Sorrow in riverine village over boat mishap, Survivors photo

 • I watched my 2 kids drown -Woman
 We’ve appeased spirits of the dead – Baale
By VINCENT UKPONG KALU
 egbebereugobere@yahoo.com
It’s close to one week after the boat mishap in Ojota, a riverine community, in Oto Awori Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, but its bad memories linger. One of those who still remember that day is 26-year-old Mrs. Deborah Isa, who lost two kids in the tragedy.

 Still in shock, the woman told Saturday Sun that she had prepared her two children, Abigail and Nosifat, that Monday morning, February 13, for school and boarded a canoe with them to Igbede, as she was going to Lagos island that day.

 She revealed that close to their destination, tragedy struck. The canoe hit a storm and capsised. Her two kids and 10 others perished in the accident.
 Deborah said: “The canoe started tossing us up and down. I held onto my children, with my baby on my back. Suddenly, the canoe overturned and we all fell into the river. I did not see my children again. It was a miracle that I survived with my baby. Four of us could have died.”

 Four days after the mishap, Deborah has refused to be consoled. She told Saturday Sun that the memory of her two children drowning in her presence remains fresh. With swollen eyes, as a result of constant wailing, she said her life has been turned upside down.
 As Deborah grieves, six other families, who also lost people in the boat mishap, are also in sorrow.
 Speaking to Saturday Sun on the tragedy, the Baale of the community, Alhaji Hassan Amisu, said that the community will be haunted by the ghosts of victims of the boat mishap. He said that to forestall this the community would carry out a purification to appease the spirits of those who got drowned.

 According to him, since their deaths were untimely it’s traditional to carry out purification for their spirits to rest in peace. He said if this were not done, the deceased’s spirits would hover around tormenting the entire community.
 The baale, who lost his wife in the mishap, said that part of the four-day purification started on the day of the tragedy, with Oro festival and ended on Thursday, February 16. The Oro festival, he said, was used to drive away the spirits of the dead from the community. The festival is performed at the dead of the night with only members participating.

 Checks revealed that the owner of the canoe that capsized, Musibau Aminu, also lost his kids in the accident. It was gathered that this man personally took his children to school at Igbede in his canoe. He also carried other school children. That Monday, 22 pupils boarded his boat, together with three women: the baale’s wife; Madam Bidore Amisu, 37, from Ilemba Awori and a survivor, Deborah Isa, who also strapped her 16 months old baby, Baliki Isa, on her back.

 It was mid way through the journey that something went wrong. According to one of the survivors, Mubiyu Aliyu, a primary six pupil of St Mary’s Primary School, they were almost getting to the end of the journey when heavy storm came and tossed the boat here and there. He revealed that the children panicked and cried out. Within a twinkle of an eye, a heavy wind swept the canoe away.

 It was gathered that the casualty figure could have been higher if not the untiring efforts of Musibau, the canoe paddler, who went into action rescuing survivors, after the boat capsized. Some of the pupils swam out of the river, but those who could not swim drowned. Deborah and her baby were among the lucky survivors. Others are, Zainad Musbau and Fati, her sister, all children of the paddler. Also, Fawas Ayuba, Rukka Mutiu, Jamiu Hassan, Ganiyu Hassan, Sherif Muyibi and Hassan Hafiz survived.

 The dead are, Ayisat Hassan, Afisat Hassan, Oniru Muyibi (7), Tope James (17); Tawa Hassan (9), Mistura Hassan (12), Aminat Kazeem (12), Ahmed, Abigail Isa Nofisat Aminu, Michael Eniola. They were pupils of St Mary’s Primary School, St Michael School and Melody Primary & Nursery School, all in Igbede.

 A day after the incident, St Michael School was shut, in memory of the pupils, while the management of St Mary’s Primary School trooped to Ojota, going from house to house, to console the bereaved families.
 The death of the children has made the state government to remember the community. According to the Baale, the state governor, Babatunde Fashola, has decided to create a road from the village to link another mainland village. He promised to deploy tricycle to ply the road.         
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