The Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) has decried the poor response of relevant agencies to the boat mishap in Niger state in which at least 20 persons died.
Its President, Mr Gani Balogun disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos late Friday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that at least 20 bodies were pulled from a river where a boat carrying more than 150 passengers broke in two and sank.
The boat was travelling between Niger and Kebbi states.
Authorities said only 20 people were rescued.
Balogun described the boat accident as a national tragedy and embarrasment, saying the number of deaths was still rising.
Balogun called for the dredging and removal of wreck from the Malele-Kebbi waterways.
He said in furtherance of its mission to ensure national spread and take up responsibilities, the association had always responded to accidents across the national waterways, including those in Niger state.
He added that the organisation had organised training and retraining of its members in a bid to build their emergency response capacity and also donated life jackets to them.
Balogun said that they had sought the support of the traditional institutions to help drive home the need for operators’ and water users’ adherence to extant safety regulations on waterways.
“The truth is that ATBOWATON cannot singlehandedly keep the waterways safe and also create the enabling operational environment.
”It is not all accidents on water that are attributeable to overloading and refusal to wear life jackets.
“There are system failures on waterways related to mapping, dredging, and wreck removal.
“These are the major issues across the waterways in those areas,” he said.
He called on both the federal and state governments to give River Niger – from Malele down to Kebbi and further ahead – the serious attention it needs considering that it is a theatre of important economic activities.
He said failure to do that would only create room for more boat accidents.(NAN)