The boat was overloaded with bags of cement, iron rods, food items, animals, and over 100 passengers including children
The Taraba state government on Saturday said it has recovered 20 bodies from the recent boat mishap that happened in Karim Lamido Local Government.
The state’s commissioner for Special Duties and Social Development, Saviour Noku, said this during a visit to Binneri, the community where the mishap happened. He visited the community alongside the deputy governor of the state, Aminu Alkali.
Meanwhile, a resident of the community, who declined to give his name for safety reasons, said more bodies have been recovered but the community leaders resolved to bury them secretly because they fear the state government would accuse them of overloading the boat.
He said the boat was overloaded with bags of cement, iron rods, food items, animals, and over 100 passengers, including children.
The rider of the boat who also declined to state his name, told PREMIUM TIMES how the accident occurred.
He said the boat encountered a barricade two hours after departure and he tried all he could do to maneuver the vessel around it but did not succeed. He said as a result the boat became waterlogged and subsequently capsized.
He revealed that about 60 passengers drowned while others held on to other passengers who could swim and got to the bank of the river safely.
Suleiman Audu, a middle-aged businessman 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 a life. ,” he said.
After returning from the condolence visit to the community, the deputy governor said the government has 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.
Mr 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.
“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.”