By Steve Agbota
The National Inland Waterways Authorities (NIWA) on Thursday said that because 90 per cent of accidents on waterways occur during the night because operators flout the safety guidelines given to them.
As apart of efforts to avert the menace, the Authority commissioned three patrol boats for safeguarding lives and property on the waterways.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NIWA, Dr George Moghalu, commissioned the boat during the NIWA Stakeholders Forum for Boat Operators in Lagos.
Moghalu also inaugurated the Inland Waterways Safety Joint Task Force that would be deployed on the waterways to ensure that safety protocols are adhered to.
According to him, security and safety on our waterways is one area that gives him so much concern and inaugurating these taskforce will help NIWA enforce all the protocols and this has to be done immediately.
“I commend out partners in this project, Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON), Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Lagos State Waterways Authorities, National Durg Law Enforcement Agency, I appreciate them for their support.
“NIWA cordinating this particular activities because of the emphasis on security and emergency response and we have procured quite a number of patrol boats, 20 of them that will be given to our area offices and we have brought three to Lagos today. We have also procured two ambulances already and the procurement process for additional seven is ongoing, one is being brought to Lagos,” he said.
He noted that one thing that was very clear was that people are averse to obeying protocols, adding that NIWA had placed embargo on movement from 6.30p.m and not before 6.30 a.m in the morning because 90 per cent of accidents on waterways occur during these periods.
He said that some of these boats do not have light navigational aids and unfortunately, they insist on breaking the protocol, even some enter boats without life jackets and do overload.
“So these taskforce will enforce all the protocols whether on NIWA controlled jetties or not so long as they operate on Nigeria waterways, and I assure members of the taskforce of management’s support,” he said.
Mr Joseph Ororo, General Manager, Marine, NIWA while giving brief on some boat operations innovations noted that boat operations registration would soon be automated.
He noted that the manual registration does not comply with the ease of doing business the federal government was promoting, and so NIWA had taken up the project to ensure things are done well.
“The NIWA we used to know that was not forthcoming and was a bit laid-back is no longer the same. NIWA is doing a lot and that is why we have come up with all these things.
“On boat innovations operations, there will be an electronic registar system, boat owners do not have to come to the office again or interact with NIWA staff physically to register their boats, this can be done in comfort of their homes and this will commence latest first of January 2013. The only contact boat owners will have with NIWA staff is for the joint inspection and survey,” he said.
He noted that after registration of the boat, an alert would be gotten and when the license was about to expire, three months before it expires, the operator would also receive an alert for renewal.
He said that with this process, the system would automatically generate an identification number for the boat, the number would go with the boat until it was decommissioned.
“One of the advantage is for security purposes, it will be easy for security men to identify ownership of the boat because ones that number is generated, a name plate will be affixed conspicuously to the boat so that from afar, security men could zoom into your boat and get the details.
“If one allows the boat to be used for an illegal purposes or stolen, it will be fished out easily. Another advantage is that it will reduce discrepancies due to minimal contact with staff,” he said.
Ororo said that on boat drivers license, NIWA was mandated to train boat drivers and other crews that operate on the inland waterways, adding that training had commenced in Warri, Yenagoa and Port Harcourt and would soon start in Lagos.
He noted that soon, NIWA would be introducing the Inland Waterways Transportation Code, adding that they are waiting for finishing touches from the Federal Ministry of Justice.
He said that it would be a manual that would spell out the dos and donts on the waterways, and if an offence was committed, there would be prescribed penalties so that the waterways would be very regulated.
“All we seek from stakeholders is their cooperation so that lives and property can be saved, even investors money will not go down the drain,” he said.