The search and rescue mission was executed by the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Lagos State Waterways Authority patrol team and boat operators.
Residents of Lagos State were on Wednesday evening greeted with the news of another disaster. A boat travelling from CMS to Ikorodu had capsized, claiming five lives.
The bodies of the victims were brought to the jetty at Ipakodo in Ikorodu, Lagos. There was wailing by sympathisers who called on the authorities to sanitise the waterways for the seamless movement of people and goods.
The boat, which was travelling from Marina Jetty towards Ikorodu Terminal, had 20 passengers and two crew members on board. It reportedly capsized a few minutes after 5pm while it was on the last leg of the journey not too far from its destination.
More casualties were averted, it was gathered, by the marine unit of the Nigeria Police Force. According to the Lagos State police spokesman, Chike Oti, a chief superintendent of police, the operatives swiftly swung into action and rescued 16 persons.
He said: “The information that reached us from the Marine Unit of the command revealed that five persons died in the boat mishap, while 16 persons were rescued. Our marine team continued the search for as long as necessary in order to ensure that all the victims came out alive.”
It was gathered that the search and rescue mission was executed by the joint efforts of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) patrol team and boat operators.
The general manager of LASEMA, Mr. Adesina Tiamiyu, told Daily Sun that the agency received a distress call at about 5.57pm on Wednesday, and investigation carried out by the agency’s response
team when it arrived the scene could not ascertain the immediate cause of the boat mishap.
“Unfortunately, five persons (four adult females and one adult male) were confirmed dead as a result of the incident and their bodies were deposited at the morgue at Ikorodu General Hospital,” he said.
Wednesday’s tragedy came two months after a May 25 incident in which 24 passengers escaped death when two boats collided and capsized in the Ojo area of the state. The accident occurred at 7:45pm close to the Ojo Terminal.
The managing director of LASWA, Mr. Damilola Emmanuel, who confirmed the accident, said one of the boats was driving at full capacity with 22 passengers, while the other had just the boat captain and the deckhand on board.
Twelve passengers were not as lucky on August 20, 2017. They all died in another boat accident in the Ilashe area of the state. It was gathered that the boat capsized shortly after leaving an unauthorised jetty.
The Lagos State government expressed regrets that the accident was caused by overloading and the failure of the passengers to put on standard life jackets.
The then Managing Director of Lagos State Waterways Authority, Abisola Kamson, said: “The accident was caused by overloading of passengers on a banana boat and the operation of an illegal jetty.”
Similarly, a police sergeant, Mary Adesoba, attached to the Zone 2 Police Command, Onikan, Lagos, lost her life on October 10, 2017, after a boat capsized on the Third Mainland Bridge waterways.
It was gathered that the boat operator immediately fled the scene of the accident but his conductor was arrested. The boat was en route to Ebute-Ero from Ikorodu when the mishap happened around 10am when it hit a submerged object.
The boat that claimed Adesoba, who served in Zone 2, was conveying 21 passengers. Other passengers were rescued by the Marine Police.
Also, on May 25, 2016, a woman died after a commercial boat en route to Victoria Island, Lagos, from Ikorodu ran into a log of wood and capsized. Twenty-seven other passengers on board the speedboat escaped death with varying degrees of injuries.
It was alleged that the boat had carried 27 passengers, six above the number permitted on board, making it difficult for it to regain balance after it rammed into the wood around 10am, shortly after it took off from the jetty in Ikorodu.
“The accident was caused by overloading. The operator would have been able to manoeuvre if he had the normal number of passengers on board,” an emergency official said.
The then general manager, LASEMA, Michael Akindele, confirmed that the boat was overloaded and advised boat operators to avoid speeding and always comply with safety regulations.
As boat accidents keep recurring, residents of the state are perturbed about danger lurking on the waterways. This is coming at a time when the state government is encouraging them to patronise the waterways. The call to use the waterways was to reduce traffic on the highways in Lagos, since the Third Mainland Bridge is to be closed for repairs for some days next month.
Still on the need to decongest traffic while the repair lasts, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), on July 12, advised Lagos residents to use the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and water transportation during the repair of the bridge.
The Lagos State sector commander of the FRSC, Mr. Hyginus Omeje, said: “We advise residents in that axis to ensure that they use alternative routes or other means of transportation to avoid the traffic jam.
Motorists who have nothing to do at Lagos Island should stay off at this period and people should make use of the waterways and BRT that has designated routes.
“People from Ikorodu going to Apapa should endeavour to use the waterways transport system, at least in the meantime, to avoid delay on the road.”
The repair works on the bridge would be staggered over a period of 27 months when a dynamic test on the expansion joints on the bridge will be carried out.
The agencies to handle the repairs have assured road users that it would be done in such a way that it would have minimum impact on road users, especially with the option of the waterways. But commuters have expressed fear following the latest boat mishap on Wednesday.
A lady who worked at PWC in Victoria Island, Mrs. Temitope Balogun, told the reporter that water transportation for commuters was akin to sending them on a suicide mission.
Said she: “How can the government tell us to use the waterways when people die there every time? Except the regulators and operators are able to regulate it and ensure that certain standards are maintained, just as it is obtainable in other parts of the developed world, we can’t risk our lives on the water. There is hardly a month that passes that we don’t receive news of boats capsizing in Lagos and other parts of the country.
“As for me, even with a life jacket and all the assurances, l can’t travel on water. I have never tried it, particularly due to the kind of news we hear always. I would rather spend the entire day in the traffic on the road than put my life on the line in aboat.”
Failure to use life jackets by passengers has sent many lives to their graves. Stakeholders in the inland waterways sector have repeatedly stressed the need for boat operators and other investors to always adhere to safety standards to safeguard life and property.
After the August 20, 2017, accident in which 12 lives were lost, the spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency, South-West, Ibrahim Farinloye, said: “There is no indication that anyone had a life jacket on when the incident happened.”
The Lagos State Police Command has also warned commercial boat operators in the state not to overload their boats, to avoid accidents, and to always ensure that they provide their passengers with life jackets.
The question on the lips of many now is, when will the waterways be totally safe for commuters?