‘Niger state boat mishap a national tragedy’
President of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON), Gani Tarzan Balogun has described the Malele, Niger State boat mishap in which about 76 persons died and still counting, as a national tragedy and embarrassment.
Balogun who decried the very poor response and attention to the national tragedy by both federal and state governments, noted that the recent mishap was not the first on that water route, adding no serious attention has been paid to dredge and remove wreck from the Malele, Kebbi Waterways.
“I can’t understand it, the usual blame game against water transporters and boat operators. The stereotype and the often rush to call boat operators names without due investigation to find out if overloading and sundry operational failings is behind the accident. Someone need to come out to tell us what government has done,” he quizzed.
Balogun reiterated that the association, in furtherance of its mission to national spread and responsibilities, had in the past responded to accidents across the national waterways, including the Niger State branch, organised training and retraining of ATBOWATON members, donation of life jackets and also sought the support of the traditional institutions to help drive home the need for obedience and observance to extant safety regulations on the Waterways by both the operators and water users.
“The truth is that ATBOWATON cannot alone keep the Waterways safe and also create enabling operational environment. It is not all accidents on Water that are attributable to overloading and non-wearing of life jackets; there are system failures on Waterways such as mapping, dredging and wreck removals. Those are the major issues across the waterways in those areas and until both the state and federal government, appreciate the fact that the River Niger from Malele down to Kebbi and further ahead needs serious attention as a channel of huge economic activities, then more of what happened, may still reoccur”
He continued: “I am so unhappy and disappointed even with the way Nigerians kept low profile on this national tragedy; maybe because those who lost their lives are poor farmers and merchants; maybe because we as a nation has not come to reality that waterways transportation is the safest means of moving persons and goods; maybe because it not an aviation accident which resonates with the rich and the mighty, maybe if one rich man had died in that accident, all the roads and outpouring of support would have been provided and a national condolence register, opened; I can’t understand,” Balogun stated.
On ATBOWATON’s plan to visit the grieving families of those who died in the avoidable accident, Balogun said a special team of investigators has been dispatched to Malele to work with ATBOWATON leadership in that area, while the national leadership is planning to visit the Emir of Borgu who is the national patron of the association and after, visit the Niger state governor, Alhaji Sani Bello, to not only register the association’s sympathy, but to find ways to mitigate accidents on Niger state Waterways and for an urgent need to construct a world class Jetty at Malele.
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