How 16 boat passengers were trapped under a barge on Lagos waters – The Sun Nigeria
By Steve Agbota
Investigations revealed how the recent passenger boat carrying 16 members of the same family, including the driver of the boat, got stuck under a barge on the eve of the last Muslim holiday of sallah.
The boat, which was carrying 16 members of the Sunmola Aniajogun family from Mile 2, Lagos, bound for Ibeshe, struck a stationary barge and sank at around 7.45pm on July 8, near a container jetty which was closed l ‘last year. All the passengers and the driver of the boat are dead.
According to a witness, the passengers, who were going to the sallah party, were crammed into a boat which was supposed to carry only 10 passengers. The boat also flouted night sailing rules and regulations.
The Daily Sun has learned that some of the passengers could have been rescued immediately but the barge trapped them making it difficult for them to ascend and spread across the water.
A video clip and photo taken by one of the operators revealed that all the passengers were wearing life jackets. It was learned that the passengers would have floated on the water to be rescued, but because the boat was stuck under the barge, they were unable to float until the barge was moved the following day.
The President of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON), Lagos Chapter, Lawal Saheed said no one was happy with the sad incident.
He said authorities who regulate shipping have a lot to do to make sure such accidents don’t happen again, saying those who regulate have a lot to do too.
Recounting how the boat accident happened, he said, normally, otherwise the boat ran under the barge and, if there were to be casualties, it would not be everyone on board. He added that there was no way they could have gotten away from there because of the way the current was coming.
According to him, the barge had already trapped passengers and boat operators so that they could not come back up. Rather, they drowned because the barge suffocated them until the next day when it was removed.
He said if it was an open space, people would spill out onto the water and rescuers would come and pick them up one after another.
He said: ‘The pier where the incident happened has not been communicated to operators. We wrote letters to the authorities saying that they should free the pier for us. These are the barges that take care of the pier.
“Usually, except that the boat sank under the barge, and if there were to be someone injured, it won’t be everyone on board.
“It’s not true that the passengers weren’t wearing life jackets as is insinuated but they were stuck under the barge. I have the photo and the video. The barge has been removed and it is no longer at the same place where the incident occurred.
Meanwhile, ATBOWATON National Chairman Ganiyu Tarzan Balogun said, “When we heard about the unfortunate incident, we learned that the boat was small for the number of passengers it carried. It was so unfortunate that the driver of the deceased boat might have been able to explain how it happened and face the law by serving the sentence for flouting the rules of night sailing. This will serve as a lesson to all other boat operators to always take safety rules and regulations seriously.
However, the Lagos Regional Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Engr. Sarat Braimah, said investigations revealed the boat had been loaded onto a container jetty which was closed last year in June.
According to her, the pier was supposed to load containers but was closed because it was not certified for container operations. She said NIWA and the Joint Barge Operations Committee, comprising NPA and NIMASA, closed the pier and stationed police there to prevent operations from taking place there.
“We monitored them and they weren’t working. When I heard about the incident I called the owner of the pier and asked him why a boat was being loaded from his pier and he said he didn’t know. These people went there to load illegally.
“One of the pier owner’s staff who is an eyewitness said he saw them loading and questioned them and they said they were waiting for a boat from their village to take them. They said they were going for the party that had just ended.
“He said the boat couldn’t take more than 10 passengers and there were 17 people on the boat, including the captain. The boat went under the barge and the weather also contributed to that. The weather was bad and shipowners and passengers should not sail at night because of the waves. Our piers open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.,” she explained.
Speaking during a condolence visit to the community of Ibeshe, where the victims of the boating accident resided, she asked boat operators and passengers to be safety conscious.
“Boat operators must adhere to safety rules and regulations such as avoiding night trips and overloading. On the part of the passengers, they must ensure that the operators respect the safety rules and regulations. When boarding the boats, they must demand life jackets and that the captain of the boat does not wear beyond his capacity.
“The incidents happened and what we are doing is ensuring that there is no repetition to make water transport a safe mode of transport,” she said.
The Ovori of Ibeshe, Oba Alani Gausu said most of the boat operators in Lagos waterways do not have formal training and orientation in boat handling nor the rules on boat standard use.
He identified the causes of boat accidents on Lagos waters as human error and neglect of regulations. He said the operators had no knowledge of the boats, adding that some of them were underage and drug addicted and used substandard boats with big engines leading to accidents on the waterways.
“The major problem is human error, things we overlook as unimportant. Boat operators are dealing with people’s lives. They lack guidance and training. Are there boat standards who should be plying our waterways?
“Are the regulations effectively enforced to hold those responsible as a deterrent to others? Most of these operators start their boats without checking if the boats are in perfect condition and without life jackets for the passengers.
“You see miners handling large motorboats and substandard boats, risking people’s lives. Plus, they overspeed on the waters. Operators must know that they are not transporting objects but human beings,” he said.
Speaking on the recent boat accident that claimed the lives of 19 people from Ibeshe community, the traditional leader said the captain of the boat was carrying passengers beyond the capacity of the boat.
“Boat captains don’t check the fuel and oil level in the boat’s engine. It was after pushing the boat into the water that they realized the need to mix oil and fuel in the boat’s engine,” he said.
The traditional ruler recounted a situation where a boat carried 10 passengers along with several gallons of petroleum products from the Ijegun area to Ibeshe, noting that there would have been a disaster had there been a spark.
He said there was a need for NIWA, LASWA, LAGFERRY, Boat Operators Association, Lagos State Government and other stakeholders to come together and address the problem of boat accidents in the areas. rivers because human lives are involved.
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