Minimizing Boat Mishaps on our Waterways

The unfortunate incident which caused the deaths of some Nollywood Stars recently at Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria, while on their way from a movie set made me remember this old time article which I was shown one time by my father.

This article titled ‘Minimizing Boat Mishaps on our Waterways’ was published about three decades ago and was read as news commentary over the FM radio, Port-Harcourt, on 17th September, 1996. I would leave you to have a read and leave your comments afterwards. Below is the article, ‘Minimizing Boat Mishaps on our Waterways’, published in September 1996: 



All over the world and particularly Rivers State three distinct routes of transportation stand aloof. Three include the air, land and water. The geographical terrain and overall topography of Rivers Sate indeed lend credence to the overwhelming use of the waterways as one major means of travelling from one village to another.

Water transport which was known to be very laborious and time consuming is given a face-lift with the introduction of out-board engines and speed boats into our transport industry. While one acclaim this facet of civilization which indeed had made our riverine transportation not only faster but enjoyable, one is however enjoined to see the attendant enigma of fate which it has brought.
The incessant occurrences of boat mishaps on our waterways especially in contemporary period is most worrisome and should be a thing of utmost concern to every well-meaning citizen of this country. These accidents should rather not be erroneously envisaged as natural and the death toll of victims resigned to destiny.
Early this year, a very respectable judge was reported to have lost his life in one of the fatal water mishaps in the state. Similarly, in far away Kebbi State no fewer than forty-five lives were said to have been claimed by only a single boat accident in River Arina. And just recently, boats plying Andoni, Bonny and Nembe routes were reportedly said to have sunk and three unfortunate passengers travelling to Bonny met their untimely deaths. Though they go unnoticed, many more souls are brought to premature deaths through the care-free attitude of marine drivers.

While one is contending with the ever-skyrocketing amount one pays as fare, the unending fear for safety in these trips much more perturbs all. Prevention they say is better than cure. Something should be done and urgently too at least to bring the situation under control.
Although imprisonment terms and other penalties meted to convicted boat drivers are most welcome, preventive and stringent measures should be much more stressed and ensured. Governments, corporate bodies as well as lay individuals have parts to play in this onerous responsibility.

The qualities of our potential boat drivers should be put to test before they are empowered to join the driving profession. Occasional checks of driving licenses, boats and engine worthiness should be undertaken by the Marine Police and other relevant parastatals. Governments at all levels should provide life jackets at subsidized rates to our boat drivers and passengers alike. Over loading should be sternly penalized and jingles on radio relentlessly embarked upon.

Again, our marine drivers should be reminded to strenuously adhere to ‘right hand driving’ and to slow down their engines at bends. Big rivers should not be driven across when a storm is threatening or imminent and above all, driving engines should be intermittently overhauled.

It would be recalled that in order to guard against the frequent boat accidents in Asari-Toru Local Government Area, the then ebullient and dynamic caretaker committee chairman reportedly banned the sales of gin at Buguma waterfront and in addition made it punishable by law for any speed boat to land or take off from Buguma Jetty after 6:30pm. These are giant strides which in no distant time should be emulated in other riverine Local Government Areas of the state.

The passengers are equally part of this crusade. They should always be cautious not to shift themselves suddenly to either side of the boat as this could cause an imbalance. Arguments and strife between passengers and the driver and among the passengers perse while the boat is in motion should as much as possible as avoided.

It is common knowledge that most of the water accidents could be clearly avoided if our marine transporters have been taking the lives of their passengers and theirs to heart. It is high time that we called these recalcitrant drivers to order instead of folding our arms to bemoan fate. A stitch in time saves nine.

Going through this article again days after the demise of Junior Pope, Precious Ofurum, Abigail Frederick among others who happened to have lost their lives as a result of the boat mishap in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria, evoked a stride of emotions in me. I think we still have a long way to go as a country. What do you think, great minds? Leave your appreciated two cents in the comment section, please. 

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