The Lagos State Government yesterday confirmed the death of 12 persons in the boat mishap which occurred at the weekend in Ilashe area of the state.
In a statement issued by the Managing Director of Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Mr. Abisola Kamson, the state government attributed the unfortunate mishap to overloading of passengers on a Banana Boat and operation of illegal jetty.
Kamson said four victims of the mishap who were rescued are already receiving treatment at a nearby hospital, while search and rescue operation was still on-going.
While commiserating with the families of those that lost their loved ones, the state government said the mishap had again brought to the fore the need for the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to respect the recent verdict of the Court of Appeal which upheld the powers of the state government to control its intra-inland waterways.
Going into details of the mishap, Kamson said: “An unfortunate incident occurred at Ilashe today (yesterday) arising from overloading of passengers on a Banana boat taking off from an illegal Jetty which has become a perennial issue of the Lagos State Government to rid our waterfront areas of illegal operators.
“We sympathise with the families of the deceased as 12 lives were lost in the mishap and four people receiving treatment in the hospital.
“The LASWA rescue team has been on ground and search is still on-going. This brings to fore again the need for NIWA to allow the judgement of the Appeal Court granting Lagos Control of her waterways to take effect without hindrance.
“It is a matter for regret that ever since the judgment was pronounced, NIWA has ejected all state Water Guards monitoring standards from all Federal owned jetties. In spite of this, the government of Lagos State aligns to the safety of citizens on the waterways. All Lagosians are enjoined to wear standard life jackets at all times on our waterways,” Kamson said.
Besides, the LASWA boss urged boat operators and other stakeholders in the inland waterways sector to adhere strictly to safety standards at all times.
Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that due to the secluded nature of the area, local divers were the first emergency responders who stormed the scene before other primary governmental responders arrived.
With the help of those local volunteers, the emergency workers commenced search and rescue efforts and nine bodies were as at press time recovered while the search for others continues.
At the scene were operatives of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Marine Police Division, with full compliments of personnel from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Confirming the incident, the South-West Zonal spokesperson of NEMA, Ibrahim Farinloye, said most of the deceased persons were children.
He said: “NEMA has just been alerted of a boat capsizing with nine dead bodies of victims recovered while some others are still missing.
“The boat is said to be a private boat conveying church congregation from one side of Ilase village to the other side beach.
“As at now, the number onboard the passenger boat is unknown but there is no indication that anyone had lifejackets on when the incident happened.
“When the incident happened local volunteers swooped into search and rescue efforts and NIWA and the Marine Police were alerted by NEMA for prompt action immediately.
“Unconfirmed reports indicate that many children are involved. However, the marine police will investigate the cause of the incident after our search and rescue operations.”