In a harrowing account of the recent boat tragedy on the River Niger in central Nigeria, a survivor has revealed the desperate attempts made by parents to save their children. Mohammed Alhassan, 22, was among the approximately 300 passengers on the overcrowded wooden boat that capsized near Patigi in Kwara State. While many were returning from a wedding celebration, Alhassan had been returning from a local market.
Desperate Attempts to Save Children on Doomed Boat
Alhassan, who managed to swim to safety, returned to the riverbank where he showed little emotion. As he recollected the events that unfolded, tears streamed down his face. He described the heart-wrenching sight of mothers and fathers struggling to carry their children, ultimately succumbing to the river’s unforgiving currents. Had he attempted to save them, Alhassan believes he would have met the same fate.
Image Source – Yahoo News
The tragic incident occurred on Monday when the wooden boat, carrying nearly 300 people, capsized. Traveling on the River Niger can be perilous, especially during the rainy season between April and October. The wooden boats are often overcrowded, life jackets are scarce, and parts of the journey are undertaken in darkness, making accidents distressingly common. Similar incidents have occurred in the past, claiming numerous lives.
Despite the inherent dangers, communities residing along the banks of the River Niger have limited alternatives for transportation. Alhassan, like many others, had made this journey countless times before. However, this time, seated at the front of the boat, he experienced a nightmare unfolding before his eyes. A loud crack split the vessel apart, causing it to flood and capsize. According to local sources, the boat was either overwhelmed by river waves or crashed into a tree washed into the river.
In the village of Ebo, located in Kwara State, grieving survivors have congregated under a large tree. They recount the horrors of witnessing friends, relatives, and strangers they had met at the loading dock drown. The community is united in mourning, their pain felt collectively. Aisha Mohammed, whose three daughters were on the ill-fated boat, bids farewell to the dreams of their forthcoming weddings. The tragedy has left an indelible mark on the community, as they struggle to come to terms with the loss.
While the community awaits the recovery of missing bodies, they express frustration with the lack of assistance from the government. Heavy rains in recent days have compounded their difficulties, and they hope for increased support in their search for survivors. Many boats operating on the Niger flout regulations, operating at night to evade authorities, with passengers often disregarding life jackets.
Lack of Government Aid Frustrates Search and Rescue Efforts
Community leaders and locals emphasize the need for change. Abdul Gana, a local leader in Kpada, stressed the necessity of government intervention. He urged the provision of protective gear, including life jackets, and emphasized the importance of road infrastructure to connect communities and reduce reliance on river travel. State governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq, during his visit to the affected area, expressed condolences and proposed measures such as providing life jackets and enforcing stricter safety regulations.
However, as the governor departed, the banks of the Niger remained crowded with wooden boats and passengers, few of whom were equipped with life jackets. While promises of assistance were made, the realization of these initiatives remains uncertain. Nevertheless, life on the Niger continues, much like the ever-flowing tide, as communities brace themselves for the next journey, hoping to avoid further tragedies.