The Taraba State Government says no fewer than twenty corpses of victims of a recent boat mishap have been recovered.
This was disclosed by the state’s Commissioner for Special Duties and Social Development Saviour Noku shortly after visiting the Binneri community alongside the state deputy governor where the boat capsized last Saturday, reports Channels TV.
The state Deputy Governor Aminu Alkali in an interview after an on-the-spot assessment and condolences to the affected community and families banned night journeys on waterways.
Upon arrival, the deputy governor was told that barricades on the waterways by fishermen in attempts to trap fish were the major cause of the mishap.
He instructed that all barricades on the waterways be cleared within seven days.
According to him, the state government will henceforth not tolerate the overloading of boats or canoes, or movement without passenger manifests and life jackets.
He is insisting that the government will investigate deeply to unravel the root cause of the boat mishap and punish culprits accordingly.
“Our visit here is to ensure three principal issues: to stop overloading, to ensure that there will be no more night travelling and the canoes or boats must have passengers manifest so that whatever happens we can easily identify one’s relations,” he said.
“They should also ensure they have life jackets for passengers for protection because not all persons can swim. The colossal loss witnessed in the state is regrettable and the government has directed that the barricades be removed within seven days.”
Some of the passengers who drowned are gradually floating and decomposing on the surface of the water.
Investigation indicated that the boat was overloaded with bags of cement, building irons, food items, animals, and over 100 passengers including children. But it hit a wooden barricade on the waterways, hindering its movement, hence the capsizing.
A community member who spoke on the grounds of anonymity said on a daily basis the figure swells but the community leaders bury it without revealing the actual number to avoid being queried by the state government for overloading.
The rider of the boat said while riding they got to a barricade two hours after take off and tried all they could to maneuver, but did not succeed and in the process, the boat started getting filled with water.
He revealed that about 50 to 60 passengers of his boat got drowned while some that hung on to others who knew how to swim succeeded in getting to the river bank.
“We got stocked on the water two hours after take-off due to some barricades made by fishermen. I tried all I could to maneuver, but I did not succeed which led to the ugly incident,” he said.
”About 50 to 60 passengers got drowned, while some managed to swim out.”
Suleiman Audu is a middle-aged businessman who lost his sister and her baby in the accident.
He revealed that he was at the river bank when the boat took off from Mayoreniyo and was called five hours later to be informed that his sister and baby were yet to arrive at their destination.
“When I was called to be informed that my sister and she had not arrived at their destination, I knew there was trouble so I hurriedly called my friends and we went in search of the boat, just to be informed where people gathered that they could not survive it,” the man said.
Residents of the area say, though this is not the first occurrence, it is the first time the state government is visiting to sympathise and they are appreciative.
They however want a total removal of the barricades by the fishermen to avert future accidents.