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2023: Buhari Deploys More Passenger Ferries Amid More Mishaps, Deaths


Perhaps, determined once again to deploy all manners of tricks to lure Nigerians with committing its votes into returning the All Progressive Congress (APC) to power in 2023, the President Muhammadu Buhari government has again commissioned two passenger ferry boats the government says is intended to shore up waterways transportation and ease the challenge of commuting by waterways.

Barely a week ago, the Honourable Minister commissioned three patrol boats and 32- Seater ferry boat at the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Area Office Port Harcourt where he said the ferry was procured to enhance the nation’s operational efficiency as well as encourage water transportation; despite that the major challenges confronting water transportation at the moment is that of safety arising principally out of lax regulation.

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As a result of poor and inadequate regulation including poor standardization including inefficient search and rescue measures, more than twenty Nigerians have lost their lives in separate boat incidents in recent time.

While thanking the Emirate for its endless cooperation to the NIWA Area office in Yauri, the Managing Director NIWA, Chief Dr. George Moghalu noted that the launch of the ferry boats was the fulfillment of his promise to raise the numbers of passenger ferry in the area from the single boat commissioned last year.

“I remember I made a promise to His Royal Highness that I will come back to Yauri, and that promise, I have fulfilled today, I assured him that I will justify the confidence reposed in me, and also that I will do all I can to make sure that the Yauri Emirate route that leads outside this country becomes commercially viable.”

He also commended the Senator representing Kebbi South, Sen. Bala ibn Na Allah for his efforts and commitment to his people and for his his desire to see that the route between Yauri leading outside the country to Burkina Faso, Mali and neighbouring  countries is made navigable.

At a time like this when all hands are expected to be on deck to build the required operational regulatory efficiencies, the APC led government appears fixated with election winning gimmicks in the purchase of passenger boats rather than rising to the demand for safety of Nigerians.

Thus while the president and his men at the inland waterways transportation are chasing after 2023 re-election, three Nigerians again lost their lives by drowning after separate boat accidents in Jigawa and Bayelsa states, respectively.

While one of the victims believed to be a naval personnel drowned after the barge he provided escort was involved in a head-on collision with a passenger ferry boat along the Onitsha River channel, two out of thirteen passengers also died in one of the designated navigable waterways in Ringim Local Government of Jigwawa State.

According to reports, no officials of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) were found throughout the search and rescue periods lasting two days.  According to available reports, while the navy authority recovered the corpse of the deceased naval rating after five days along Olugbobiri Creek of Bayelsa State, the Jigawa Police Command last Sunday confirmed the death of two persons, who were among 13 passengers conveyed by the ill fated boat on their way to a condolence visit, before the canoe reportedly capsized after hitting an object.

The Jigawa Command Public Relations Officer, DSP Lawan Shiisu said: “Information at our disposal revealed that a particular canoe with 13 occupants who were on transit from Dabi village toward Siyangu village, all in Ringim LGA reportedly capsized. The occupants were on their way to pay a condolence visit.”

Shiisu further explained that upon receipt of the report, “a team of policemen launched a search and rescue mission at the scene with the assistance of local divers in the area which led to the recovery of seven persons on the spot who were all rushed to General Hospital, Ringim for medical attention.”

According to him, two out of the seven recovered occupants, Bara’atu Garba, 30, and Mahmud Surajo, 3, were certified dead by a medical doctor on duty.

Shiisu further disclosed that while the remains of the deceased were later released to their families for burial, the other five rescued persons were receiving treatment at the hospital, while the other six victims were still missing.

Ironically, while the police was believed to have intensified efforts to recover those that got drowned and were still missing as at last Sunday, NIWA was missing in action, in its primary area of duty.  As at the time NIWA in reportedly in collaboration with the Senator representing Kebbi South Senatorial district, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah was commissioning a two 32-seater passenger boats at its Yauri Area office in Kebbi State, it has yet to have its personnel on ground where the latest boat mishaps took place.

While there is speculation that the said boats for Yauri area operation had earlier been commissioned elsewhere, our reporter was unable to confirm the veracity of the claim as at the time of going to press.

What appears certain is the unlikelihood of this government to show sufficient responsibility in the safety of Nigerians that commute by inland waterways transportation. The tragedy of our nation is that critical apparatus of mass transportation services are given to politicians’ who are forever committed to narrow political inclinations, rather than service orientated citizens.

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