FEA­TURES Ji­gawa: Why it’s com­pul­sory for ca­noe op­er­a­tors, pas­sen­gers to wear life jack­ets ³It is now a law that no ca­noe op­er­a­tor will take more than eight pas­sen­gers

Daily Trust - - FEATURES - From Aliyu M. Ha­m­agam, Dutse

Awa­ter­ways mishap is a tragedy which comes with dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences ,as most vic­tims are left with tales of a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence of­ten re­sult­ing in scores of deaths.

Boat mishaps which hap­pen to be the com­mon tragedy on Nige­ria’s wa­ter­ways, al­ways claim lives of vic­tims for fail­ure to take pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures by us­ing safety kits while trav­el­ling on water.

Most of the lo­cals liv­ing within the river­ine ar­eas lack knowl­edge of the need for safety Jack­ets, which help in the event of any emer­gency, be­cause the Jack­ets al­low the vic­tims to re­main afloat be­fore res­cue comes their way.

Few months ago a tragedy struck in Ji­gawa state which led to the un­timely death of 15 teenage girls, out of whom seven brides-to-be from four river­ine com­mu­ni­ties of the state died at same time, af­ter the ca­noe that was fer­ry­ing them across the Hade­jia river to neighour­ing Gil­ima vil­lage, cap­sized.

Among the brides to be, five were from Doro which in­clude, Mariam Ra­bilu, Aisha Ra­bilu, Mar­sida Lawal, Ubaida Dan-azumi, Sham­siya Gadalli Hus­saini and Kokiya Mur­tala, while one each from Darai, Amina Hus­saini and Da­matuwa, Sai­yara Munkaila.

On the fate­ful day, 15 teenage girls be­tween the ages of seven to 18 from Darai, Doro, Kargo and Da­matuwa com­mu­ni­ties, all in Jahun Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area lost their lives while cross­ing a river to neigh­bour­ing Gilma com­mu­nity in Taura Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area.

The 31 pas­sen­gers in the ill fated ca­noe were all girls go­ing for a paid job in neighour­ing Gil­ima com­mu­nity. 15 of them died when the ca­noe cap­sized. It is a tra­di­tion among teenage girls from these com­mu­ni­ties to work in sur­round­ing plan­ta­tions for paid labour.

The vic­tims who met their un­timely death were cross­ing river Hade­jia when the tragedy struck at around 9 am on the fate­ful day, lead­ing to the death of eight teenage girls from Doro, five from Darai, one each from kargo and Da­mutawa com­mu­ni­ties.

In the past sev­eral lives were lost as a re­sult of wa­ter­ways mishaps in rivers, con­se­quent upon which the Ji­gawa state gov­ern­ment made it com­pul­sory for all ca­noe op­er­a­tors and pas­sen­gers to wear life jack­ets when­ever trav­el­ling or cross­ing wa­ter­ways in the state.

It has be­come nec­es­sary to make the use of life Jacket com­pul­sory in the state, fol­low­ing the deaths of the teenage girls.

The Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of State Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (SEMA), Sani Yusuf Babura made the an­nounce­ment on the manda­tory use of life jack­ets ,while dis­tribut­ing 300 pieces of such jack­ets to some se­lected ca­noe op­er­a­tors man­ning 44 cross­ing points, along the 250 kilo­me­ter stretch of the river Hade­jia. Dis­tribut­ing the life Jack­ets at the Dorowa cross­ing point in Darai district of Jahun Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area, the par­tic­u­lar place where the teenage girls lost their lives, Babura told Ca­noe Op­er­a­tors that each will be given eight pieces of the life Jack­ets, and these in­clude that of the op­er­a­tor.

Ac­cord­ing to him, from now hence­forth, no ca­noe will carry more than 10 pas­sen­gers per trip ,on ei­ther cross­ing or trav­el­ling along the wa­ter­ways in the state, adding that each ca­noe has the ca­pac­ity to carry 10 pas­sen­gers but reg­u­lated it to eight, hence the dis­tri­bu­tion of eight life Jack­ets per ca­noe op­er­a­tor and his pas­sen­gers.

He stressed that it is ex­pected to have only eight pas­sen­gers on board,as the space for the re­main­ing two pas­sen­gers will be used for the lug­gage.

The dis­tri­bu­tion of the life jack­ets that was con­ducted re­cently was the first phase un­der the new in­ter­ven­tion, as the agency is work­ing on iden­ti­fy­ing more of these cross­ing points, so that more of the ca­noe op­er­a­tors and their pas­sen­gers will ben­e­fit from the in­ter­ven­tion.

The state gov­ern­ment spent over N2.5 mil­lion to pur­chase the first batch of life Jack­ets, adding that out of this there are 50 smaller pieces for chil­dren.

The life Jack­ets have re­flec­tors and whis­tles which will help the res­cue team to lo­cate vic­tims. In times of emer­gency the jacket re­flects brightly in the night, while the vic­tim could use the whis­tle to call for help.

Plans are also un­der­way to make a law in the state on the use of life jack­ets for any user of the state wa­ter­ways, since pro­posal for that has since been taken be­fore the state House of Assem­bly, for leg­is­lat­ing on the law that will make it crim­i­nal to cross or travel on the state water ways, with­out life jack­ets.

“Any ca­noe op­er­a­tor who re­fuses to use or give his pas­sen­gers the life jack­ets dur­ing the cross­ing or trav­el­ling on water ways, would face the full wrath of the law. A pro­posal has since been for­warded to the state House of Assem­bly for leg­is­la­tion on pos­si­ble laws to take care of the de­fault­ers.

“Each of the life jack­ets has the ca­pac­ity of keep­ing ob­jects worth 200 kilo­grams afloat. We have dis­trib­uted 300 pieces of life jack­ets to 44 ca­noe op­er­a­tors. Each of the op­er­a­tors was given eight pieces of life jack­ets, which is equiv­a­lent to a full pas­sen­ger load of a ca­noe. It is now a law that no ca­noe op­er­a­tor will take more than eight pas­sen­gers in a ca­noe, while ei­ther cross­ing or trav­el­ling on the river in Ji­gawa state,” he said.

How­ever, in or­der to fore­stall the re­cur­rence of such water ways tragedy, state deputy gov­er­nor, Bar­ris­ter Ibrahim Has­san Hade­jia also an­nounced dur­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of the life jack­ets ,that the state gov­ern­ment had con­cluded ar­range­ments to con­struct mil­i­tary bai­ley bridges at six dif­fer­ent cross­ing points along the river Hade­jia.

The bridges planned to be con­structed by the state gov­ern­ment are not con­ven­tional ones, but the type that could be as­sem­bled and fixed at a point of con­struc­tion.

The state gov­ern­ment has since started dis­cussing with the Nige­ria Army Corps of En­gi­neers for the con­struc­tion of such bridges, he said.

He stressed “The con­struc­tion of the bridges could have been com­pleted ear­lier than now, but due to the short­age of some of the ma­jor com­po­nents, this stalled the com­mence­ment of the work, and as soon as the com­po­nents are brought into the coun­try, work on the se­lected lo­ca­tions would com­mence.”

The com­po­nents will soon be made avail­able as some were go­ing to be lo­cally fab­ri­cated, adding that once all the com­po­nents are sup­plied, it would not take more than three days to as­sem­ble the bridges.

“We are go­ing to con­struct bai­ley bridges at six iden­ti­fied cross­ing points along river Hade­jia ,in or­der to fore­stall the re­cur­rence of the tragedy that oc­curred re­cently in the state. Af­ter we fin­ish with this first phase, ad­di­tional cross­ing points will also be iden­ti­fied, and they will ben­e­fit from sim­i­lar in­ter­ven­tions,” he stated.

One of the lo­cals from the ben­e­fit­ing com­mu­ni­ties, Ishi­ayaku Darai, told this re­porter that not only the dis­tri­bu­tion but mak­ing it com­pul­sory for the water ways users to use life jack­ets, made the in­ter­ven­tion more mean­ing­ful, be­cause it would go a long way to sav­ing a lot of lives ,adding that if the pro­posed bridges be­came a re­al­ity, the risk in­volved in cross­ing the river would be com­pletely elim­i­nated.

He said about 700 peo­ple risked be­ing drowned on daily ba­sis, be­cause they had to cross the river to the neigh­bour­ing vil­lages for paid jobs, say­ing apart from re­duc­ing the risk by the pro­vi­sion of life jack­ets and bridges, their com­mu­ni­ties would also be ex­posed to big­ger and bet­ter mar­kets for their farm pro­duce in neigh­bour­ing Kano state.

“If the bridge is con­structed it will only take us 40 min­utes as against the two hours drive to reach Kano. We pro­duce farm pro­duce in suf­fi­cient quan­tity ,which is ca­pa­ble of feed­ing a big­ger mar­ket.

“The use of life jack­ets will no doubt re­duce the rate of calami­ties ex­pe­ri­enced in these com­mu­ni­ties, but the con­struc­tion of these bridges will pro­vide a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to such tragedies, with­out which the river­ine com­mu­ni­ties do not have any op­tion than to use the same un­safe way of cross­ing the river.”

Photo: Aliyu M. Ha­m­agam

Ca­noe op­er­a­tors in life jack­ets

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