…Gov Otu Orders Immediate Investigation
By Magnus Effiong
The Nigeria Medical Students Association (NiMSA) has narrated how three of its members died during the ill-fated cruise boat mishap last Saturday at the Marina Resort few minutes after it took off from the shore.
Recall that fourteen medical students had boarded cruise boat at the Marina beach in Calabar for a ride in what was tagged ‘The Paradise Experience as part of activities to mark the Annual Health Week program of the Nigeria Medical Students Association (NiMSA) hosted by Cross River chapter
Regrettably, the experience turned out to be sour as the boat capsized after takeoff and emptied itself into the Calabar River.
The bodies of the three missing Nigeria Medical Students, whose name were given as Mustapha Tukur of the Ahmadu Bello University, Hmaza Kabir of same university and Ogwu, Aisha Celestina, a female, of the University of Uyo, were recovered on Monday morning.
Speaking, the National President of NiMSA, Ejim Egba laid the blame of the incident at the doorsteps of the management of Marina Resort, accusing them of negligence and poor management of the resort.
“This ugly, avoidable and extremely traumatizing incident causing so much anguish to the medical students community nationwide was as a result of negligence, incompetence and the lackadaisical attitude of the crew members and the management of Marina resort.
“Factors that contributed to this occurrence include leaky boat, poor condition and integrity of the vests, poorly maintained engines resulting in the engine going off during the trip, fuel finishing before they got back to shore, little or no supervision by management, poor regulation and monitoring.
“The first set of student tourists had a safe landing though some concerns were raised of which they were assured of safety and competent expertise. The second set of 13 student tourists, one driver and one other person boarded and they took off.
“The driver of the first set handed over to another driver while he said he was going to get fuel. Not long after takeoff, the engine went off, water started entering the boat in an uncontrollably rapid speed and amount. At this point, the boat started sinking and finally capsized,” he explained.
Also speaking during the recovery of the bodies of the victims, the Cross River State Police Commissioner, Gyogon Augustine Grimah said it took the effort of the locals and the Marine Police to recover the bodies after floating at the early hours of Monday.
He said the bodies of two males and one female were recovered after three days of rescued effort from both the locals and the Marine Police stationed at the resort waterways.
“We are all aware of the sad incident that was recorded on Saturday at the Marina Resort here in Calabar where a boat capsized. Three Students were missing and we have not rested since that day, it had been rescued effort day and night and this morning we are here to let you know that the three bodies have been recovered.
“These are the locals, they did a very marvelous job and they have just delivered the three bodies to us. When the bodies were sited, our marine police rose to the scene, with efforts from both sides, the bodies have been recovered.
On keeping the waterways safe to avoid such incident from happening again, Grimah said, ” I will have to excuse myself from that now because it will depend hundred percent on the policies of the new government and his Excellency Senator Bassey Otu is not sleeping on that.
“He is already taking some actions, you can see, the Marina Resort was shut down and that is to tell you how serious he is taking this incident. All the measures to safeguard lives and property in this area of the economy are being addressed.”
Meanwhile, Governor Bassey Otu has ordered immediate investigations into the incident to unravel its immediate and remote causes.
A press statement, signed by Governor Otu’s Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Ogbeche, the Governor commended the Nigerian Navy and the villagers for promptly rescuing the other students who, reports say, were receiving medical attention in undisclosed hospitals in Calabar.
“The news of a cruise boat mishap at the Marina Resort, a tourist and relaxation destination in Calabar, is saddening and calls for concern not only as your governor but as a parent.
“To imagine that the boat was overcrowded and some of those on it were without life jackets is of even greater concern, and the more reason why the state government will be investigating the incident and all those found culpable of having compromised on safety standards will face the wrath of the law.
“As a government, our administration remains committed to protecting the sanctity of life and providing an enabling environment for business, tourism and peaceable living. Therefore, any untoward action that could derail our objective will not be tolerated,” the statement quoted Governor Otu to have said.
While some residents linked the incident to negligence of the spiritual powers which purportedly controls the Calabar River, others dismissed such insinuations as superstition which has nothing to do with the unfortunate incident.
Speaking, a resident, Mr Andre Ekeng Inyang, feared that the incident could be a show of the anger of the River goddess, ‘Anansa,’ which he believed, could have been unhappy with certain developments in the ancient city.
“The incident surrounding the boat which capsized at the Marina isn’t a natural occurrence but a spiritual activity. What people do not know is that Calabar River is a sacred habitat that has been exploited with reckless abandon for quite some time now without recourse to the aborigines and their tradition,” he stated.