Aliyu Shehu Kafindagi, regional head of the country's emergency agency NEMA, told Anadolu Agency that the "overloaded boat" capsized in Showuru Lafiagi area of central Kwara state late Saturday while traveling across the River Niger.
“16 adults and one child were in the boat when it capsized," Kafindagi said.
“Five bodies have been recovered so far," the official confirmed and added that a rescue and evacuation operation "continues for the remaining three".
Early Sunday, the country's official news agency NAN quoted the police as confirming the boat mishap but silent on the casualties.
The agency also reported that the figure of drowned people were between 12 and 19 -- most of whom were children--, citing Secretary of the Lafiagi Traditional Council Sulyman Aliyu as saying.
Boat mishap is common in many riverine areas of Nigeria because of what officials called scanty regard for safety measures and overcrowding.