The Lagos State Government has commiserated with the families of six pupils who drowned when a fibre boat conveying them to school was hit by a motorised boat within the Ebute Ojo waterways in Ojo Local Government area Wednesday.
At a joint press briefing at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, Managing Director of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Yinka Marinho described the incident as unfortunate, saying that the incident occurred despite government’s increasing efforts to make the waterways safe for residents.
Marinho who was joined at the briefing by the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, the Executive Secretary, Ojo Local Government, Lawal Sakiru Adewale, the General Manager, Lagos State Safety Commission, Dominga Odebunmi and the Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, Habib Aruna, said 12 children and an adult were on board the boat when the incident occurred.
Explaining how the incident occurred, the LASWA boss said a motorised speed boat developed fault midwater and attempted to fix the problem while the boat was still in motion, thereby having a head on collision with the fibre boat conveying the pupils.
“We got the distress call by 8:30am that an incident had occurred. We immediately sent our patrol boat to the area. When we got there, we immediately tried to rescue those who were involved with the help of the local fishermen there. We could rescue eight of the passengers, but this morning the six that were missing have been found, unfortunately, none survived”.
Marinho however said the captain of the speed boat has been arrested and will be prosecuted accordingly.
He, however, regretted that despite the provision of life jackets to boat operators in the Ebute Ojo area where the incident occurred, none of the passengers on board wore life jackets.
“As part of the state’s Corporate Social Responsibility since 2012, we have distributed over 3,500 life jackets from Badagry to Epe area. That particular area that we had the incident as at May 2014, we distributed 360 life jackets.
“All these life jackets we distributed were done to forestall these incidences, we don’t understand why people fail to wear life jackets, but we would continue to strive to ensure that the safety of the waterways is paramount”, Marinho said.
He said plans were underway to distribute another 2400 life jackets within the next few months, just as he called on the boat operators to insist on passengers wearing life jackets if they must board their boat.
He said the state government has put in place adequate safety measures to guide the use of its waterways, stressing that in most cases, the waterways is shut intermittently during bad weather to forestall any mishap.
Osanyintolu on his part, said the swift response of the state emergency response team ensured that eight persons were rescued alive.
“Our response was swift, prompt and effective. Immediately we were informed, we activated our emergency response plan and with that we were able to rescue nine people, eight children and the driver of the canoe.
He said five of those rescued were taken to Igando General Hospital, where they were adequately attended to free of charge.
He however appealed to residents to adhere to the rules and regulations for the use of waterways, saying it was for the safety of their loved ones.
“Our people need to abide to these rules because safety of lives and properties is paramount to this administration”, he said.