November 29, 2022

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Eleven Nigerians among 14 people who stowed away by ship escaped death, returned by air to Lagos

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Ophelia Panama’ with registration number, IMO9228083

Fourteen people who stowed away from Tin-can Island port in a cargo ship named, ‘Ophelia Panama’, with registration number, IMO9228083, had a raw deal of their lives as only eleven of them have been able to return to Nigeria alive.

The eleven survivors who made it back to Lagos courtesy of the Liberian immigration authority, narrated the hopelessness their voyage for a better life in any country in Europe suddenly turned to the throes of death within five days of sailing.

According to the account of the stowed-away deportees who owed their lives to the magnanimity of Liberian fishermen who rescued them on the high sea, 13 Nigerians and one Cameroonian embarked on the calamitous voyage.

The 14 stowed-away who at 12 midnight, sneaked into the basement of Ophelia Panama, a cargo ship at Tin Can Island, Apapa, are aged between 24 and 40 years and have now been repatriated to Nigeria accompanied by a nine-man team of the Liberia Immigration Officers.

Those involved in the escapade are Hamza John, Alfred Ese, Ogechi Chika, Emmanuel Benjamin, Balogun Gbenga, Temiotan Adewale, Igiebor Stephen, Seyi Popoola, Precious Uwalogho, Ayetimiyi Kelvin, Stephen Junior, and a Cameroonian.

Nigerian stowaways brought to Lagos from Liberia

In their narratives, the stowaways said they accessed the cargo vessel from Niger Dock through a smaller boat at about 12 midnight on Wednesday, 7th September 2022.

They entered with their personal belongings and some food items they thought would be enough for them for the duration of the trip whose destination and itinerary they did not know.

It was narrated that the ship set out for Europe in the morning but the crew of Ophelia Panama had no inkling about the stowaways at the basement of the vessel.

In about four days of the voyage, the stowaways had exhausted their food and starvation began. This forced them to resolve against all odds, to appear to the crew and to plead for mercy and leftover food to prevent them from starving to death.

To the consternation of the already starved unwanted human cargoes, the ship’s crew meted out to them enormous cruelty that made them all lose hope for survival.

They narrated thus, “when the ship was moving after four days our food finished and so we wanted help from the crew. Unfortunately, the crew started spraying us chemicals which were burning our skins while demanding us to jump into the high seas”.

The eleven lucky survivors said they were sprayed by the ship’s crew with substance that exudes burning sensation all over their bodies and in few minutes their skins began to peal.

It was under this condition the crew began arranging the stowaways in threesomes and threw them into the high seas without the slightest compunction.

The survivors added that while each of them engaged in the struggle for survival, the Liberian fishermen observed life ebbing out of them hence, approached and rescued the eleven survivors.
They claimed that two Nigerians among them namely, Frank and Osas, died in the process, while the Cameroonian was nowhere to be found.

The eleven returnees were escorted to the country by a nine-man team of Liberia’s Immigration Officers led by Capt Mark J. Weaye, aboard ASKY Airlines Flight KP062 which touched down at about 4:00pm on Thursday, 6th October 2022.

Receiving the stowaways, the Comptroller of Immigration Service, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA Command, CIS Adeola Adesokan, on behalf of the Nigerian Immigration Service and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, expressed appreciation to the Liberia Immigration Service and by extension the Liberian Government, for the noble and diplomatic gesture shown to the stranded stowaways.

She stressed that the act of the Liberian Immigration showed the true spirit of Pan-Africanism thanking them for being their brothers’ keepers.

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