French oil giant Total has called for enforcement of use of life jackets by sea farers before embarking on trips on waterways to minimise accidents.
The Executive General Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility of Total Upstream Companies in Nigeria, Mr Vincent Nnadi, made the call at the 2018 Marine Safety Awareness Campaign for River Niger waterways users in Onitsha on Wednesday.
He said that enforcement of use of life jackets before boarding boats would minimise accidents on waterways and also help Nigeria to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) numbers three and eight.
Reports said that SDG number three targets ensuring good health and well-being for people in all ages, while number eight encourages decent work for decent living.
Nnadi, who was represented by Mr Charles Ngeribara, decried worsening cases of boat mishaps that has been killing and maiming citizens, who could have been adding great value to the country.
According to him, most of the accidents on waterways are due to ignorance and unsafe behaviour of boat operators and passengers.
Nnadi said that Total and its partners decided to run the campaign to sensitise boat operators on safety measures to minimise incidences of boat mishaps.
“This training, sponsored by NNPC/Total Upstream Nig. Ltd. and its partners, CNOOC, SAPETRO and PETROBRAS, and facilitated by ANPEZ, aims at inculcating in boat operators and passengers good health and safety skills to protect life and property on waterways.”
He expressed his optimism that if safety on waterways was assured, it could promote social and economic development of the people.
In a remark, Mrs Uche Amadi, the Area Manager, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) in Onitsha, called on the private sector to assist government with the construction of standard jetties along the Onitsha coastlines.
“This challenge has made it a compelling necessity for the construction of standard landing jetties to serve communities like Ilah, Ose-Ndende Market, Ogbakuba, Ossomala, Asaba, among others.”
Amadi said that safety measures put in place by NIWA were often misconstrued and ignored by inland waterways operators, passengers and stakeholders, who viewed such measures as expensive, bureaucratic and unnecessary waste.
She stressed the need for regular training and licensing of boat operators, annual inspection and recertification of river craft permits, to enhance safety of voyages on inland waters.
In a lecture, the Managing Director of ANPEZ Centre for Environment and Development, Mr Everest Nwankwo, said that maritime transport ranked among the safest in the world.
Nwankwo, however, attributed accidents on waterways to high wind, loss of visibility, over loading and bad weather.
He also advised jetty operators to always make use of life jackets and apply all safety measures. 500 life jackets -300 for adults and 200 for children, were presented to jetty operators at the event.
The jackets are to be worn by boat operators and intending passengers before boarding boats.
The Chairman of the Onitsha Engine Boat Association, Mr Chukwudi Ekwenze, commended Total for organising the training and donating the life jackets.
“No such gesture has ever happened since I ventured into the business in 1965,” he said, assuring that the items would be distributed evenly among the 12 jetty operators in Onitsha.