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EDITORIAL: Junior Pope and the rot in Nigeria’s maritime transportation sector

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The death of famous Nigerian actor, John Onwondo, popularly known as Junior Pope, and three of his colleagues in a boat mishap has again brought to the front-burner the rot in the marine transportation sector in Nigeria.

The sector is perhaps the worst regulated in the transport industry.

Dilapidated boats, untrained/ uncertified crew, lack of safety kits and several other defects have contributed greatly to various tragedies in the sector.

On regular basis, lives are lost to these avoidable and irritating situation.

While recent data on maritime mishaps could not be assessed, Diaspora Digital Media (DDM) gleaned from a foremost research hub, ResearchGate, that 2,346 lives were lost to 266 causalities of boat accidents between 2010 to October 2021.

Such statistics are unbecoming!

Perhaps, if not for the fact that the late John Onwondo was a popular figure, this incident would not have elicited much attention.

Junior Pope and family

The late actor with his family

It is rather baffling that a sector that holds so much potential has been allowed to wither in the hands of incompetent amateurs who keep flouting safety standards in their pursuit of daily bread.

This needless loss of Mr Onwondo and his colleagues was also as a result of the puking recklessness and carelessness of the movie producer, one Adanma Luke.

Miss Luke risked the lives of her cast and crew in a rickety boat with no life jacket, no standby rescuers, no standby ambulance and no standby medical crew.

In the name of filmmaking, the producer flouted all known safety standards and was on the verge of getting away with it until tragedy struck.

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Life jackets are designed to keep someone afloat in water, providing buoyancy even if one is injured, unconscious, or unable to swim.

So, in the event of a boat capsizing, colliding, or other emergencies, life jackets can save lives.

Rather than do the needful, Luke focused on hyping the impending movie on Instagram.

Diaspora Digital Media views the blacklisting of the embattled producer by the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) as a panic reaction.

It is on record that the executive members of the Guild are equally guilty of the same violations.

DDM is not holding brief for the careless producer but we challenge the members of the AGN Executive to produce concrete evidence that it always complied with safety guidelines while shooting in riverine areas.

In many countries, donning a life jacket while on a boat is a legal requirement.

Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines or other penalties.

Until Nigeria and Nigerians align with global beat practices, gory incidents such as these would not stop.

Rather than indulge in panic reactions, the AGN needs to foster safety standards to ensure this sad incident does not repeat itself.

By enforcing regulations, authorities can help reduce the likelihood of accidents and promote responsible boating practices.

May the families of the departed find comfort and closure.


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