Against the background of recent fatal boat mishaps on the country’s inland waterways, Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has said the Agency would get tough with untrained and uncertified boat skippers, who often ignore safety procedures and endanger the lives of passengers. Jamoh stated this in Lagos during a courtesy visit to the Agency by General Manager of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Mr. Oluwadamilola Emmanuel.
The Director-General also suggested the development of cohesive safety enforcement guidelines and regulations for implementation across the littoral states. He said the harmonisation of standards and procedures for safety in the territorial waters would go a long way in minimising unsafe practices by operators of non-conventional vessels, which are not subject to international standards, but rely mainly on national regulations.
He stated, “We have a number of boat skippers that are not trained, and not knowledgeable enough, and they do not have certification. They only know how to maneuver the boat and risk people’s lives.
“We will now start to check that. The issue is important, that is why I would start to take it more seriously, because charity begins at home. If we have enforcement officers and they are laid back, they will continue to watch what is happening without doing anything.”
He added, “I am glad to see the synergy and collaboration that is developing with the Lagos State Waterways Authority because we all have as our common mandate the job of ensuring safety in our waters.”
Jamoh said the Federal Ministry of Transportation was also in the process of building unified enforcement guidelines for safety in the country’s waters, stressing that the synergy between NIMASA and the Lagos State Government would help to fast track the process.
He urged greater supervision of officers engaged in the enforcement of safety standards.
“Our responsibility is to ensure that we monitor and supervise the staff that are given the responsibility of enforcing the issue of safety at sea,” he stated, adding that safety procedures, such as availability of adequate lifejackets, good condition of the boat, and time of use, must be verified by enforcement officers before a boat sets sail.
In his own remarks, the LASWA General Manager promised to intensify information sharing between his agency and NIMASA as part of efforts to improve collaboration for maritime safety.
“We have the database of small craft, which I believe that we would be ready to share with NIMASA,” Emmanuel said.
He also elaborated on the importance of uniform enforcement procedure, saying, “I am really excited that this is happening because overtime what we generally tend to see on the waterways is an overlap of so many functions. I am sure it is not news to anyone here the issues we have had over the years between LASWA and NIWA (National Inland Waterways Authority) and how that has affected the things that have happened on the waterways.”