By Onozure Dania & Uju Mbanusi
This is not the best of times for the families of Mr Odega and Abiodun, who have been visiting various shipping companies and the mortuary in search of their sons. This is as a result of the mysterious disapearance of their sons in the high sea aboard a tanker vessel sailing from Port-Harcourt to Lagos.
Narrating his ordeal to Crime Guard, Mr Israeli Odega, said his son Godwin Odega, 32 , was employed on June 18, 2012 as Marine worker (AB) at Multi Trade shipping Company Limited situated at No 2, Ogalade Close, off Ologun Agbaje Street , Victoria Island, Lagos.
Based on accounts he got from some of the survivors of the ill- fated vessel and the Captain, Mr. Odega gave a blow- by- blow account of what transpired that evening.
According to him, on September 15, 2013, MT Victory 1, a tanker vessel belonging to Multi Trade Nigeria owned by one Mrs Angela Egwagwu dropped anchor at midnight from Bonny Island, Port Harcourt, off shore to Lagos at breakwaters. The MT Victory ship had a crew of 16 which sailed to Port Harcourt but some of the crew members including the Captain, Rotimi Smart-Ali, reportedly disembarked between 18 and 19 of September 2013. Those that disembarked from the journey were given two days holiday to stay with their families. On September 21, his son Godwin Odega boarded back to the vessel after the two days holiday because he got a phone call from his boss to return back to the vessel immediately.
How it happened
“While on board, my son specifically told his other crew members that he didn’t know why he boarded back since they were not going to sail at about 1800hrs. The third officer who was on board the vessel made a call to the captain that the vessel was drifting and the Captain also got a phone call from the captin of another vessel, MT Obuno, that the vessel was drifting towards his vessel.The Captain of MT Victory then pleaded with that of MT Obuno to start his engine, heave up and clear, which he did.
“By 11pm that evening, another call came again from the third officer to the Captain of MT Victory saying that ‘ drifting has started again’. The Captain in turn sent an SMS to the Chairman/ Managing Director of Muti Trade group, Collins Chijoke Egwagwu, his wife, who is also the director,Angela Egwagwu, the Accountant, General Manager Robert, the Operations Manager, Frank; all this messages were sent to them simultaneously without getting any reply even when it indicated that the messages were delivered to them. The message that was sent read: “MT Victory 1 is drifting and there is no means to heave anchor and reposition due to lack of bunker (diesel), our prayer is 4 us not 2 have any rough weather.”
“The weather became very unfriendly and overtook the crew aboard the ship at about 1am of September 22, they were totally helpless. Sensing that they were about to be ship wrecked, the third officer made an emergency call to his Captain and other crew members that the anchor had parted ways. Immediately, the Captain made a call to the owner of the vessel that her ship had parted ways from anchorage and her reply was “what can be done to salvage the situation?”
At about 2am, the Captain made a call to a boatman known as Sunny at Takwa- Bay to help locate the MT Victory 1 and see if he could rescue his crew. Sunny got back to the Captain at about 3am that he was ready to go for the rescue and asked for destination which Captain told him was Kuramo. At about 3: 30am, Sunny called the Captain for confirmation of location, as the said MT Victory 1, was not in sight.
The Captain tried getting back to the crew but to no avail as their lines were either engaged or ringing without response’. It’s of note that my son, Gowin Odega was online all through their travail with the director till about 11pm, hoping and wishing that help would come through her, but she never attempted any nor did she reach out to any of the inland water ways regulations.”
He continued his story “At Ikota area, we heard two men discussing on the phone about the ordeal of the crew members, one of them claimed he called the owner of the ship at 7:30am that they wanted to come to her residence but she directed them to come to Kuramo area. On getting there, they met four of her staff who went about their business without any sign of remorse about the incident that happened.
After some time, she stopped picking our calls. In fact, all the top managers in the company did not show any interest in the mishap. A man later showed up at the office and introduced himself as the Captain of the ill-fated ship and addressed us.
“On September 24, about eight of us went to visit one of the survivours, Ariyo Olaolu, who is the third engineer at the site of the ship wreck at Eko Atlantic Mega City project adjacent to Bar Beach Towers. He gave a vivid account of what happened, adding that the NPA were a little close to where they were drifting but declined to assist, because according to them, ‘they have not gotten clearance from Abuja to salvage the ship from the off shore.’
“As I speak, the Management of Muti Trade group has not deemed it fit to call or send us an SMS to tell us what happened to our sons despite the numerous calls we made to them which they ignored,”he lamented.
The 75-year-old father of the other missing staff identified as Olatunde Abiodun, Mr Vincent Abiodun, also confirmed the incident on phone to Crime Guard and expressed disappointment over the manner the case is being handled by the Management of the company. “I believe my son is still life, I suspect that something fishy must be going on. Why is the management of the company finding it difficult to call us and explain what happened to our sons… . It is rather unfortunate that this kind of treatment is meted out to families of men who put down their lives for his company,” he cried.
Abiodun, said that from what he gathered about the MT Victory 1, is that the MT Victory 1 was originally named Baltic Swan built in Sweden in 1986 and its classified as an oil tanker without insurance and no certificate of compliance, adding that it last had special survey in 2002 and the last dry docking date was 2003.The same vessel had DPK and AGO as its last three cargoes.
When Crime Guard contacted the Chief Executive Officer of Muti Trade group, Collins Chijioke Egwagwu over the allegations leveled against him and his wife, he said that the allegation were all false stating that they tried their best to help the victims, that some of the survivours were taken to the hospital and were treated.
He also said that NIMASA is aware of the incident, because they reported it to NIMASA and the Bar Beach police. station.adding that it was just an accident that was destined to happen and that the ship was on anchor.
On allegations that the ship was not sea worthy, he said the ship was sea worthy, that the accident just happened and they tried all what they could do stating however, that they can not confirm the missing persons to be dead yet as they have not seen their bodies float on the sea because when there is any such thing, on the third day, the body will float but there is nothing like that. Egwagwu, said, “ All the things they are telling you are all lies, they are liers, at times, people just hide some where and then come out to pull trouble with the company. There were girls on board, I don’t know what they were doing with the girls on board, what do they expect I and my wife to do, to jump into the sea,?” .
When Crime Guard also contacted the wife, Mrs Angela Egwagwu on phone over the allegations, she immediately cut the call.