No fewer than 20 bodies have been recovered from a boat accident in Taraba State.
The accident happened on Saturday in Binneri of Karim Lamido local government area.
There were over 100 passengers including children in the boat which was overloaded with bags of cement, iron rods, food items and animals.
The state government, which confirmed the mishap, said it had recovered 20 bodies from the scene of the accident.
The state’s commissioner for special duties and social development, Saviour Noku, visited Binneri along with the deputy governor of the state, Aminu Alkali.
Some residents said more bodies had been recovered but the community leaders resolved to bury them secretly because they feared the state government would accuse them of overloading the boat.
One of the residents said the boat was overloaded with bags of cement, iron rods, food items, animals, and over 100 passengers, including children.
The operator of the boat who also declined to state his name, simply said the boat encountered a barricade two hours after departure and he tried all he could to maneuver the vessel around it but did not succeed. He said as a result the boat became waterlogged and subsequently capsized.
He told Premium Times that about 60 passengers drowned while others held on to other passengers who could swim and got to the bank of the river safely.
A middle-aged businessman, Suleiman Audu, who lost his sister and her baby in the accident, said he was at the river bank when the boat took off from Mayoreniyo and was called five hours later that his sister and baby had not arrived at their destination.
“When I was told my sister had not arrived at her destination, I knew there was trouble so I hurriedly called my friends and we went in search of the boat. We were later informed they did not make it alive,” he said.
After returning from the condolence visit to the community, the deputy governor said the government had banned night journeys on waterways in the state.
He said the government will no longer tolerate overloading of boats or canoes, or movement without passenger manifests and life jackets.
Alkali said the government will investigate the incident to unravel the cause of the mishap and punish culprits accordingly.
“Our visit was 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.