THE National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has refuted claims that 18 people lost their lives along river Buruku in Benue State, stating that only 11 bodies have been recovered in the boat mishap thus far.
According to a statement signed on Friday by the NIWA Spokesman, Tayo Fadile, 12 passengers have been rescued alongside 18 motorcycles.
“The attention of NIWA has been drawn to media reports claiming that 18 people lost their lives along River Buruku in Benue State.
“However, information made available to us by NIWA’s Area Manager in Benue State, Engr. Danjuma Mohammed Kabiru who visited the site of the boat accident confirmed that 11 people died while 12 were rescued and 18 motorcycles that are on the boat recovered. The search for the seven remaining bodies is ongoing.
“It should be noted that as against the standard practice, a vehicular boat was used to ferry the 30 passengers on board which was obviously overloaded.
The Area Manager also confirmed that moved against NIWA safety guideline which stipulated that boats and river craft should not travel after 6.00pm on the nations’ waterways. This ill-fated boat started its journey by 9:00 pm, and also contrary to NIWA safety guidelines none of the 30 passengers was wearing life jackets.
“While we commiserate with the Government and people of Benue State on this unfortunate incident, we are also using this opportunity to urge all intending passengers on our waterways to always adhere to the safety guidelines provided by NIWA, especially the need to wear life jackets and to discourage travelling on our waterways after 6:00 pm.
“We are particularly worried that a ferry boat designed to carry only vehicles was illegally turned into a passenger’s vessel, causing the loss of precious lives,” the agency stated.
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