In Warri, water transportation thrives without life jackets ― Investigations

Investigations have revealed that water transportation from Warri in Delta State to many islands like Kurutie and Okerenkoko amongst others are currently done without passengers having life jackets on. This is coming on the heels of a series of water transport accidents across the country, which has claimed several lives and properties.

When Nigerian Tribune visited Kurutie, an island that requires a boat ride of more than an hour to get to from Warri, it was observed that speed boats carrying as much as 15 to 20 passengers each were leaving the various jetties in Warri without any of the passengers wearing life jackets.  A boat ride from Warri to Kurutie or Okerenkoko goes for between N2000 to N2500.

Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune exclusively, a passenger who lives in Kurutie and works in Warri explained that life jackets are not readily available for many of the boat rides, and many of the passengers hardly ask for one.

According to the passenger who simply identified himself as Tari Tubokebima, “Here in Warri, life jackets are not what you see on passengers who use water transportation. For islands like Kurutie or Okerenkoko, access is mainly by water. Maybe because both islands are mostly habited by the Ijaws, nobody seems to ask for a life jacket during a boat ride either to or from Warri.

“The Ijaws are trained swimmers, so requesting for life jackets during a boat ride is viewed with scepticism. It is always an hour boat ride that can be turbulent depending on the tides of the waves. For people like me that work in Warri and live in Kurutie, at times, I have had to take boat rides at night due to delay at the workplace.”

When asked if night boat rides are different from the day boat rides, Tubokebimu stated that there is no difference. “Just like during the day, there are no life jackets for passengers at nights,” Tubokebimu added.

To confirm what Tubokebimu told him, our Correspondent took a boat ride from Warri to Kurutie and was shocked that none of the passengers onboard the boat wore a life jacket even though the driver of the boat sat on the only life jacket onboard.

The journey took exactly an hour and ten minutes, and was turbulent in areas where strong waves shook the boat. Our Correspondent, out of fear had to plead with the driver of the boat to lend him the only life jacket onboard, which attracted laughter from the boat passengers.

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After the boat ride to Kurutie, our Correspondent asked the boat driver if the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) is aware of the numerous boat rides (including night trips) without passengers putting on life jackets, and was told that NIWA only collects annual charges from boat operators.

“Aside collecting their annual charges, we hardly see them afterwards,” the boat driver who simply identified himself as Iniye told Nigerian Tribune exclusively.

When contacted, the National Spokesman of NIWA, Mr Tayo Fadile acknowledge that it is practically impossible to provide life jackets to everyone using Nigeria’s inland waterways. In his words, “While it’s almost impossible to provide life jackets to everyone using more than 10,000 navigable waterways in Nigeria, I will bring your observation to the notice of the Warri Area Manager of NIWA. Ideally, every boat operator is expected to provide life jackets for their passengers, not necessarily NIWA. However, we are to enforce compliance with the laws which hopefully will soon be gazette by the Federal Ministry of Justice.

‘Ensuring wearing of life jackets across the country is work in progress. We will get there soon. To monitor thousands of water jetties and watercrafts on 10,000 navigable waterways is a big task that must be done sooner than later.”