In the last couple of weeks, boat mishaps have been recurring in some local government areas of Jigawa State. The accidents have claimed the lives of several people across communities, throwing households into grief and mourning.
The victims of these accidents cut across all age groups, as newborns and the aged are not spared from – tragedies.
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Four local government areas – Gwaram, Miga, Guri and Ringim have so far recorded incidents which have resulted in the loss of at least 19 persons.
Two persons were confirmed dead at Miga, five persons died while five were rescued unconscious at Gwaram, four, including a seven-month-old baby, were found dead at Guri, while eight persons were reported dead at Ringim Local Government Area, all as a result of boat mishap.
Habiba Iliya, who lost her husband to a canoe capsize while coming back from Friday prayer in the Gwaram area, described the incident as the worst disaster to have ever befallen her family.
“What happened is the will of God. It is destined to happen this way but we are really disturbed by the way it occurred.
“We were waiting for him to return and give us money for food when the sad news came to us. I have two children and they are all young,” she said.
A local diver, Rilwanu Abubakar, believes that boat mishaps happen when unknown creatures living inside the water are awake, among other reasons.
He is not the only one to ascribe the recent wave of boat mishaps in the state to supernatural acts as many of the locals believe “water spirits” are responsible for the mishaps.
“You know, as humans, sometimes we feel like playing. So, when they are awake and are playing inside the water, it affects us and we don’t know. When the water comes with force and meets us, we lose control and the canoe eventually overturns.
“Secondly, some human beings are possessed spiritually. Their spirits don’t like water or agree with those that exist in water. It happens also in such situations,” he said with conviction.
However, most people believed that negligence and overloading is a contributing factor to the capsize of most canoes as has been witnessed in the state.
“Look at that one (pointing at a local canoe), normally, it should not carry this much load as anything can happen,” a commuter, Abdulkarim Gambo, said.
He added that because there’s a lack of options, one has to embark on the journey despite the risk.
Another victim of one of the boat mishaps, who unfortunately lost a relative to the same mishap, attributed the cause of the mishaps to the deployment of old canoes.
“These canoes we are using are all obsolete, they are worn out because they were kept in the bushes for years, not in use. Suddenly, we are back to using them and in the cause of carrying much load, some parts disengage and breakaway,” the victim, who did not give his name, said.
Flood everywhere in Jigawa
So far, 22 out of 27 local government areas of Jigawa State have been ravaged by flood.
With the recent loss of lives at Ringim Local Government Area, the local government council through the chairman has engaged the canoe operators to ensure that the passenger limits are not exceeded.
According to the state Police Public Relations Officer, Lawan Shiisu Adam, “Besides giving them the figures, he also paid for two weeks transport fare of all passengers that will be using the canoes.”
Adam added that with such interventions from well-to-do individuals, the risk will definitely be reduced to the barest minimum.
Speaking on the causes of the canoe capsizes, in their separate remarks, the Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), who are at the forefront in rescue operations and evacuation of victims, said the issue cannot also be unrelated to the spillways overflowing from Tiga Dam which passes through most settlements in the state.
The spokespersons of the two security outfits also said the use of old canoes and overload are contributing factors.
The Executive Secretary, Jigawa State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Yusuf Sani Babura, said the agency is working towards providing emergency facilities and life jackets while tasking the canoe operators to be observant of how many people they carry.
Salim Umar Ibrahim & Ali Rabiu Ali, Jigawa