The Niger State Emergency Management Agency has revealed that a tree stump inside the Jabba Dam River was responsible for the boat accident which led to the death of 30 people in Niger State on Sunday.
Tragedy struck the state on Sunday when a boat fully loaded with over 100 persons believed to be farmers capsized in Mokwa Local Government Area. 30 passengers were killed while 30 others were rescued.
The state government on Monday conducted a mass burial of the dead in the LGA.
The spokesman for NSEMA, Hussain Ibrahim, disclosed the cause of the crash to The PUNCH on Tuesday in a telephone interview. He said the state government would assist the families who lost their loved ones with either cash or food items.
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“The people stay up on the stream of Jebba Dam and the river was recently dredged to create more space for carrying parcels of the water. In the process of this dredging, some trees were cut down but not completely down, they call them tree stumps inside water.
“So, when the water rises, you will not see these tree stumps. If you begin to move with your boat sometimes you will not see them. The boat had a collision with a tree stump and it was what caused the breakage of the boat and caused it to capsize,” he said.
Ibrahim said the rescue operation had ended and officials of the agency went round the communities to find out if there were persons who were not captured.
“Search and rescue has ended and nobody has complained that their person is missing. We went round all the houses and nobody was complaining that their person was missing.
“It is not all of them that were rescued. Some people on their own swam out because they were already close to the river bank, so some of them swam on their own. Those who could not swim were mainly children and some women who had children on their backs.
“We are not concerned about the survivors, they are still alive, It’s going to be the second phase. The first people we are concerned about now are those who lost their loved ones, to cushion the effect. Then, we’ll go to the second phase of providing relief assistance to those who survived.
“It’s going to be normal relief assistance. You know the government or its agency doesn’t pay compensation in such matters. We just recommended it could come in the form of cash or food items. Whatever the government approves, whether to give them cash or food items, we’ll do that,” he said.
Ibrahim explained some of the measures the government put in place to forestall the recurrence of boat crashes in the state and some agencies they were collaborating with to provide lifejackets and new boats.
“We are working together with the Nigeria Inland Waterways Agency. They are the ones responsible for setting regulations. And we are trying to see how we can domesticate those regulations in Niger State and then liaise with them.
“We put the boat owners and the divers into different cluster groups so that we’ll see how the government can assist them by providing some free and subsidised life jackets for them. At the same time, having some officials that are going to be there from these associations that they have will serve as a check to make sure that they observe water regulations before they embark on anything.
“Intermittently NSEMA and NIWA will be moving round to observe and scrutinise the life span and the safety of the boats they are using because some of them are rickety, they don’t repair them, people are looking for money to eat, they’re just managing them. So what do we do, even to construct some for them at subsidized prices and then put them in clusters so that they can put money and then the government would come to their aides so that they can buy new ones or get new ones?
“HYPADEC will ensure that in each place where there are water transport activities, they’ll have representatives through these divers and boat owners association and volunteers who will serve as a guide in those cooperatives to ensure that regulations that are for commuters on top of the water are seriously affected,” Ibrahim said.