In a tragic maritime incident on the night of January 9th, 2023, at least 20 individuals are feared dead following a collision between two passenger boats en route from Andoni to Bonny Island in Nigeria’s coastal Rivers State. This marks the first maritime accident of the year in the region, shedding light on the ongoing safety challenges faced by waterway travelers in Nigeria. Erastus Awortu, the chairman of Andoni local government area, confirmed the incident, emphasizing the urgency of the response. “When we learned of the tragic development, we immediately dispatched our team to join the first responders on a rescue mission at the scene of the incident,” Awortu stated. Unfortunately, details regarding survivors were not provided.
The occurrence underscores the persisting issues of overcrowding and poor maintenance plaguing Nigerian waterways, contributing to a significant number of boat accidents. Last year alone, over 300 lives were lost in various maritime incidents across the country. One devastating event in June claimed the lives of over 100 individuals when an overloaded boat capsized in the north-central Niger State. In response to the recent tragedy, Rivers Governor Siminalayi Fubara expressed condolences to the affected families and pledged proactive measures to address safety concerns on sea routes. Fubara stated, “We will ensure that such threats against safe traveling on our sea routes are tackled,” emphasizing the commitment to enhancing maritime safety and preventing further tragedies in the future.
Timeline of boat accidents in 2023 across Nigeria.
So, in 2023, Nigeria faced an unprecedented surge in waterway accidents, claiming over 300 lives across states such as Lagos, Kebbi, Taraba, Niger, and Anambra. The prevalent mishaps, attributed to factors like overloading, faulty engines, and a lack of life jackets, underscored a grim safety scenario on the country’s water routes. In October, a comprehensive two-part investigation by TheCable exposed regulatory failures, painting a stark picture of Nigeria’s waterways evolving into deadly traps. The timeline of reported boat accidents from January to December outlined a distressing sequence of incidents.
Year 2023 commenced with a tragic incident on January 3 when a boat transporting over 100 rice farmers capsized in Koko/Nesse LGA of Kebbi state, resulting in the death of ten farmers. Subsequent months witnessed accidents near the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, at Kanva Dam in Kano state, and in Dandeji village, Sokoto state. The tragedies continued in states like Ondo, Kwara, and Cross River, each marked by lives lost, rescues, and the recurring theme of inadequate safety measures.
Urgent attention needed to address these systemic issues.
Also, Kwara state suffered a devastating accident where over 100 individuals lost their lives in Egbu village, Patigi LGA in June. The overloaded boat, conveying victims returning from a wedding event, capsized due to avoidable human errors, according to the Nigeria Inland Waterway Authority (NIWA). In response, the Kwara government committed to enhancing water transportation safety by deploying 1,000 life jackets to boat operators. June 24 brought another tragedy in Calabar, Cross River state, where a speed boat capsized.
It resulted in five confirmed deaths and three missing medical students. NIWA attributed the incident to overloading, engine malfunctions, and adverse weather conditions. Following this, Cross River state governor Bassey Otu suspended cruise operations and activities at the Marina Resort. August witnessed a boat capsizing in the Atlantic Ocean in Lagos, with two individuals rescued. In Nasarawa state on August 24, 12 lives were lost in another boat accident, while seven people were rescued. Subsequent months brought further tragedies in Yola, Niger, Kebbi, Anambra, Lagos, and Taraba, each contributing to the escalating toll of waterway disasters.
Related Article: Recurrent boat mishaps in northern region
President Bola Tinubu, in September, responded to the alarming frequency of boat accidents by ordering a thorough investigation. Directing Nigerian maritime safety authorities and law enforcement agencies to collaborate, Tinubu sought to identify the root causes of these preventable disasters. As the timeline indicates, these events, reported in the media, may not capture incidents in remote communities that go unreported. The cumulative impact of these tragedies calls for urgent and comprehensive measures to address the systemic issues plaguing Nigeria’s water transportation, ensuring the safety of its citizens navigating these perilous routes.
National Inland Waterways Authority: Website