Following the rising incidences of boat mishaps in the country in recent times, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has said that it has initiated a process to re-certify all the boats plying the nation’s inland waterways as well as retrain boat captains and crew members to help curb the menace.
The Managing Director, NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu who disclosed this in a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos on Wednesday warned that no captain would henceforth be allowed to move on water if he was not certified by NIWA.
According to him, “We are going to impound vessels now, vessels that are not as far as we are concerned, sea worthy, vessels that are not certified by NIWA will be impounded. We are going to start a regime now of random checks. You will not be surprised now to see our police on the water chasing and stopping and impounding vessels. We are going to start that immediately because we cannot allow this to continue. This lawlessness cannot continue.”
Moghalu noted that the use of life jackets must be obeyed saying “we cannot afford to lose any life.”
He said, “Even speed limit must be observed but I know of a certainty that to us as an organization to succeed fully, for us to achieve what we desire to achieve, we must have the buy in of all the operators, the buy in of the boat owners, the buy in of those who own private jetties because I know and I can say that no NIWA controlled jetty will allow any vessel to leave the jetty after 6.30pm, it is not possible otherwise the Area Manager is risking his or her job. That will not be acceptable to us. But we don’t have control of all the jetties in Lagos as we don’t have control of all the jetties in the whole country.
“Most of these vessels are not designed for night navigation; most of these vessels don’t have night navigational aids. The captains of these vessels, their status are not known, they are not certified. So, that is why we need to have your buy in for this to be fully enforced and that is why I am here. I want to have your buy in, I want you to be part of what we are going to do. I don’t want a situation where somebody will say tomorrow, NIWA didn’t tell them they will start impounding vessels. I don’t want a situation where somebody will call me on phone tomorrow and tell me you have to intervene, that the police have arrested.
“We are going to prosecute even. Once there is any infringement on any of these protocols, I can guarantee you, you can take it to the bank, that defaulters will be prosecuted, vessels will be impounded, if we think that the state of those vessels are not worthy to be on our waters, I will order that they should be destroyed and take my word for it, I will do that because I cannot afford any longer to hear any news of any loss of life because the reports that we are getting from the investigation bureau that is going on most of these accidents is a consequence of a breach of one of these protocols that have been discussed and it will not be acceptable to us anymore.”
Earlier, the NIWA boss observed that a good percentage of these accidents had actually been as a consequence of refusal to obey protocols noting that “it is either life jackets are not worn, it is either vessels are not certified, it is either the boat captains are not qualified, it is either the vessel are overloaded, it is either a case of over speeding, it is either the case of using the right boat for the wrong purpose or the wrong boat for the right purpose. So, it has everything to do with our operational methodology and our character and this we must resist and we must desist.
“I am sure you are aware that we have protocols already established by NIWA, protocols that includes the compulsory wearing of life jackets, protocols that includes no alcohol or no drugs by captains and members of his crew, we have protocols that from 6.30pm to 6.00am, no vessel is expected to operate, no night movement so to speak. You are also aware of the protocols that no vessel should for any reason be overloaded by either passengers or luggages. We have come to know that there is midstream transfer of passengers; that is not acceptable.
“We have also come to observe that even when we know that the weather is not good for navigation, we allow our vessels to move on water. In some cases, you find that the captains or the crew members are over speeding, in some cases, beyond the limits of these vessels and in the likelihood of losing control the moment they run into an emergency is there. We find situations where with passengers on board with the vessel on water, they are refueling their tanks. You ask yourself, what happened before they took off? Is it that they don’t know their fuel level before they took off and in the middle of the water; you see them trying to refill their tanks. So, these are not acceptable because these are protocols that are already there but we tend to refuse to obey them.
“So, I have called this meeting principally to let operators and owners know that we are now going to enforce, drastically, these provisions”, he stated.
Photo: Managing Director, NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu.
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