By Francis Ekpone
The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)/Total Upstream Nigeria Limited joint venture has distributed about five hundred (500) life jackets to boat operators and jetties within Onitsha, Anambra state and its environs.
The life jackets meant for use by both infant and adult passengers of boat in the areas were provided for passengers’ safety to reduce the incidence of boat mishap and drowning during sail within the inland waterways.
The boat operators, passengers and other stakeholders were also trained on safety consciousness and protection of their lives and property on the waterways.
The two-day training and 2018 marine awareness campaign was sponsored by Total Upstream companies in Nigeria and her partners – China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO) and PETROBRAS and was facilitated by ANPEZ Centre for Environment and Development.
Speaking at the training, the General Manager, Cooperate Social Responsibility, Total Upstream Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Vincent Nnadi explained that the training was in pursuance of his company’s corporate social responsibility aimed at empowering beneficiaries with requisite safety skills for navigation in the Nigerian waterways.
He noted that safety was the core value of Total upstream company, which, he said, was engrained in all aspects of their operations, regretting that Nigeria was known for ceaseless cases of boat mishap, killing and maiming of citizens that ought to add value to the nation’s progress.
“Most of the accidents on our waterways are due to ignorance and unsafe behavior of boat drivers and passengers and to minimise such incidence, Total, in partnership with her co ventures, decided to bring this campaign to you at Onitsha.
Nnadi, represented by Dr. Charles Ngeribara, called on boat operators to ensure that all passengers wear their life jackets before boarding a boat and both passengers and operators should implement all the safety precautions as contained in the checklist that was given to them.
The Area Manager, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Onitsha Area office, Mrs. Uche Amadi, commended Total and her partners for the safety education and awareness, which, she said, was indispensable for safe voyage within Nigeria’s inland waters. She observed that most boat operators in the state had no valid driver’s license and had no regard to boat loading capacity while passengers voyage without life jackets, adding that some boats even operated without permits as operators dodge annual renewal that guarantees river worthiness.
“Most riverine communities within Onitsha inland waters do not have jetties for landing and takeoff of passengers and goods which contributes to high insecurity and lack of reliable and verifiable statistics on movement within the inland waters.
“While training and licensing of boat operators, conforming of operational loading capacity, provision of life jackets to all passengers onboard boats and annual inspection and recertification of river craft permit, enhance safety of voyage within inland waters, construction of standard jetties to serve as takeoff and landing points will provide the needed environment for operators and other stakeholders to implement and enforce safety rules”, she appealed.
Earlier, Mr. Everest Nwankwo of ANPEZ, grilled the boat operators, passengers and jetty managers on their various responsibilities and various causes of boat mishaps which according to him, include overloading, loss of visibility, bad weather, high wind, over speeding and loss of engine.
He charged the passengers to always remind boat operators of their duties and ensure they wear life jackets while urging boat captains to ensure they possess a valid certificate of competency to operate passenger ferry.