Ijede Boat Mishap: The Price Of Dredging On Waterways
For now, business activities in the place have been shut down after a boat belonging to Amen Limited capsized shortly after taking off from Ijede to Badore, Ajah at a dredging point around 10.22am on Saturday.
Eight people died out of the 17 people on board.
As at Tuesday only the vessels of the Chinese company dredging sand in the lagoon were still operating. The dredgers continued to dig sand from the lagoon, pumping mountains of sand on the shore at the other side of the Tarzan Jetty.
The trucks of the dredgers kept going up and down to load and unload sand for their clientele.
The Guardian learnt that although all passengers on the boat were wearing their life jackets, the fact that it was a covered boat made rescue efforts difficult. Many of the victims died from tension and panic after the boat capsized.
One of the eyewitnesses, Olarenwaju Azeez, disclosed that it was one of the victims of the mishap, Alhaja, who was floating on the sea that waived her hands for fishermen to know about the disaster. It was some of the fishermen who informed them at the jetty about the accident.
“Unfortunately, the husband of the Alhaja died. It happened around 10.22am after the environmental sanitation exercise last Saturday.”
He said that the captain of the boat, Sunday, was among the survivors.
Jubril Musa, a clerical officer at Ijede Local Council, a friend to one of the deceased, Lateef Kareem, said that Kareem was going to see his family in Ajah before the ugly incident happened.
“Let the government find solution to the danger being posed by dredgers on our waterways. Unlike before when people used to come and swim in the lagoon, they dare not do that now because the whole place is so deep.”
He said that his friend, Kareem, who was a Health Assistant at Ijede Local Council was the breadwinner of his family and the government should help to take care of his children so that they will have a meaningful future.
The widow of the deceased, Kalifat Kareem, regretted that her husband was one of the victims of the tragedy.
She recalled that her late husband did not sleep at home penultimate Friday night.
“He slept at his grandfather’s house in Ebute Olowo. On Saturday he came home and said that he was going to Ajah. I did not know that was the last time I was going to see him.”
She described her husband as a gentleman, a man who doesn’t fight.
“What is most painful to me was that he died in the lagoon. I wished he had been buried close to the house, where we can always see his grave. Unfortunately, he was buried by the side of the lagoon due to the way he died.”
She said the deceased left behind six children- Abdulraman,14, Fatima, 12, Sultan,9, Aliat,7,Fidau,5, and three-year-old Abdulfawas. Three girls and three boys. Some of them are in private schools in Ijede.
She wants the government to provide safe boats for passengers and to stop the dredgers from further dredging the lagoon.
She regretted that “after the sad event the dredgers were still dredging and they did not even do anything to rescue the victims of the mishap.”
Abdulrahman, who is in Junior Secondary School (JSS2) at Luwasa Junior High School, Ijede recalled with tears that his father was a very caring man.
“My dad was an Health Assistant at the Local Council. I want the government to employ my mother and put her in my father’s position at the council, so that she would be able to take care of us.”
Kalifat’s friend, Fausat Akeem, said that Kareem was a gentleman. Let the government try and help his widow and the children he left behind.
One of the survivors of the tragedy, Makanjuola Adetola, 28, who is still nursing some bruises on his face, was full of gratitude to God. “I just don’t know what to say. I am very grateful to God.”
Adetola, who is from Ikenne in Ogun State said that he finished his Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Electrical Engineering in Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH) in 2014.
“I am working in the workshop of Amen Limited as an intern. I used to assist them in repairing their boats.”
He recalled that his boss, Mr Akeem Balogun, addressed the passengers shortly before they boarded the ill-fated Ijede-Badore bound boat.
He assured them that the boat would leave when the passengers are up to 15 in number.
“As we were going we hit something in the sea.”
He said that immediately the boat capsized he lost his consciousness.
“That was what saved me. If I hadn’t lost consciousness may be I would have been dead by now. I gained my consciousness that same day in the hospital, but everything was just happening in pieces.”
He said that he just woke up in the hospital and discovered that the pant and shirt on him were not his own. They belong to someone else.
Adetola regretted that the people dredging sand in the waters have forgotten that there are other people using the waterways for transport.
He guessed that the boat must have hit the sand piled up by the dredgers.
“Government gave licenses to the dredgers for their dredging operation. Two people that are operating different businesses ought not to be affecting one another in the waterways.”
He added that the regulatory authorities should regulate the activities of the dredgers. “They should do something about it, so that such an incident won’t occur again.”
He recalled that another boat that was coming from VI to Ijede few weeks ago, almost had a fatal accident in the lagoon.
“There was a concessionaire dredger in the lagoon. This dredger was pumping sand from one place and dumping it in another place trying to create a channel for the Chinese Mechanised dredger. The boat filled up with passengers was cruising before the boat hit the dredging pipe.”
“That would have been the first boat mishap. I am not saying that dredging should not occur in the lagoon, but dredging operation should be done at least some metres away from where boats are plying.”
The Managing Director of Amen Limited, Mr Akeem Balogun, recalled that a few minutes after the boat left, he received the distress call that the boat had capsized.
“At about 10.07am the first boat left with about 17 people on board. That 17 people include three of our staff. A few minutes after the boat left a message got to me here that the boat had an accident. I was surprised because for over two decades that we have been operating here such a thing has never happened.”
He said that immediately he received the distress call he sent some of his staff with some local divers on a rescue mission.
“As they were bringing the people down we quickly rushed them to Ijede General Hospital.
I also rushed to Ijede Police Station to make a report.”
Balogun also called on the National Inland ways Authority, to inform them about the incident. “I called National Emergency Management Agency NEMA, The Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) and Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA). I alerted all the people concerned about what happened.”
He said that if it was an open boat, none of the victims would have died because everybody onboard were all wearing life jackets.
“It was a covered Fibre glass boat W23. I later asked some of the survivors and the captain of the boat what really happened.”
Balogun reminisced that the passengers said they had a very smooth drive, before they suddenly heard a strange sound gbururu, few minutes after the commencement of their journey.
He recalled that the boat hit a pile up of sand produced by dredgers and there was panic everywhere.
“It was like people rushed to one side of the boat. That was why the boat capsized. The boat did not breakdown, nothing like that.”
“Before the dredgers don’t used to cross our route. This is the same route this captain had been plying and the sand was not there. So what happened to him can happen to anybody. About five metres to the scene of the accident was very deep. That was where the boat capsized. We have shut down our company since then.”
He said, “all the accidents that are happening on the waterways are either caused by logging or dredging activities, or by wrecks. Government should help us to clear the waterways. There is too much wreck on the waterways. A lot of people dump their refuse in the lagoon. We also used to bring log out of the lagoon.”
He regretted that dredgers are fond of laying pipes in the lagoon without any sign to indicate where their pipes are, and they don’t put on the light while working with their vessels at night.
“It is from the marine transportation that we make our living. So we try on our part to prevent any accident. Ask anybody that plies this route; they know we are safety-conscious. If you don’t put on a life jacket you cannot board our boat. We have shut down our operation since the unfortunate incident, but we are going to start work on Monday,” he said.