The Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, has commiserated with the people of Andoni Local Government Area and the families of the about 20 people who died during Tuesday’s boat accident in the Andoni-Bonny waterway.
Fubara, while expressing deepest grief over the unfortunate boat accident, described the incident as unfortunate.
The governor in a statement issued by his media aide, Boniface Onyedi, in Port Harcourt on Wednesday condoled and sympathised with the affected families of the dead and indeed all the victims of the boat accident.
The incident involving a cargo wooden boat occurred after a violent wave struck the ferry and destroyed its parts leading to the crash which also claimed about four children.
Fubara assured the people that his administration would continue to work to ensure that travelling on the sea routes becomes safer for travellers and the riverine community dwellers.
The statement reads, “I commiserate and condole with families of the victims of the boat accident that led to the loss of lives, and near death experienced by our brothers and sisters who were involved in the boat accident.
“It is indeed a very unfortunate and sad incident and we pray that God shall give all of them the strength to bear the loss and speedy recovery to those who survived.
“As a government, we will continue to work to ensure that such threats against safe travelling on our sea routes are tackled.”
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Police Command has faulted widespread reports that about 20 people died in the ill-fated accident and put the casualty figure at 11.
The spokesperson for the command, Grace Iringe-Koko, in a statement issued on Wednesday said the wooden boat was powered by a single 25HP Yamaha engine carrying passengers from Ukwa Community in Ngo town in Andoni LGA, en route Bonny Island at about 8pm when the incident occurred and the boat sank.
The two-paragraph statement read, “On 09/01/2024 at about 0915hrs , information received that a local wooden boat powered by a single 25HP Yamaha engine carrying passengers from Ukwa Community in Ngo town in Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, en route Bonny Island, sank while approaching Amariaria community in Finima town on 08/01/2024 at 2000hrs.
“On the strength of the information, the Officer in-Change of Marine, SP Ogarachi Chima, moved to the scene of incident of the boat accident and discovered 11 passengers feared drowned. Investigation is in progress.”
One of the victims and owner of the wooden boat, Pastor Promise Festus from Ngo Town in Andoni has cried out for help to Fubara and the LGA chairman, Chief Erastus Awortu, following the unfortunate demise of his five children.
Festus’ sons and daughters were part of the victims of the wooden boat that capsized.
The unfortunate incident which happened on Tuesday evening threw the pastor into deep agony, as his five children were among the 11 persons who died in the boat accident.
In a viral video seen by our reporter, Festus said, “I went to celebrate Christmas with my people. So, on the way coming back, January 8, I loaded people who had no money to pay transport with my family. Incidentally, our boat capsized in front of the LNG, where there is no rescue.
“So, about 11 people died and out of that 11 people, five are my sons and daughters, five are my children.
“We lost everything and there is no way for me even to survive. Everything in my life; phone, money that I will carry survive myself.
“Everything, my boat, and other things. No business, no way and the way to start I don’t know.
“In my presence, my children died. In my presence, people wey survive with me dey cry, cry, cry, no way.
“I want the state government and Andoni Local Government to assist me. To forgive any sin that I committed and assist me,” he stated while sobbing uncontrollably.
Our reporter gathered that most of the victims were said to be from Ngo town, Ataba, and Isiama communities in Andoni Local Government Area.
Speaking on the incident, the Chairman of a group, Obolo Youths Coalition, Bonny LGA chapter, Gogo Obolo, in a telephone chat, said the passengers were returning from Ngo town in Andoni LGA to Bonny Island when the unfortunate accident occurred.
While expressing worry that none of the affected victims had been recovered, he urged the Chairman of Andoni LGA, Chief Erastus Awortu, and his counterpart in Bonny LGA to expedite action to recover the bodies of the victims and extend a hand of support to their families.
Obolo stated, “The Andoni people residing in Bonny received the shocking news of our brothers and sisters involved in a boat accident while returning from the Christmas celebrations.
“While we pray that the rescue effort will yield more success to reduce the pain of the accident, we implore the Andoni local government chairman, Chief Erastus Awortu and his counterpart in Bonny, Dame Anengi Barasua, to visit the families of the victims in this trying period.”
The Chairman of Andoni LGA, Awortu, who also confirmed the boat accident, said he immediately dispatched a rescue team upon receiving a distress call which led to the rescue of some persons.
Awortu, in a statement he personally signed and obtained by our correspondent on Wednesday morning commiserated with the families of those who lost their lives in the unfortunate accident and promised to take over the medical bills of those rescued.
He however warned people and residents of Andoni to stop embarking on night journeys on sea and asked boat operators to always comply strictly with safety rules.