A boat mishap along the Warri River on Friday October 1, has claimed the lives of a student of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Warri South West LGA, Delta State and another identified as a caterer in the institution.
The boat accident, as reported by Niger Delta Today, involved a private commercial boat which was said to be heading to Warri from Okerenkoko.
Although the cause of the accident was yet to be made known as at the time of this report, The New Diplomat however learnt that the deceased student of the Maritime University and the said School Caterer boarded the private commercial boat against the school rule which specified that students and staff of the institution are only allowed to make use of the School-owned boats for their trips to and fro Warri.
As at the time of this report, the name of the deceased student who was described as an Ijaw indigene is not known, although it was learnt that his corpse which was recovered by local divers has been buried by the family.
The corpse of the deceased lady caterer, The New Diplomat learnt, has been deposited at the Warri Central Hospital Mortuary.
It was also reported that some of the passengers in the boat were without life jackets just as some of them lacked basic swimming skill, as at the time the boat capsized. It was not clear whether or not the two casualties were the only ones without life jackets.
When contacted, the Delta State Police Command’s Spokesperson, DSP Edafe Bright, confirmed the incident. It was further gathered that the boat driver has been in the custody of the Nigeria Marine Police.
A senior official of the University whose name was not mentioned, was however reported to have confirmed the incident, adding that the deceased traveled on a private commercial boats against the University rule that both students and staff should make their journeys using the school-owned boats or others specially provided by the management.
“They boarded a private boat against the school rule that students and staff should only make use of school owned boats and any other provided by management to ferry students to Warri.
“It was on their way going that the boat capsized. Unfortunately, one of our students and caterer drowned in the process.
“We don’t know exactly what happened but the boat driver is already answering questions from police. The school has never recorded a case of boat mishap since we commenced academic activities through our boats.”
Commenting on the incident, an official of the Warri Boat Driver Union, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, noted that some of the commercial boat drivers overload their boats beyond the capacity it can carry hence they lose control when they are on the river.
He said that the Union officials have been warning the drivers but they would not listen, adding that even some of the passengers would insist they must go with the boat even when they know it has already been over loaded.
According to him, it was also mandatory that all passengers traveling along the river on boat must put life jackets, adding that drivers have been told to ensure that all their passengers are on life jackets before they leave into the river.
“It is very unfortunate. We continue to warn them (boat drivers) against over-loading and excess speed on the waterway but they would not listen. Each boat has its loading capacity beyond which it becomes very dangerous to navigate in the river. We have also warned them not to move until all the passengers put on their life jackets.
“Again some of the drivers are so careless while on the river. When the tide is very high, a driver must be careful and reduce his speed because any little mistake can lead to capsizing of the boat.
“Even some of the passengers do not help matters. When they see that the boat is already over-loaded and almost sinking, they would continue to force themselves into it because they insist they must leave. In most cases, this kind of accident is usually caused by over-loading”, he said.
Our finding reveal that the Nigerian Maritime University authority has made adequate provision in terms of secure boats equipped with good safety equipment and well-trained operators for the staff and Students of the Institution.
It was also discovered that the provision of secure boat services by the school forms part of the Students’ school fees and it is a rule that for any student or staff to travel along the river to and fro Warri and other locations, it must be with the school boats.