More than 100 people have drowned in Kwara State after a boat carrying families returning from a wedding sank in a river, police and local authorities said.
Details about the accident in Kwara were still emerging, but it was the latest boat tragedy in the nation where river capsizes are becoming more common due to overloading, lax safety procedures and heavy flooding in the rainy season.
The boat was ferrying people in Kwara State from a wedding in neighbouring Niger State when it went down, local police and the Kwara governor’s office said Tuesday, without giving the cause.
“So far we have 103 people dead and over 100 rescued from the boat accident,” Kwara State police spokesman Okasanmi Ajayi told AFP by telephone.
“Search and rescue is still ongoing which means the toll is likely to rise.”
The Kwara State governor’s office said the victims had been returning from a wedding ceremony to Kwara’s Patigi district.
“The governor is sad to receive reports of the boat accident involving several people, particularly residents of Ebu, Dzakan, Kpada, Kuchalu, and Sampi, all in Patigi,” the statement said.
“The governor sends his heartfelt condolences to the people of these communities.”
It further noted that the governor was monitoring the rescue efforts which had been underway since Monday night in search of possible survivors.
“He commends the alertness of (traditional ruler) the Etsu Patigi His Royal Highness Alhaji Ibrahim Umar Bologi II and other local government authorities for the efforts to save as many people as possible who may have survived the mishap.”
Such river accidents are unfortunately becoming common across the country.
Last month, 15 children drowned and 25 others went missing after their overloaded boat capsized in northwest Sokoto State as they were on their way to collect firewood.
Almost exactly a year earlier, another 29 children from a nearby village also drowned in the same river as they were on a trip to collect firewood for their families.
During massive flooding in the rainy season last December, at least 76 people drowned when their boat went down in a swollen river in southeastern Anambra State.
With poor road infrastructure a frequent problem and kidnapping for ransom a major issue along some highways, river boat travel for transport and trade is common in various communities across the country.
The Niger River is West Africa’s main waterway running in a crescent through Guinea to the Niger Delta and is a key trade route for some countries.
The National Inland Waterways Authority has tried to ban night-time sailing on rivers to stop accidents and says overloading ships is a criminal offence, but skippers and crews often ignore the regulations.
Reacting to the latest boat mishap, President Bola Tinubu while expressing sadness over the loss, urged the Kwara State Government and relevant Federal Government agencies to look into the circumstances surrounding the boat accident.
The president also promised that his administration would look into the challenges of inland water transportation in the country to ensure the matter of safety and operational standards are strictly adhered to.
He added that immediate relief and necessary assistance should also be provided to the survivors and families of victims.
In a similar vein, former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar said he is saddened by reports of the loss.
“It is even more heartbreaking that the victims were wedding guests returning to Kwara State from the neighbouring Niger State, where they had gone for a wedding ceremony at the weekend,” Atiku stressed.
In a brief message on Tuesday, the former VP said the deaths call for a deep reflection on the need to improve the nation’s infrastructure, especially inland waterways and inter-state linkages, to forestall such unfortunate incidences that have become a frequent occurrence in recent times.
He added that even more important is the need to install life jackets commensurate with the number of passengers on the boats.