By G9ija

The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has concluded plans to ban vessel operators without navigational aids from operating on the nation’s waterways as part of efforts to safeguard passengers, goods and members of the crew on waters

To this end, the waterways regulatory agency, said it has taken a step further to criminalise unlicensed boat drivers operating on Nigerian waterways in order to prevent incessant accidents and lives of Nigerians using water transportation in the country.

The Managing Director of NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu who stated this at a stakeholders’ forum in Lagos, said that any vessel that does not have navigational aids would not be allowed to work in the day or at night, adding that no overloaded vessel will also be allowed to operate on the nation’s waterways.

According to him, from statistics and information gathered, most of the accidents on the waterways happened either in the night or very early hour in the morning.

He explained: “And the principle reason from my own assessment is that either the boats are not fit with the navigation aids, either they are rickety, either the boat drivers or operators are not qualify or permitted to operate or there were no life jacket. These are some of the reasons why such things are happening. So we set out one to bring information to people on why it is important to operate very safe boats.

“And we have given directives to Area Managers; we don’t want to see any rickety boats on our waterways. No boat should be operate on our waterways if not licensed or permitted to operate, if you see such; impound them. We have also said it, no unlicensed boat driver will ride any boat on our waterways, we will stop it.”

He hinted that he had given directive to arrest boat drivers who are not certified as well as impound such vessels. Adding that the authority had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an American company to supply life jackets to all jetties in the country, as part of efforts to guarantee safety of boat operators and commuters in waterways transportation in the country.

On safety navigation by commuters and operators, he noted that the NIWA is working towards acquiring ambulances that will be deployed to moving accident victims along the waterways.

“A few weeks ago, we signed an agreement with a company that will be supplying life jackets at no cost to NIWA. These life jackets will be made available at all waterfronts. By then, no one will give excuse of boarding boats without life jackets due to unavailability of jackets. I have set a target for myself and that target is to make water transportation a transport mode of choice.

“Part of our efforts are geared towards cleaning up our waterways, remove wrecks, remove water hyacinth to the best of our ability, building new jetties, developing existing jetties and developing our shorelines like we are doing here in Lagos and other parts of the country.”