‘NIWA, LASWA Lied About Ban on Night Operation’- Fishermen
… Accuse Boat Operators of Killing their breadwinner
BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
The family of a Bagadry based fisherman, George Whensu, have accused waterways’ smugglers of running over and killing the fisherman on Monday night, while out at the Badagry lagoon fishing with his canoe.
This is even as a community of riverine fishermen have contradicted the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) of lying about ban on night waterways travel, saying waterways smuggling thrives more at night.
The fishermen accused agencies of government responsible for operational monitoring and compliance of having compromised, allegedly leading to regular accidents and death.
George Whensu, the 58-year-old fisherman was reportedly found dead following a boat accident allegedly a commercial boat and his own canoe at the Gbaji waterways in Badagry area of Lagos State. According to a report by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the dead fisherman’s son, Joseph Whensu, claimed that the incident happened while his father was fishing on canoe on the lagoon last Monday night.
Narrating his story, he said the family became worried when his father, who left home at 7.30 p.m. did not return by 10pm, which was the usual time the late fisherman returns home after each night out at the sea.
“So, when it was around 11:45p.m, I was asked by family to go and search for him on the waterways. I traveled on waterways from Gbaji to Topo Island, down to Gberefu and other islands asking from different fishermen if they had seen my father’s canoe but they said no.
“I went back home around 1:30am when I could not locate his whereabouts on waterways. Around 7a.m. on Tuesday, I set out again looking for my father and his canoe; his two wives and children are already crying because this is unusual.
“Unfortunately, what I saw after two hours on waterways was my father’s paddles, floating on top of water, immediately I knew the worst has happened.”
He claimed that their long search on Tuesday after discovering the floating paddle of his father did not yield any fruit, until the next day, Wednesday, when tthey were confronted with the ugly reality of what happened.
“Throughout the second day we searched for the canoe and his body but we did not see anything on the waterways. We have not gone far from home when we saw the canoe of my father on top of the water, it has been damaged by commercial boat.
“The plank had broken beyond repairs. Moving a little further, we saw the dead body of my father on top of water. The propeller of the boat engine had cut his head, his body filled with his blood, the commercial boat smuggler taking contrabands to Benin Republic had killed my father, destroying his canoe.”
He continued: “We took his dead body to the palace of Bale of Gbaji and the traditional ruler appealed to us to go and bury our dead.
“What pains me most was that none of the commercial boat operators attended my father’s burial and I know they are the one that killed my father because of their nocturnal activities.”
Apparently and truthfully in pains, the dead fisherman’s son made some soul searching demands, which included finding the killers of his father, and seeking government assistance to support the family the late fisher man left behind.
“I want the government to help me produce the killer of my father and assist the two wives and six children left by the deceased,” he said.
Also speaking on the development, Mr Sunday Ayedogun, Chairman, Association of Badagry Fishermen, said many agencies of the government responsible for monitoring of waterways had compromised, with the attendant result of the commercial boat operators having a field day even at the restricted night operation, plying their trade from 8pm to 5am.
The night operations according to Ayedogun has created fears in the fishermen in the area, leading to jobless, for fear of getting run over while fishing by boat operators, most of who they claim were smugglers
Also reacting, the Badagry-West LCDA Chairman, Mr. Oke Fatonji, appealed to the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) to ensure proper motoring of commercial boat operators, especially along the Badagry waterways. Fatonji said that their activities at night had led to the death of many fishermen in Badagry.
Mr. Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, the Managing Director, LASWA, reportedly said that investigation is ongoing to unravel what transpired leading to the death of the fisherman.
He said so far, all that the authority has is the claim by the son of the deceased, noting that there is was no evidence as yet that the fisherman’s death was caused by a boat operator.
He said, “We are still conducting investigation on what led to his death. When the investigation by Marine Police is concluded, then we will know which action to take.
“On issue of late night movement of boat, we have our guide, so anybody that works after 7pm, the Marine Police will arrest him and he will face the consequence,” he, he told NAN.