A close look at our beautiful sister in the controversial safety jacket will reveal that, except she is overripe, she
must be married with children. It is likely she is a teacher chaperoning the pupils on an excursion approved by the Parents Teachers Association (PTA). We cannot be too sure because the children are not in the same uniform. She may also be a Good Samaritan helping the children across the river. This may imply she knows the parents, probably live in the same community with them and teaching in the community where the children are schooling.
Let us believe she is a teacher chaperoning the pupils on an excursion or having a boating experience. She is relaxed and excited. It is likely to be her first experience either in boat navigation or chaperoning pupils on a boating experience. I’m sure some other teachers in the school will be jealous of her. Let’s call her Ms. Teacher.
I’m sure Ms. Teacher was not aware of the need for a life jacket. It was offered to her by the boatman. Since it was too big for the children and would not go round she decided it must be worn. Bravo! I congratulate her. Remember that two years ago four young men lost their lives through drowning on a dam in Ekiti State. They were hydrographic surveyors with life jackets but unused. Foolish! You’ll say, abi?
Take a look at the figures below. Can you see a single life jacket? That is the situation of our waterways transportation system!
We need to ask if we have safety regulations. If we have, why are they not enforced? If we don’t have, what’s the need for Nigerian Maritime Administration (NMA) and Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA)? In Lagos, there is Lagos State Waterways Authority. There is evidence that some form of regulations enforcement is going on around Lagos (Adeboboye, 2016; thisdaylive.com, 2016) but there is no such evidence in the northern part of the country.
The NIWA (FGN< 1996) and NMA (2007) were established to, among other mandates, develop appropriate safety regulations for the use of the inland waterways and maritime services respectively
Who’s at Fault?
I’ve been involved in three hydrographic surveys and two geomorphological studies on River Benue and hydrographic surveys on Rivers Katsina Ala and Donga but I’ve not come across a single boat operator with a life jacket (Figures 2 and 3).
Navigating Nigeria without Life Jackets
Governance in Nigeria has always been in the hand of ignorant people. Our lawmakers do not know the constitution. Not that they don’t have it. It is part of their induction documents but how many of them read through the first page? How many of them spend their constituency allowances on research to understand the needs of their constituencies? How many employ competent personal assistants to enable them to put their bills in good shape?
I supervised a project in which one of the sub-consultants, handling a component part of a project in the neighbourhood of seventy million naira did not have a competent hand to produce the report. Every advice for him to employ the service of a competent reporter was ignored; he was unwilling to spend about two to three million naira to produce a good report. The project got stalled and submission delayed and rolled out of the financial year. Ix years running the payment has not been secured because those in charge would not, at then, pay on uncompleted project,
There was no Minister in charge of Water Resources that ever had access to the law (then referred to as decree) that established the National Water Resources Institute. I laid my hand on it at the Ondo State Ministry of Information and dropped the original with the establishment. It was never used. We kept on presenting the distorted version of the law to any visiting minister on their familiarisation tours. I do not know if there were any of the Ministers that ever asked that the original should be produced for them to see. Each Minister was oblivious of the mandate of the establishment. So are our lawmakers.
Which part of the constitution gives the lawmakers the power to decide their emoluments? Do we citizen know our rights? What amendments to the laws on firearms advised the Nigeria Police to turn the other eye to armed terrorist herdsmen?
What impact on Nigeria?
We were advised to cross River Benue to enable us to take a shorter route to Kaduna from Lau in Taraba State. I refused but my driver pleaded. It was during the Ramadan season. I obliged him but we both regretted it for two reasons. We had no plan to cross River Benue so we carried no life jackets. We were about 25metres to reach the opposite bank when the engine of the boat got stuck. Thank God it didn’t capsize! Another boat was nearby to guide us to the bank. We never bordered about carrying roadmap because we knew the road we had in the plan but this unforeseen change made us ignorant. We were lucky we got one of the Taraba State Mass Transit buses to follow. We got to Gombe at 9 pm when we should have got to Kaduna by that time if we followed the road we knew very well.
Nigeria’s problem is that we steer the wheel of the country in ignorance; the legislative is ignorant, the executive is ignorant but the judiciary, that is learned, is gagged and thus cannot effectively function.
Yoruba have a sacred calabash that they ask their Ǫbas to open when they fail. Maybe the senatorial districts and the wards need to establish it for the lawmakers and the states and Abuja for the governors and president respectively. These people don’t take the Holy Bible and the noble Qur’an seriously.
Meanwhile, let’s appreciate our Ms. Teacher for using the life jacket and the boat operator who has one.
Adeboboye, T (2016). Lamentation of Lagos boat operators. Newsonline 18th May 2016. http://sunnewsonline.com/lamentation-of-lagos-boat-operators /
FGN (1996). National Inland Waterways Act
FGN (2007). Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act, 2007
thisdaylive.com (2016). Towards Safety on Waterways in a Congested City. June 19, 2016. https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2016/06/19/towards-safety-on-waterways-in-a-congested-city-2/