The vessel carrying 50 passengers overturned in strong currents in a river in the Gandi district of Sokoto state around 10:00 am (0900 GMT) on Thursday, Suleiman Karim of the National Emergency Management Agency told AFP.
“Rescue teams recovered the bodies of 17 women and four children on board the overloaded boat which capsized due to strong waves,” he said.
He said the other 29 passengers were lucky to make it to the shore.
The passengers were heading to Garin Kare village on the other side of the river to check on their homes, which they deserted following deadly raids last month by suspected cattle thieves on neighbouring villages.
Thousands of the villagers fled to a makeshift camp in Gandi town after the bandits’ attack, in which 32 people were killed and dozens of homes burnt.
Boat capsizes are common in Nigeria due to overcrowding and the lack of maintenance for vessels, particularly during the annual rainy season.
Last month, 22 traders were killed after their boat capsized in high winds in the Isa district of Sokoto state following a heavy downpour.