Seven people were feared dead in a boat mishap involving a family returning from a farmland across the River Niger in Yauri Local Government of Kebbi State, Sunday night.
Abdullahi Takwa, Chairman of Yauri Boat Builders and Wakilin Sarkin Ruwa (representative of Chief of the River), who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, said the family were returning from their onion farm in Rokubalo, a village about four kilometres across the river.
He said a strong wave accompanied by violent wind forced the boat to capsize.
“I just spoke with one of the survivors, who told me that, they were nine in the boat that was struck by ‘strong water wave with strong wind’ while on their way back from the farm, around 6:30pm yesterday (Sunday), he said.
Musa Mohammed, Chairman of Yauri Local Government Council, when contacted on phone also said the boat was ferrying nine members of the same family.
“The boat was ferrying nine family members, two women and seven men, who were returning from their farmland where they went to plant onions.”
He said two survivors have been found while seven are still missing. “But, so far, we cannot say they are dead or not. What we will do is to declare them missing,” the chairman said.
He said water surge released from Kainji and Jaba dam which increased the water level in the river was part of the cause of the tragedy, which also alters navigation and covers stumps under water.
A recent report by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that at least 33 Nigerians have died since April this year in three boat accidents on the River Niger in Yauri Emirate of Kebbi State, with two of the mishaps occurring on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
Many passengers are still not unaccounted for.
The last two accidents occurred in the area over five months after the Nigerian Senate passed a resolution urging the federal government to urgently implement some measures that could have prevented the accidents.
The first accident occurred in April when a boat ferrying traders to Warra in Ngaski Local Government Area of Kebbi State from Malale market in Borgu Local Government Area of Niger State capsized and killed nine persons. Officials had also declared 25 of the passengers missing after 26 of them were rescued.
Initial reports had stated that about 150 passengers were crammed into the boat for the ill-fated trip.
Following the accident of April, the Nigerian Senate called on the Federal Government to provide Warra community with a modern 50-seater boat to check the disasters.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over Senate plenary on May 5, while reading the resolution of the Senate, also called on the federal government to assist the communities in blasting the big stones and cutting the big stumps in the river that hinder safe navigation around the area.
“Senate also resolved to urge the Ministry of Transport through the National Inland Waterways Authority to immediately conduct a survey into the stretch of River Niger in the area with a view to putting safe navigational aid in place. The Senate also urge the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA to assist the communities with relief materials in order to cushion the effect of the disaster,” Mr. Ekweremadu said.
Earlier, the sponsor of the motion that led to the resolution, Mr. Na’Allah, who represents Kebbi South Senatorial zone, said despite the sacrifice by the some communities which were resettled by the then Northern regional government in order to build the current Kainji Dam to provide electricity for Nigeria, “the communities are without drinking water and electricity. Only plank canoe is used to transport people through the river.”
He also said the incessant boat mishaps and loss of lives in the Yauri end of River Niger called for the urgent intervention of the federal government. Mr. Na’Allah said that despite the disturbing development which had become an annual occurrence; nothing had been done to prevent future recurrence.
He also expressed concern that many of the victims were not accounted for due to lack of passenger manifest.
Adamu Aliero, a former governor of Kebbi who is now a senator representing Kebbi Central, while contributing to the motion, said the communities had for long been suffering from serious environmental degradation as a result of their resettlement for the building of Kainji Dam.
He described the motion as very timely and apt in order to save lives and facilitate the provision of water and electricity as well as relief materials to the victims of mishap in the area.
A former governor of the state, Abubakar Musa, said in Warra that the government needs to provide life jackets and modern passenger boats for trips on the river.
“Most importantly, the chopping off of those stumps under the water. If that problem is not solved we will continue to have this problem of accidents,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Na’Allah, when contacted on Sunday, said he had contacted Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to know his effort to address the incessant boat mishaps in the riverine areas of Kebbi South, the senatorial zone he represents.
“I met Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to follow up on federal government’s intervention, few days before these recent unfortunate accidents. I am quite optimistic that assistance will come from the federal government very soon,” he said.
He condoled with the governor of Kebbi State and the Emir of Yauri and all those who had lost their loved ones.
He commended several efforts made by the Yauri Emirate and the state government to ensure the safety of lives and properties in the riverine areas.