THE Lagos State government has blamed commercial operators for the recent boat mishap in Ikorodu area of the state.
But in response, the operators pushed the blame to sand dredgers for the accident.
The state government, in a preliminary finding, said life-vested passengers drowned due to poor quality of vessels deployed by the operators.
It would be recalled that a 20-passenger boat belonging to Aki Marine, which took off from Ijede in Ikorodu, capsised about 10:30am last Saturday at a dredging point en route Badore, Ajah jetty.
The incident occurred just some months after the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), the regulatory body for water transportation in the state, got a new Managing Director, Mrs. Abisola Kamson, who assured that regulations and safety would be top notch.
Kamson, who immediately summoned the commercial operators to a meeting after last Saturday’s incident, said although all passengers on the boat were wearing their life jackets, adding that the covered design of the boat made rescue efforts challenging and difficult.
Kamson said: “The state government will not tolerate the operation of substandard vessels on the waterways.
“Any individual or corporate entity found to be operating vessels not deemed water worthy would be prosecuted in accordance with the provisions of the law.”
During the last administration, the committee set up to look into a boat mishap in Ikorodu indicted government officials, especially LASWA, for not doing enough to salvage the situation.
Just a week before Saturday, two boats collided in Ikorodu, killing one on board.
Kamson had said that the incident was caused by early morning fog, which led to poor visibility for the captains of the two boats.
She said the enforcement of the order on the use of life jackets on waterways reduced the number of casualties.
The General Manager (Operations) of Tarzan Boats, a commercial operator on the axis, Hakeem Balogun, in his account, said the incident was caused by a heap of sand.
According to Balogun, the captain of the ill-fated boat, who was among those rescued, said the accident occurred three minutes after departure, when the boat ran into the sand left by dredgers.
He stated: “He (the captain) said they heard a loud noise on impact before the boat capsised, very close to the spot where a mechanised dredger was working.
“It was when we got there that we saw that the boat actually hit a heap of sand left there by the dredgers.
“This is what we have been experiencing since the dredgers came here; the same route you ply on your way going, without any incident, could have a heap of sand on your return journey.
“A similar incident almost happened about four weeks ago, but we lost our engine and the boat was damaged.”
It would be recalled that on April 2, 2014, about eight people died, while 12 others were rescued by local divers after a wooden boat capsised in a lagoon in the Majidun area of Ikorodu.
A month before that, another mishap had claimed 18 lives around Festac area.
In July last year, six school pupils, among 14 school children and an adult on board, perished en route school when their canoe capsised in Irewe, Ebute-Ojo, Ojo, Lagos.
Government, like in other cases before then, blamed “the careless operator of a speedboat,” while also regretting that none of the 15 passengers wore life vests during the ill-fated home-to-school ride.
With the last mishap in Ikorodu, it appears to be the turn of operators and sand dredgers to take the hit in the continuing blame game.
Meanwhile, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has ordered sand dredgers operating in waterways in the state to stop their operations and vacate the sites immediately.
Commissioner for Waterfront and Infrastructure, Mr. Adebowale Akinsanya, conveyed the governor’s order at a closed door meeting he last Monday with the dredgers from Ebute-Ilaje in Alausa, Ikeja.
Concerned Lagos residents are, however, unanimous that the government, particularly LASWA, would need to do a lot more, in terms of proper regulations, to keep the fast-growing water transportation safer to prevent one too many fatal boat mishaps.
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