By Aisha Cole/Raji Razak
The Lagos State Government has urged boat operators on its waterways to avoid drinking alcohol while on duty to stem the rising occurrence of boat mishaps.
The state Commissioner of Transportation, Mr Ladi Lawanson, gave the advice during the third Annual Stakeholders Forum, held in collaboration with the Badagry Chambers of Commerce in Badagry on Sunday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Theme of the forum was: “Stakeholders Engagement on Operational Guidelines for Boat Operators”.
Lawanson, who was represented by a consultant on Marine Affairs, Mr Gbenga Omotoso noted that not all the boat mishaps “are attributable to engine failure’’.
He added that excessive drinking of alcohol also caused accidents on the water.
“Avoid taking alcohol on the water; if you are intoxicated, you may endanger the lives of passengers as well as yourself.
“The Lagos State Government has put various policies in place to ensure the safety of lives on the sea,’’ Lawanson said.
In his opening remarks, the Managing Director, Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Mr Oluwadamilola Emmanuel said that despite the ravaging effects of the pandemic, the use of water transport in Lagos State has witnessed a tremendous transformation.
Emmanuel said that there was an increase in ridership figures on the waterways in the state.
The LASWA boss said that with over two million riders monthly, the state waterways were able to withstand significant pressure shifted from the road traffic.
He noted that “yet the potentials were endless’’.
LASWA boss said the safety of all waterways users in the state was one of the cardinal objectives of the authority.
He added that LASWA management would not shy away from its primary responsibility.
Emmanuel said that engaging stakeholders in the water transport sector were to deliberate on issues bothering on safety guidelines and improvement on water transport operations, especially on the Ọjọ-Badagry axis.
He said that LASWA management was “saddened and worried by the unfortunate incidents of boat mishaps recorded on this axis in recent past’’.
“We pray to the Almighty to grant the families of departed souls the fortitude to bear the loss.
“To forestall the reoccurrence of such regrettable incidences, today we are issuing out new operational guidelines for ferry operations in the state while restricting the usage of jetties across the entire Badagry axis.
“LASWA has also donated 500 life jackets of different sizes that will be distributed to all boat users and participants here at the forum.
“We have also commenced a massive safety awareness campaign across all jetties and terminals in order to educate and sensitize ferry passengers and boat operators on safety procedures,’’ Emmanuel said.
Adding a royal voice at the forum, Oba Akran of Badagry, Aholu-Menu Toyi 1, urged the government to intensify efforts on enlightenment programme for boat operators to enhance safety on water transportation in Badagry.
Toyi who was represented by Baale of Topo, Chief Michael Avose, commended the efforts of the Badagry Chamber of Commerce for facilitating the enlightenment programme.
The royal father also advised boat operators to avoid taking alcohol when on a boat.
In his remark, the Secretary, Lagos State Private Boat Operators, Mr Owolabi Omotayo, commended the LASWA for organizing prompt rescue operations during the last boat mishap in Badagry.
Omotayo said that the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUA) had been working with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to ensure that boat operators are trained and certified.
Also, Lt. Commodore Dan Nehemiah, Base Operator Officer Badagry, pleaded with LASWA management to regulate the indiscriminate erection of jetty in the area.
Nehemiah also alleged that boat operators usually engage in late-night operations and they had relaxed on the COVID-19 guidelines.
The President, Badagry Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (BACCIMA) Fatai Shokunbi, appealed to LASWA to ensure that Badagry is not left behind on the development drive in the state.