Concerns have been raised about the recurrent boat accidents that keep causing loss of lives in the northern part of Nigeria. This situation has required the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to tackle the challenges of the waterways transport system. Taraba, Kebbi, Adamawa, Zamfara, Sokoto, Niger, Nasarawa, and Kwara States have experienced countless boat mishaps within Q1-Q3, 2023. Hence, there is an urgent need for the improvement of regulations, safety measures and awareness on the country’s waterways.
Tammy Fiberesima, the General Manager of Area Offices Coordination, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), stated that there are many obstructions in waterways in Northern Nigeria. These obstructions include rocks, partly submerged woods due to sliding bank vegetation, water weeds, and issue of flooding. He also highlighted other challenges affecting the waterways in the state. They include poverty, lack of involvement of private or non-governmental organizations and boat safety promoters, lack of navigable channels, and the effects of dams.
The problem of these waterways should be properly defined.
Some challenges also include inadequate functional terminal and boat maintenance facilities, and the operation of boats by locals with no modern safety input. Thus, Fiberesima called for partnership to address these challenges in a professional manner. He asserted that there is a need to have a proper definition of the problem, figure out the gaps, and find ways to bridge highlighted gaps. He added that this can be achieved with the right experts handling the situation.
According to the General Manager of Area Offices Coordination, with a good work culture, employment of verified technologies, synergy with relevant stakeholders, effective budgeting that us conscious of cost effectiveness and priority, including sustainability, there will be an attainment of safe boat operations. In his reaction to the increasing number of boat mishaps, the spokesperson of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Jibril Darda’u, blamed the recurrent boat mishaps on the non-compliance of boat operators and their passengers.
Construction of three open boats in the northern regions.
Darda’u stressed that lack of safety compliance and overloading were the main challenging issues, especially in the northern region of Nigeria. According to the NIWA spokesperson, the agency has realized that passengers in many underdeveloped areas refuse to use life jackets, even when they are provided for their use. He added that the agency is taking steps towards the construction of three open boats in the northern regions for the mitigation of overloading and enhancement of the safety of waterways operations.
Furthermore, the spokesperson for NIWA stated that the agency is making plans to organize an engagement with governors and lawmakers in areas affected by these mishaps. This engagement will implore governors and lawmakers to ensure inclusion of boat construction in their constituency projects. This will also aid a reduction of boat accidents, particularly in underdeveloped areas. Darda’u further stated that NIWA will not cease to raise awareness concerning the significance of safety measures while travelling on boat.
This issue cannot be addressed by NIWA alone.
Through this awareness, there will be promotion of life jacket usage. According to him, there are less boat accidents in the southern part of the country as a result of a higher level of compliance and education, and there is a need for the north to adopt similar measures. The NIWA spokesperson admitted that this issue cannot be addressed by NIWA alone. Hence, the agency looks forward to receiving support from local governments and communities. With support from this set of people, there will be a safer water transport system across the country.