Junior Pope: NIWA Must Enforce Strict Waterway Laws

Junior Pope

The recent boat mishap that claimed the lives of actor Junior Pope Odonwodo, popularly known as Junior Pope, and four others in Anambra State, southeast Nigeria, further confirms the reports that many waterways in the country lack adequate navigational aids.

Development Diaries reports that the boat, which was conveying them back to Asaba, Delta State, was said to have collided with a fishermen’s boat, leading to the drowning of the passengers.

Overloading of boats with passengers and cargo is a common practice, driven by economic pressures and the desire to maximise profit.

Another key problem identified is the lack of stringent regulations governing water transportation, and even when regulations exist, enforcement is weak. This allows operators to flout safety standards with impunity, contributing to the frequency of accidents.

In 2023, TheCable released an investigative report on how regulatory failure is turning Nigeria’s waterways into death traps.

Apart from the fact that some boats plying Nigerian rivers are as old as 40 years, it was also discovered that the operations of the jetties lacked a standardised regulatory framework.

Also in 2023, many waterway accidents were recorded. States like Lagos, Kebbi, Taraba, Niger, and Anambra all witnessed recurrent cases of boat mishaps.

There were over 300 boat accident deaths nationwide in 2023, with the highest number of deaths occurring in Kwara and Anambra States, according to TheCable findings.

The latest boat incidents occurred in the Ibi area of Taraba State, where eight people died while several others were injured, and in the Gamadio area of Adamawa State, where two people were missing while three others were rescued.

Boat accidents claimed 1,204 lives between January 2018 and October 2023, according to findings from the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

In September 2023, President Bola Tinubu ordered an investigation into the constant boat accidents, directing the Nigerian maritime safety authorities and law enforcement agencies to collaborate and identify the root causes of the preventable disasters.

It appears little or nothing has been done to stem this tide, as the lives of Nigerians are being compromised for economic gain.

Development Diaries calls on the Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to step up their game in enforcing strict waterways laws.

Photo source: John Paul Odonwodo


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