The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has blamed the Friday boat mishap on the failure of operators to adhere to the 6 p.m. sailing schedule guiding water transportation services in Lagos State.
NIWA’s Lagos Area Manager, Sarat Braimah, disclosed this in a statement in Lagos on Sunday, while reacting to the ill-fated Lalek Marine which capsized on Friday night.
It will be recalled that the boat, Lalek Marine, which left Ebute Ero jetty on July 3 at 8 p.m., capsized on its way to Ikorodu shortly after departure.
A total of 14 passengers were rescued while six died with one missing.
Braimah said apart from violating the extant time of operation schedule slated for 6 p.m, the boat operator also overloaded the vessel.
According to her, the boat operator acted against COVID-19 protocols which allowed only 60 per cent carrying capacity for all types of boats in order to encourage social distancing.
“We at NIWA responded immediately to the sad incident and joined the marine police, LASWA and other concerned agencies to rescue the 14 passengers, and also recovered six others already drowned, with one missing,” she said.
The area manager further explained that the Ebute Ero jetty, the departure point of the ill-fated boat, would henceforth be monitored by NIWA police, pending the conclusion of investigation into the incident.
She said NIWA had tracked down the owner of the boat to explain how the unfortunate incident happened and if need be, the collaborators would also be invited for questioning.
“The Managing Director of NIWA, Dr George Moghalu, has directed that the jetty be monitored to avoid recurrence of the incident and to enable NIWA to conduct full investigation into this very sad but avoidable incident,” she said.
Braimah said that NIWA’s management had, a month ago, offered waiver and reduced sundry fees and other operational charges across board in the brown water economy, to help stakeholders stick to COVID-19 protocols.
The area manager said the measure was also to check tendencies that might encourage violation of extant regulation regime.
“The MD knew that some operators might be tempted to make quick money to make up for the lost opportunities and financial loss experienced during the lockdown.
“He was therefore futuristic and proactive to reduce the fees and charges, knowing the expected impact of the new normal on operators.
“But we can see from what happened that some operators are so uncaring and selfish to end the lives of innocent people through blatant violation of the rules of engagement.
“NIWA is still investigating the situation, looking at various scenarios and engaging other agencies, boat operators and associations, to nip this type of avoidable incident in the bud,” she said.
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ejike Obeta (NAN)
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