The Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) has decried the poor response of the federal and state governments to the boat mishap in Kebbi State in which no fewer than 76 persons have been confirmed dead.
The boat carrying about 180 passengers was travelling between Niger and Kebbi States when it broke in two and sank.
President of the association, Gani Balogun, described the boat accident as a national tragedy and embarrassment, saying the number of deaths was still rising.
In a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos late on Friday, Balogun called for the dredging and removal of wreck from the Malele-Kebbi waterways.
He said in furtherance of its mission to ensure national spread and take responsibilities, the association had always responded to accidents across the national waterways, including those in Niger state.
He added that the organisation had organised training and retraining of its members in a bid to build their emergency response capacity and also donated life jackets to them.
Balogun said they had sought the support of the traditional institutions to help drive home the need for operators’ and water users’ adherence to extant safety regulations on waterways.
He said: “The truth is that ATBOWATON cannot singlehandedly keep the waterways safe and also create the enabling operational environment.
“It is not all accidents on waters that are attributable to overloading and refusal to wear life jackets.
“There are system failures on waterways related to mapping, dredging and wreck removal.These are the major issues across the waterways in those areas.”
Balogun called on both the federal and state governments to give River Niger – from Malele down to Kebbi and further ahead – the serious attention it needs considering that it is a theatre of important economic activities.
He said failure to do that will only create room for more boat accidents.