*Extremely low number of Lagosians use water transport due to Hydrophobia, fear of water
*Total compliance to government regulation which prohibits night travel by boat, imperative
*Captain must obtain weather report before sailing out on any voyage
*Overloading of vessels must be repudiated
*Provision of navigational aids to enhance safety
*Subject Captain to test for substance abuse before take-off
I have just read your Report on the unfortunate incident of a Boat mishap last Friday night, the 3rd of July, 2020, whose immediate cause appears to be collision with an unidentified object, perhaps due to poor visibility. Out of the twenty-one souls on board, about five persons, (i.e. approximately 25%), were said to have perished. May the souls of the departed rest in peace [RIP], and may God console the bereaved Families, Amen. In disobedience to the Lagos State Water Ways Authority, LASWA, Rule against travelling at night or when it is dark, the Boat is said to have left Ebute Ero Jetty, whilst heading for Ikorodu Town around 8:00 PM (20:00 Hours), . . . both locations are in Lagos State.
At the tail end of the tenure of Barrister Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, as Governor of Lagos State, he made a statement at an important Public Forum, where he was quoted by the Media as saying that one of his challenges with promoting Water Transportation among Lagosians, was the Hydrophobia also known in everyday Language as “fear of water” nursed by many Lagosians. He then announced that a significant number of vessels for water transportation had recently been ordered from Australia by his Administration.
The ordering time for Boats and Ships, as well as Coaches and Carriages for Railway Transportation could be significant, . . . usually estimated in terms of months. Accidents involving loss of life, such as the one that occurred on the night of Friday, 3rd July, 2020, may likely heightened existing apprehension about the safety of Water Transportation in Lagos State, which is blessed with so many waterways that can potentially take a lot of pressure off our congested (and ageing) Road Transportation Infrastructure.
The ‘Accident Investigation Report’, when released by the appropriate Agency of Government, will certainly reveal the immediate and remote causes, beyond the prima facie (i.e. obvious, ‘on-the-face-of-it) ones of willful disobedience of a clearly laid down Rule against Night Travel, by the Captain of the Boat, as well as those who gave him (or her) “clearance” to depart from Ebute Ero Jetty.
General safety measures where Water Transportation is concerned often take cognizance of the physical condition of the Boat, Barge, Raft, or other type of vessel being utilized. I tried to reflect this in the choice of my caption for this contribution. A small leak, if left unattended to or not repaired on time, may cause a Boat or even a whole ship to SINK, with fatal consequences, . . . . when water keeps on entering the vessel and increasing its ‘Dead Weight’.
North Korea is reputed to be one of the greatest Ship Building Nations in the world. This must be cheering News to your Readers who have mainly been fed with News of the Nuclear Armament Ambitions of that Country, her frosty relations with South Korea, and the potential threat to other Nations on the Asian Continent, which are within Range of her Missiles / Nuclear War Heads, e.g. Japan. Fortunately, we have our own Nigerdock Plc, at Snake Island, near Tin Can Port, Apapa, Lagos, that came into the limelight when Engr. Nnamdi Ozobia, FNSE, was its Chief Executive. Nigerdock Plc has gradually acquired a good reputation as not just a good Builder and Repairer of Water Vessels, but also other Oil & Gas Industry Structures, such as the Bonga Buoy in Nigeria’s Niger-Delta Region, which was named ‘Stella’, in honor of the late First Lady, Chief (Mrs.) Stella Obasanjo, of blessed memory. May her soul continue to rest in peace, Amen.
Even during peak periods or during “rush hour”, over – loading of Water Vessels must be avoided. All passengers, indeed everyone on board should wear a safety jacket. If properly utilized, a safety jacket will keep a person afloat in the water UNTIL HELP ARRIVES, in the unfortunate event that the Boat capsizes! This gives assurance that, whether a Boat passenger can swim or not, he/she is not likely to “drown” if there is a mishap. The (force of) impact from collision may be one of the causes of death in the accident on the Ikorodu Route last weekend, but this is not meant to preempt the outcome of the ‘Accident Investigation Report’.
Weather Reports and warnings about possible high winds, heavy rain, thunder storms, and lightning, variously issued by the Meteorological Service should be taken seriously by everyone. The health of the Captain is also important, including his/her visual acuity, and/or chronic conditions such as Hypertension, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Epilepsy, and so on and so forth. Alcohol consumption and/or the use of stimulants should be discouraged whilst on duty. Just as with Air Travel, whenever there is an eventuality, the Captain should be the last to leave a Boat or Ship, when every other soul on board has been rescued.
Fire Prevention and fire safety measures are also very important in water transportation. Although Fuel Scarcity is almost a thing of the past in Nigeria, some passengers may still wish to carry Petrol or other Flammable Liquids along with them during travel on our waterways. There should be functional Fire Extinguishers on every Boat, Barge, or other Vessel(s) for water transportation. To lighten this contribution with a bit of humor, you may find it interesting to note that there was a viable Industry for ‘Ogogoro’, which was named “illicit gin” by our British Colonial Masters. In Ikorodu Division, when I was a Secondary School Student there, between 1975 and 1980. It had a very high content of Alcohol (almost 100%), and may be classified as a Flammable Liquid. In other parts of Nigeria, Ogogoro has various names, such as i) Number One. ii) Akpeteshi. iii) Push Me I Push You. iv) ‘404’, pronounced as “four O four”. v) Oyinbo go. vi) Sapele Water.
During the colonial era, it was rumored that a lady could get her expatriate amour to do almost anything for her, once she succeeds in gorging him with sufficient number of glass cups full of Ogogoro hence, this somewhat derogatory Yoruba nomenclature, which is translated into English as the phrase “the white man is gullible or unwise”- meaning in Yoruba, “Oynbo go.”
In the same manner as the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), as well as Beverage Giants keep telling road users, especially during festive seasons in paid advertisements on Radio, Television, social and outdoor media, “Don’t Drink And Drive”! ‘If You Must Drink And Drive, (Then) Drink Coca-Cola [or Drink Pepsi Cola]’, the same principle applies to sailing a Yacht for the wealthy, or the Captain of a Boat, Barge, or other vessel(s) for water transportation.
In rounding off, we cannot ‘shy away’ permanently from Travel at Night on our Water Ways. There are Navigational Aids, as well as Radar Equipment that can guide a Trained Captain, despite poor visibility conditions. It amounts to repeating the obvious, if I say that we cannot continue with this heavy reliance on Road Transportation, indefinitely. When our Light Rail Network in Lagos State is completed and becomes fully operational, then our dream of having a multimodal Transportation System in Lagos State, will be a reality in the not too distant future.
The Media has a role to play in allaying the real or imagined fears of the people of Lagos State about the Safety of the lives and properties of those who choose to move by Water Transportation. The Marine Division of the Nigeria Police should demonstrate clearly that they are up to the task of warding off Pirates and apprehending criminals on our waterways.
We are looking forward to having a healthy, vibrant, as well as economically viable MEGA City in Lagos, . . . soon.
God Bless Our Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo Olu: Long Live Lagos State. May God continue to grant wisdom to our rulers in Nigeria.
Written by:- Engr. Afolabi O. ADEDEJI, [B.Sc. (Civil); M.Sc. (Construction Management); FNSE; FCMI]
Afolabi Adedeji & Associates [‘AA&A’], Consulting & Training in Facilities Management, etc. Victoria Island, Lagos, NigeriaShare