Lafiagi, the headquarters of Edu Local Government Area of Kwara State, was in the news at the weekend following the boat mishap that left no fewer than nine persons dead and several others missing.
When our reporter visited the community yesterday, the atmosphere was pervaded by gloom as the unfortunate incident has left several families mourning their loved ones.
Some residents were noticed consoling, parents, spouses and other relatives of those who lost their lives to the mishap.
One of the victims is Fatimoh Idris, a graduate of Accounting from the University of Katsina and her two- year old daughter (only child), Habibat. When this medium visited the Idris’ resident, behind garage, Lafiagi, Fatimoh’s grief stricken husband, Saliu Idris, sat dejectedly on a mat at the frontage of the house.
The bereaved husband divulged that he bade his wife and daughter farewell around 10am on Saturday not knowing it was his final goodbye and the last time he would set eyes on them alive.
Speaking in an emotional laden voice, Idris said, “It’s unfortunate that I lost my wife and daughter to the incident. The corpse of my wife was seen and evacuated for burial. She was buried around 2pm that day but the whereabouts of my daughter is still not known. She was a good wife to me, how do I move on from here?
“It was the first time she would travel on water. I initially declined when she told me of the trip but whatever will happen is kept as mystery to mankind. I followed her to the jetty and bid her farewell. I never knew I won’t see her other alive again.”
Speaking further, he added that his late wife just finished her degree programme at Katsina State University and currently undergoing National Teachers Institute (NTI) programme at Government Secondary School (GSS), Lafiagi.
“She was to round up the programme this year, she had written her final exams and had even paid for her project. Her mother is still alive,” he said.
On her unfulfilled dreams, Idris broke into tears saying, “She had plans, she had programmes, she was a resourceful material that has given my life meaning,” he added.
For a Lafiagi-based businessman, Muhammed Nuru, it was mixed fortunes for him having lost his wife and brother while his elder brother, Abdulrasak and sister survived the ill-fated about mishap.
Speaking with our reporter, Nuru said he has been unable to break the news of the death of his wife to his young children.
Recounting his last moments with the deceased, he said, “I took her to the jetty myself that day, she was going for Quranic graduation ceremony at the neighbouring community in Minna, Niger State and they almost got to their destination when death snatched her from me.
“I don’t have parents; she was all in all for me. Since my parents died, she had been taking care of me and my younger ones and I cannot do anything without her,” he lamented.
During a visit to the jetty where the boats took off, an old man, Umaru Tsowa who coordinates the affairs of the enterprise led our reporter to where one of the victims, Zainab, an undergraduate of unnamed tertiary institution was buried.
Tsowa however debunked the widespread reports that the boat was overloaded.
He said, the boat has the capacity for 16 passengers but it carried 17, adding that the boat captain also loaded some bags of rice.
“What caused the mishap can’t be overloading. The boat had 17 passengers on board, though it has the capacity for just 16. However loaded some bags of rice in the boat too.”
Similarly, a captain, Umaru Shaaba who also spoke with our reporter at the jetty stated that the boat capsized as a result of high volume water seepage into the boat.
According to Shaaba, immediately the captain noticed the inflow of water, the boat capsized, so they had no time to avert the danger.
Other captains who spoke on condition of anonymity with this medium however said they will no longer use government’s boat for the business again.
“Such incident has never happened with our ferry type of boat, Chiwuru is just 15minutes drive from Lafiagi, and five minutes drive with government’s speed boat. Government only gave us the boat without life gadgets to wear. No boat has it here,” they divulged.
Speaking on how to avert future occurrence, brother-in-law of one of the victims, Alhaji Usman Ndanusa Idris, said government should provide lifeguards.
Speaking further, he said, “We want government to construct bridge that will link Lafiagi and Chiwuru and to also provide enough life gadgets for passengers. Also, personnel should be employed to ensure that boat captains have life gadgets and other necessary materials for safety.
“It was only those who were able to hold unto the boat after it capsized that survived, if they were all wearing life gadgets, they would have all floated rather than drowning,” he stated.
Meanwhile, when contacted on Tuesday, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Emergency and Relief Services, Alhaji Rasaq Akanbi said, the state government has provided families of the victims cash as relief.
He said, “We were there yesterday (Monday) and we gave them some money, which I can’t disclose. The total number of those that died was eight; one from Niger State and seven from Lafiagi, Only six were rescued including eight months old baby.”