By Cliffsimeon Akalonu
The Malele, Niger state boat mishap in which about 76 persons died and still counting, has been described as a national tragedy and embarassment by the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON).
Reacting over poor response and attention to the national tragedy by both federal and state governments, the National President, ATBOWATON, Engr. Gani Tarzan Balogun; noted that the recent mishap was not the first on that water route, adding that no serious attention has been paid to dredge and remove wrecks from the Malele Kebbi Water ways.
“I can’t understand it, the usual blame game against water transporters and boat operators when accidents happened on the water ways”.
Angry, ATBOWATON President, said that 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?”
Mr 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 remains that, ATBOWATON cannot single handedly keep the Waterways safe and also create enabling operational environment for operators. Engr. Balogun said”.
He said that, 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.
“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 water 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” Mr Balogun explained.
On plans to visit families of those who died in the avoidable accident, Engr. Ganiyu Balogun said that, a special team of ATBOWATON investigators has been dispatched to Malele to work with ATBOWATON leadership in that area.
There is also plans to visit the Emir of Borgu who is the national patron of ATBOWATON, the Niger state governor, Alhaji Sani Bello, not only to register the association’s sympathy but to find ways to mitigate accidents on Niger state Water ways and for an urgent need to construct a world class Jetty at Malele.