Authorities have confirmed that over 100 people have drowned and many more are missing after a boat capsized on the River Niger in south-western Nigeria. The incident occurred on Monday when the vessel, carrying approximately 300 passengers who had attended a wedding in Kwara state, collapsed and filled with water.
Search and rescue operations are currently underway. Conflicting reports have emerged regarding the exact number of casualties. The police in Kwara state reported 106 deaths and the rescue of around 144 individuals, with more than half of the deceased hailing from the village of Ebu and another 38 from nearby Dzakan village. The Emir of Patigi, Ibrahim Umar Bologi II, expressed concern that over 150 people may have drowned.
Survivors shared heartbreaking accounts, with one individual recounting how many women lost their lives while trying to save their children. The cause of the incident is still under investigation, with local police suggesting a collapse of part of the vessel as the reason for the flooding and subsequent capsizing. However, the Emir of Patigi mentioned that powerful river waves forced the boat to collide with a tree that had washed into the river.
Kwara state Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq conveyed his heartfelt condolences and assured ongoing rescue efforts. He visited the affected villages and pledged to provide one thousand life jackets to initiate a safety education program. Discussions have also been initiated with the National Inland Waterways Authority to enhance safety regulations. Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu expressed deep sorrow over the tragedy, emphasizing the added pain of the victims being wedding guests.
River accidents are unfortunately common in this region, as people often prefer the river for transportation due to poorly maintained and unsafe roads, often plagued by kidnapping gangs. Boat operators frequently overload their fragile vessels in search of higher profits.