PAUL OMOKUVIE, BAUCHI
Musa Isa, one of the 12 survivors of the Bauchi State boat mishap that occurred on Tuesday, has shared the pain of watching helplessly as his younger brother drowned in River Kirfi.
Our correspondent learnt that the ill-fated boat, allegedly overloaded withpassengers and goods, sank midway into the journey when the paddle suddenly broke and caused panic among some frightened passengers.
Isa, 25, and his younger brother Ibrahim, 17 and the youngest of the passengers were sent by their father, Isa, to go to other side to mind his cattle where the grass was abundant.
The only route to get there was usually by boat.
Cattle breeders and farmers from Badara, Kesu, Butta , Wuro Cedi, Meigeri, Babaladi and many communities in Kirfi local government area rely on just two boats to cross to get to their farms and animals.
There is usually rush hour in the mornings and evenings, our correspondent learnt.
“When we got to Kusu water side that morning, there were some passengers already inside the boat.
“I paid N130 fare for me and my brother and we joined them,” Musa said.
He explained that he noticed that the operators of the boat kept collecting money from more passengers.
“I warned them that the number of passengers would be too much for the
boat to carry but they didn’t listen.
“Some passengers were also begging to be allowed to enter the boat,” he said.
When Daily Sun visited Kusu water side, one of the two surviving boats, which was about the size of the one involved in the recent mishap, was collecting fare from passengers too eager to be ferried across.
The women, just like the men, with their children all around were impatient, , as passengers’ belongings, including motorcycles, were laded inside the old and rickety boat.
Investigation revealed that boats of that size were built to accommodate between 20 and 30 passengers.
Daily Sun learnt that the boat which Musa and his brother boarded, and which eventually carried about 46 passengers, was over ten years old.
“I warned that them but they didn’t listen,” Musa said as he began to cry.
Musa recalled that after being stuck for some minutes, an unidentified man jumped inside the water.
“Passengers moved to one side and water started entering the boat,” he said.
The boat started sinking as people fell inside the river.
“I was sitting at the rear while my brother was in the front of the boat.
“Both of us could swim but unfortunately Ibrahim’s shirt covered his face.
“I swam to where he was and gave him my hand but he sank deep inside the water and I couldn’t see him again.
He was crying for me to help him but I was helpless,” he said as he began to cry.
Ibrahim’s father believed that his son could have been saved if the operators had regulated the number of passengers.
“We recovered Ibrahim’s dead body at Gaka, near Beni village not too far from Guyaba. My son could have been saved,” the bereaved father lamented.