIWA emphasized that failure to comply would result in sanctions aligned with existing regulations.
Speaking at an expanded stakeholders meeting in Calabar, the NIWA Cross River Area Manager of Engineer Stanley Onuoha highlighted the necessity of reinforcing these regulatory guidelines while stressing on the importance of safe practices to prevent any mishaps resulting in potential loss of life or property.
He urged all users of the Calabar to Ebonyi water channels to collaborate with the regulatory authority to fulfill its mandates, emphasizing NIWA’s firm commitment to passengers’ safety on the waterways.
The Area Manager underscored critical safety measures, mandating that boats traversing the waterways undergo annual survey checks to ensure river worthiness and be duly registered by NIWA. Additionally, he noted that vessels must be equipped with necessary navigation tools and life jackets for passengers.
Engr Onuoha maintained a zero-tolerance policy towards boat operators and drivers lacking proper licenses and permits.
In a proactive move towards enhancing competence within its catchment area, Onuoha announced the commissioning of a Marine Training consultant tasked with training boat and barge drivers. This training, according to him, is deemed mandatory for certification by NIWA. An enforcement period starting January 2024 was unveiled, during which untrained boat or barge drivers without NIWA-issued licenses will be barred from operating on the waterways.
Engineer Onuoha expressed the agency’s resolve to redefine operational practices, aligning them with stakeholders’ interests and the increased traffic observed on waterways. He highlighted the directive from NIWA’s new Managing Director, Mr. Munirudeen Oyebamiji, focusing on leveraging the brown water ecosystem to drive tourism, fishing, and recreational opportunities.
“We are determined to change our operational narratives, which we wish to build around our stakeholders. As you are aware, there has been increased traffic on our waterways for the movement of persons, goods, and services, and with our new mandate, tourism, fishing and recreational opportunities will be powered through our Brown water ecosystem and we at the instruction of our new managing director, Mr Munirudeen Oyebamiji have prepared our minds to process the delivery in these areas hence, we felt we need to share ideas and work together” Engineer Onuoha noted.
Other stakeholders at the meeting voiced their support for NIWA’s initiatives, acknowledging the necessity for strategic efforts to attract investments to Nigerian waterways. They pledged cooperation while welcoming the training and certification of boat drivers as a pivotal step towards enhancing safety and attracting potential investors.
“We have listened to your very robust presentation and work plan and hereby assure you of our cooperation in our best possible ways. We also want to extend our warm greetings to your new managing director, Mr Munirudeen Oyebamiji and pray that when he visits us soon, the dividend of your work plans would be glaring for all to see” one of the stakeholders stated.