Federal Government Expresses Grief Over the Demise of Six Divers

Federal Government Expresses Grief Over the Demise of Six Divers

 

The Federal Government has expressed worry over the continued failure to adhere to safety standards in the diving sector, saying six divers have died in the last two years due to unsafe acts.

The Chief Inspector of Diving in Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Labour, Julius Ugwala, disclosed this while answering questions from newsmen at the sidelines of the Hyperbaric Medical Practitioners Society of Nigeria’s Annual General Meeting, award ceremony and launch of Unified Fitness to Dive Certificate for Nigeria held in Port Harcourt.

Ugwala said the Diving Governing Body looks after diving in the country and all its activities, while Hyperbaric Medicine supports the health and wellbeing of divers. It is just like you are alive today. You cannot stay without your doctor. So we, as divers, we need the Hyperbaric Doctors to survive.”

While describing the challenges faced as severe due to failure to adhere to safety measures, he said people like cutting corners, which may lead to negative consequences.

Uwala said, “I have been an advocate of diving safety for 25 years now. The key issue in Nigeria diving is safety. People like cutting corners, and you know, when you cut corners, there are issues. This has become a real problem in Nigeria today.

“Last year we lost four divers if I’m not mistaken. Today, we have lost two divers again because of unsafe acts. A lot of them are medically challenged because of all these kinds of unsafe acts. So it is a big challenge.”

The Chief Inspector of Diving noted that before now, there was the issue of racism and the rest, “Where you see they prefer the expatriates to indigenous divers. So you have a lot of expatriates with limited Nigerians. But gradually, that is fading off.”

Ugwala called on the International Oil Companies to ensure that safety is their primary concern in every operation they carry out and to also allow equal opportunities for both expatriates and local divers in their operations to create a relaxed atmosphere and prevent violence.

Speaking, the President of the HMPSN, Dr. Kayode Ogunleye, called on the federal government to build special schools for the training of divers to cater to manpower needs and address the issue of the certification.

Dr Ogumleye said the absence of institutions to train divers ‘in-country has resulted in many divers traveling abroad for certification, describing divers as one of the lifebloods of the country, as they are the ones that lay most of the pipelines used in the oil and gas industry, especially underwater.

He explained that the HMPSN is the organisation responsible for diving safety and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, saying, “We, as Hyperbaric physicians and diving physicians, are part of that (diving) community. We help them ensure standards in that regard.”

While noting that the body has training in underwater and hyperbaric medicine, usually from foreign institutions, he said the body was trying to advance the science in the country, saying, “There have been cases of divers dying in the country due to poor safety standards”.

Ogunleye stated, “We are the go-to organisation when it comes to diving safety and HBOT. We are having our programme, which is the award ceremony and the unveiling of a fitness-to-work certificate for the country.

“This is domiciled with the Ministry of Labour following the diving and work regulations, 2018. It is a process to make sure we streamline fitness certification in the country.  We have cases of divers dying in the country due to poor safety standards.

“Divers primarily are one of the lifeblood of the country. Most of the pipelines you see in the country are the ones that lay them, they are welders, they are plumbers, they are electricians. They are the ones that do most of the deep-sea diving. We have been in the petroleum industry for many years. So we have local divers, we have experts. It’s a growing community. We have about 3000 divers in the country.

He listed some of the challenges facing divers as forgeries, indigenous contractors not taking safety standards seriously; and trying to cut corners, among others, saying, it is responsible for mortalities in the sector which explains the reason for the engagement to reverse the trend.

Asked how active Nigerians are in the sector, the HMPSN President said, “They are active, although saturation diving, which is a type of diving, is not common among Nigerians. The experts have dominated the sector.

“That is why we are appealing to the government to build capacity, build training. This is why we are having programmes like this. One of our lectures is about local training for diving.  We need to have institutions in Nigeria that actually train divers and empower the Petroleum Training Institute to have good diving schools of Nigeria origin.

“Most of our divers go abroad for certification. Even doctors go abroad for certification. So we need a place where we could bring this thing home and we can have it in our country.”

In her address, the Director of Factories of the Federation, Mrs. Lauretta Adogu, represented by the acting Head of Factories, Rivers State, Collins Owhonda, said the Diving Governing Board has kick-started its role of ensuring the safety of diving operations within the Nigerian territorial waters through sensitization, monitoring of compliance and enforcement of the provisions of factories regulations 2018.

CREDIT: PUNCH

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