Passengers using Lagos waterway transportation have decried the rickety state of boats plying the different routes in the state, describing them as ‘disaster waiting to happen.’

They also lamented the attitude of waterways regulators in checkmating the boat operators and performing its regulatory duties of enforcing safety standards, all geared at making the state’s waterways safer for public transportation

They lamented that these rickety boats are responsible for boat accidents that occur in Lagos and other parts of the country, saying this may discourage water transportation.

According to statistics from relevant authorities, eight boat mishaps occurred between 2020 and 2021 in Lagos with several lives lost. The reasons for the boat accidents on the waterways were tied to lack of boat maintenance, over-loading, disregard for safety guidelines, carelessness and poor weather and others.

In July 2020, three boat mishaps left about 33 persons dead. In August of the same year, two persons lost their lives. In July 2021, 10 persons perished in a boat mishap, while four others went missing. In September of the same year, one passenger died, while three persons drowned in December 2021.

A visit to Apapa jetty, where passengers going to Ikorodu board confirmed that many of the wooden boats are in terrible condition, with no safety gadgets and accessories.

A regular passenger who identified himself as Seun Olowe, who travels from Ikorodu to Apapa every day, said many of the boat passengers who come from Ikorodu have continuously lamented the terrible state of the boats.

He said several times, the boats stop in the middle of the waters due to faulty engines or the bad state of the boat.

He said several complaints have been made about the state of the boats, but the regulators have remained adamant and are just concerned about their fee, while they pay no attention to the lives of the people.

Pointing at some of the boats in bad shape at the jetty, Olowe said those are even still better, as there are some boats in worse shape, which he described as ‘open coffins.’

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“Many of them are just so bad, but we don’t have a choice but to use them if we must get to work early,” he lamented.

Decrying the state of boats in the jetty, another passenger, Oyinkansola Oyewo called on relevant agencies to arrest the situation before it leads to further loss of lives and properties.

“Sometimes, when we are on water, our hearts will be in our mouth, because anything can just happen. They will tell you that the boat has stopped working. I have had cause to change boats about four times from Ikorodu to Apapa because the boats were not in good condition.

“I also think this issue of water hyacinth is disturbing them, you need to come to Ikorodu and see what water hyacinth has done to the water. You can barely even see the waters and when this hyacinth hooks the ‘half-alive’ engine, it will just stop working, and sometimes, we are stranded for more than 20 minutes before another boat will come. It is so bad, coupled with the fact that many of the life jackets are worn out and have expired,” she lamented.

When contacted about what the association of boat owners is doing in ensuring that rickety boats are taken off the waters, the Lagos State Chairman of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON), Lawal Babatunde, said the association is working to ensure that the boats are in good condition.

He said members of the association have been warned not to use rickety boats, this is even as he lamented that the presence of water hyacinth on the waters is damaging boat engines.

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Babatunde said the association has written to the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Lagos Waterways Authority (LASWA) regarding the removal of water hyacinth and wrecks on the waterways.

“It is not our fault, boat spare parts are very costly nowadays, even the engine cost about N10 million to get a new 200HP, while it cost about N2.5 million to get a tokunbo, which we don’t know if it is in good shape,” he said.

On what the LASWA is doing as regards the rickety boats, the General Manager, Damilola Emmanuel, said the authority always conducts random checks on all boats plying the waterways to ensure that they meet the minimum safety requirements.

He said where minimum safety requirements were not met, withdrawal notices were issued or such boats are sometimes referred to a boat maintenance yard with a checklist to fix their boat before allowing them back on the waterways.

According to him, LASWA also carries out a bi-annual inspection exercise to ascertain their seaworthiness, adding that any boat found wanting or that does not meet the minimum safety requirements are issued withdrawal notice.

“On the Lagos inland waterways, we have a large number of locally-made wooden or fibre boats popularly called ‘banana boats’ asides from the modern ferries that are just coming up gradually on our waterways. So, what is important to us as a regulator is to ensure that all the boats that we may have on the waterways comply with laid down safety measures or procedures and we also ensure all ferries meet the minimum safety requirements that will guarantee the safety of all passengers at all time,” he said.