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How We Cheated Death: Survivors Of Kwara Boat Disaster Recount

Three lucky survivors, who escaped miraculously in the June 12, 2023, Black Monday boat disaster, which claimed 107 lives, in Kwara State, have recounted how they cheated death by the whiskers.

It was reported that the boat was conveying about 250 wedding guests from Gboti village via Patigi after a marriage ceremony to Ebu and Dzakan villages, all within Patigi Local Government of Kwara state, but capsized a few minutes after take-off.

On leaving the shore, one part of the boat by the engine side cracked and gave way for water to penetrate the boat which ultimately led to the boat capsizing.

Efforts to draw the attention of the villagers hosting the marriage ceremony for assistance by the passengers in the boat failed, which led to the deaths of about 107 people.

Official records available on the casualties showed that 61 people from Ebu village died, 38 from Dzakan village, four from Kpada, and three others from Kogi State, putting the total number of casualties at 106 and the total number of survivors at 144.

Suleiman Umar Muhammed, a community leader and one of the survivors, said in a graphic account of the incident that they went to Eboti village for a marriage ceremony on Saturday.

“It Is not easy for me to give you the number of people that are affected. The number of people that were affected was about 180. We had about 200 inside the same local boat.

“We entered the local boat without any problem, unfortunately, it broke into two immediately after we took off. We were already in the middle of the River Niger when the incident happened and there was a commotion as the boat threw many of us into the river.

“Some male passengers were able to swim out of the water but the females and the children were trapped in the water,” he said.

He disclosed that although the boat was overloaded, “the leakage in the boat appeared to be there before we entered. If there had been an access road that links the villages, we should not have gone through the river.

“Because there is no road network around the area and the whole three villages are not linked together with roads, the passengers were forced to pass through the river.”

Suleiman explained that “the permanent solution is to link them up by creating accessible roads among the communities because they are not supposed to pass through the river at all.

“The villages are set up in a triangular form; they are just trying to create one manageable road to one of the locations so that they can now go through it.

“If there is a link road network around the place, then the people would have taken the road to their respective villages,” he added.

Another victim of the boat mishap, Mr Muhammed Abdullahi said: “I am one of the passengers in the boat and one of my sons was also in the boat.

“Few minutes after we entered the boat, the boat capsized. The females were unable to make it, while the male passengers made it by climbing the tree when the incident occurred. We were over 150 in the boat and one of my sons, Usman Abubakar was also in the boat.

“A few minutes after we took off, at about 3 am, the boat broke into two and threw all of us into the river. I was able to swim and got to the bank of the river. Others died in the river and my son was one of those who died.

“My son, Usman is 15 years old, he was a tailor by profession. I am in pain because my son who died was self-employed. He was my backbone and he used to help me with money. He has been helping us with anything we want in the family.

“I’m a farmer and he usually gives me money to buy farm inputs such as rice, chemicals, and other things. With his death now, there is no one else to help me because my other children are too young.”

He appealed to the government to help them with roads in the area.

“There are no roads linking the villages with one another. We have to go on the water to different places because there are no roads linking the villages. If the government can provide us with roads, it will solve that major problem in our communities.

“We are also appealing to our governor, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to assist us with farm inputs. We are rice farmers, we need tractors to prepare the land, he should also assist us with fertiliser, herbicides, and good-yielding planting materials,” he pleaded.

Ibrahim Mohammed, another resident in the community, said: “I’m from Ebu village; I’m one of the victims of last Monday’s boat accident.

“We all went to the occasion, the wedding ceremony at a village called Eboti under Patigi local government. After the event, we all entered the boat and started moving from that place to our village, which is Ebu.

“Two minutes after we left Eboti, water was sinking into the boat through a leakage on the side of the boat. The boat now collapsed. There were about 200 people in the boat, mainly women and children. The men in the boat were few.

“As the boat collapsed, we now started shouting but we were lacking helpers at that odd hour, 3:10 to 3:20 am because some of the fishermen and boat drivers had gone home.

“The men in the boat that were thrown into the river tried to swim to the bank. Some of us escaped, while others who could not make it died in the river. In my village, Ebu we lost 62 people, excluding one of my brothers that is missing. We have not been able to see him till today.

“On Monday morning, the corpses of some people who died in the accident were brought out of the river. Some of us from the village who escaped and swam to the river bank assembled in the village.

“When we could not see him, we went to the river bank and told some divers to help us look for him, but in the evening, they returned after the search and rescue mission and said that they could not find him.

“Till now, he has yet to show up in the village, while his corpse is yet to be recovered in any part of the river. We don’t know whether the river has taken him to another village in the lower part of the river.”

A senior village head in Patigi Local Government, Alhaji Liman Umar Ahmed, said in his separate account that “The number of people that were affected were about 180.

“We had about 200 persons inside the ill-fated local boat; unfortunately, the boat broke into two and before navigating to the river bank, the whole thing sank.

“The males among the passengers were able to swim out of the water. Women and children among them drowned and the boat sank.

“Had it been that there was an access road, they should not have passed through the river, but there is no road network at all in the whole area; the three villages are not linked together by road, so they pass through the river.

“It was overloading that made the canoe break into two. But I can shift the whole blame on the nonavailability of access roads in our area here. If there had been access roads, the people would not have opted for river transportation.

“The permanent solution is to link them up by creating accessible roads among the communities because they are not supposed to pass through the river at all.

“The communities are set up in a triangular form; so they were just trying to use a manageable route,” he added.

Earlier, in his reaction to the development, the Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority, Dr George Moghalu confirmed during an on-the-spot assessment of the incident in the area that a total of 107 people died, while 146 persons escaped death in the mishap.

The MD, who asserted that the accident was avoidable, declared that all persons indicted in the boat mishap would not go unpunished as preliminary investigation had revealed the cause of the accident.

Moghalu emphasised the need for life jackets for passengers, boat drivers, as well as river-worthy boats, adding that the agency would make use of local manpower to enforce operational guidelines on the nation’s waterways to prevent reoccurrence of the boat mishap in the state’s community and any other part of the country.

He disclosed that preliminary investigation revealed among others that while the boat was overloaded with over 250 persons, including luggage, “It was a rainy night. The rain came with the wind. Apart from the rain increasing the water level, the wind drifted, moved, and forced the boat to both the left and right directions and smashed it against a tree.”

“These are some of the issues that came out in the course of our preliminary investigations,” he added.

Moghalu said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who expressed worry and concern over the incident, had ordered an investigation into the mishap to know what happened.

Governor Abdulrazaq also paid a condolence visit to the families of the affected victims where he disclosed that the government would send legislation to the parliament toward enforcing punishments and fines on violators of safety protocols on water travels in the state.

He pledged the immediate provision of about 1,000 life jackets for use by passengers and boat drivers in the area for water travels.

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