By Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
An Ikeja High Court was yesterday informed that the operator of the capsized boat that killed 12 passengers, Happiness Elebiju, operated from an illegal jetty.
Head of Operations, Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Mr Ibrahim Famuyiwa, the first witness called by the Lagos State in the trial of the boat operator, who is facing 11 counts charge of involuntary manslaughter, gave the revelation, before Justice Josephine Oyefeso, who presided over the court.
It would be recalled that the victims of the boat incident were said to have drowned after the wave of a ship sailing along the Kirikiri Waterfront hit the boat, which engine had been switched-off during an argument between Elebiju and his passengers over the fare.
It was reported that 20 passengers were on board the boat from Kirikiri to Badagry before the driver and passengers disagreed about the fare.
N1,500, and the passengers insisted on paying N1,200, but he allegedly switched off the engine of the boat by the waterfront because of the N300. 00 difference. While a ship sailed along, the wave made the boat to drift towards a stationary barge, where it capsized and 12 passengers drowned.
Led in evidence by the State Counsel, the Director of Public Prosecution(DPP), Mrs. Olayinka Adeyemi, the official of LASWA saddled with regulation and promotion of the use of Lagos Inland Waterways informed the court that the jetty where the boat operates lack state presence, been an illegal jetty.
Famuyiwa further told the court that approved jetty have safety measures across the state where passengers will be ensure that they wear safety jacket before boarding to sail and coordinating the passenger capacity of every boat to avert accident.
The LASWA’s Head of Operations, pointed out that the operator and captain of the capsized boat runs foul of the law for operating against the state practice direction.
Famuyiwa during cross examination by the defence counsel, Ganiyu Oyarevuegbe, stated that since the boat was not registered, its agency would not be able to ascertain the operator’s competence to run the boat.
He added that the survivors were rescued by the first responders.
Another witness, LASWA’s Water Guard Supervisor, Mr. Adisa Ahmed told the court that for every approved jetty in the state, there were presence of water guard personnel to ensure safety.
Ahmed narrated how he received a distress call while on patrol on sea and when they got to the scene, the first responders, comprises of Marine Police and fishermen have commence rescue operation.
He stated that the LASWA thereafter interviewed the first responders on the cause of the accident to avert re-occurrence.
Prior to today’s proceedings, when the matter was called, the Prosecutor Adeyemi informed the court of an amended charges against the defendant, she prayed the court for his plea to be taken.
Justice Oyefeso therefore granted the prayer, the defendant, Elebiju was re-arraigned on 11 counts charge bordering on involuntary manslaughter.
The offences according to the prosecutor contravened Section 224 and punishable under Section 229 of the Criminal Law Ch C17, Vol. 3, Laws of Lagos State 2015.