By Innocent Orok
Boat Operators and waterways user’s in Cross River and Ebonyi States have been advised to conduct their operations with safety regulations in view or be sanctioned in line with extant regulations under the National Inland Waterways Authority ( NIWA) Act .
Expressively and in compliance with the best regulatory practices, night sailings are a taboo, boats plying the waterways must undergo annual survey checks for river worthiness and must be registered by NIWA. All necessary navigation equipment must be on board and including life jackets for passengers and a zero tolerance for boat operators and drivers without boat driving licence and permits.
Engineer Stanley Onuoha, Area Manager, Cross River Area office of the Federal government focal agency on waterways transportation management, disclosed that even though these regulatory guidelines are well documented, there is a need to carefully refresh the memory of boat operators and other stakeholders on the importance of carrying out safe and secured activities on the waterways to forestall any form of mishap leading to human or material loss.
Engineer Onuoha, who spoke at an expanded stakeholders meeting in Calabar, Cross River State on Tuesday, appealed to all users of the Calabar to Ebonyi water channels to synergise with the regulatory authority to achieve its set mandates, reiterating that NIWA, Cross River Area office will not compromise the enforcement of passengers safety on the waterways.
In furtherance to the Area office commitment to the training and retraining of boat operators in its catchment area, he informed that a Marine Training consultant, has been commissioned to train all categories of boat and barge drivers which is mandatory and requisite to their certification by NIWA.
Towards this end, a one month enforcement date effective January 2024 was announced as operational enforcement circle to which all boats or barge drivers without requisite training and boat drivers licence issued by NIWA, will not be not allowed to ply on the waterways.
“We are determined to change our operational narratives, which we wish to build around our stakeholders. As you are aware, there has been increased traffic on our waterways for the movement of persons , goods, and services, and with our new mandate, tourism, fishing and recreational opportunities will be powered through our Brown water ecosystem and we at the instruction of our new Managing Director, Mr Munirudeen oyebamiji have prepared our minds to process the delivery in these areas hence, we felt we need to share ideas and work together, ” Engineer Onuoha informed.
Some of the stakeholders who spoke at the meeting assured NIWA of their support and welcomed the training and certification of boat drivers, adding that for Nigerian waterways to attract the needed investors and investments, strategic efforts as enumerated by the agency Area Manager is the best way to go.
” We have listened to your very robust presentation and work plan and hereby assure you of our cooperation in our best possible ways. We also want to extend our warm greetings to your new Managing Director, Mr Munirudeen Oyebamiji and pray that when he visits us soon, the dividend of your work plans would be glaring for all to see” a spokesperson for the stakeholders stated.
Some of the operational delivery mandates of NIWA include, but are not limited to regulation of inland waterways transportation, ( passengers and cargo movement), grant of boat registration certificates and permits, regulation for use of Right of Ways, grants of Access Permit to Dredging, Reclamation, utility to lines or cable and pipeline laying across waterways, bridge construction, Advertisement, and issuance of boat drivers licence and certificates, among others.