For Warri North, Delta State, the inland waterways are vital to its socio-economic fabric. Given that it is a riverine area, the day-to-day activities of the locals are highly intertwined with the waterways. For transportation, they are very accessible to the locals, who find them easy and affordable to navigate. However, despite this major relevance, the inland waterways still remain mostly unsafe, with accidents becoming a regular phenomenon throughout the year, causing loss of lives, properties, and livelihoods.
This is why, following the boat incident that happened in the late hours of Thursday night in the Lagos junction area of Warri North Local Government Area, frontline PDP Warri North Constituency Aspirant, Orode Uduaghan, has joined the demand for greater adherence to marine safety laws. She made this call during a brief meeting with her media team in Warri over the weekend.
On May 5, 2022, a heavily loaded local boat (kpekpe) heading to Sapele from Ogheye capsized in the Lagos junction area of the river at around 10 p.m. and claimed goods worth millions of Naira. According to the Delta State House of Assembly hopeful, Orode, “The number of accidents has increased significantly over the years, and the most predominant reasons are passenger and goods overloading, incompetent boat operators, collisions, storms, disregard for journey management forms, and safety briefs rarely conducted before departure. Boat operators and waterway travellers need to comply with all marine safety rules to ensure the safety of lives and goods.”
For business purposes, the inland waterways are the ideal choice for transporting agricultural produce, manufactured products, and other things to other parts of Delta State. The majority of the locals are found to be in occupations vital to this ecosystem, such as fishing, canoe carving, net weaving, hunting, clothes dyeing, trading, and farming. Even when it comes to tourism, the area has a lovely floating market at Ogheye.
Orode Uduaghan highlighted the vital role the inland water transportation system plays in the area, adding that with the improvement of safety standards and requisite investment, the inland water transportation system has significant potential for revenue generation for boat makers, lifeguards, boat owners, and pilots. However, this mode of transportation has become vulnerable due to a lack of attention and development and the absence of emergency response teams to monitor the waterways and the boats.
As Orode sympathized with those who had lost goods and property, she expressed gratitude that all lives on board were spared. She further reiterated the need to ensure the safety of waterway travel through the establishment of marine response units and emergency response teams to curb economic losses. The Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) will also need to strictly enforce relevant rules and regulations and policies that strengthen maritime security going forward.
“I call on stakeholders and authorities to advocate for continuous sensitization and enlightenment programmes on safe operations on the waterways to eliminate loss of lives and properties.” Orode stated.