We almost suffocated inside cabin, stowaways recount ordeal

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Blame action on unemployment

BY EVELYN USMAN

LAGOS — TWELVE stowaways — 11 Nigerians and a Ghanaian  — rescued by  personnel of the Nigerian Navy ship, NNS Beecroft, Apapa, Lagos, from a Spain-bound vessel, MV African Osprey, weekend, narrated how they almost suffocated inside the cabin they hid.

The stowaways, discovered to be casual workers on the ship, told Vanguard that had the crew members delayed in opening the cabin where they hid, they would have died without reaching their dream destination.

stowwayyy The suspects identified as  Boniface Douglas, a Ghanaian and 11 Nigerians: Mustapha Ayinla, Bernard Amadi, Azinabor Gideon, Isaac Delight, Daniel Timothy, Justice Agburum, Anthony Oladipupo, Emma Okon, Idowu Adeyemi, Philip Israel and Holly Osatwie, blamed their action on unemployment  in the country.
Douglas, the Ghanaian, said the latest arrest was his sixth futile attempt to leave the country illegally.

I made 6 earlier attempts
Hear him: ” I work as a labourer in the ship. We all planned it without the knowledge of the crew members.  We sneaked into the ship on a Sunday because we were aware that the ship would be sailing next day to Spain.
“We decided to hide in one of the unused cabins. We entered from Apapa. I went with chin-chin, three bags of pure water and garri, cassava flakes which I sneaked into the ship without the knowledge of the cabin crew.

“I have similar attempt six times. The first was to Brazil but I was deported on reaching there. The second was Senegal, in 2002, others are Santos, Conakry, Abidjan and Togo. I was deported because I was without the necessary documents.

Daniel Timothy, 23, on his part said : “We almost suffocated. If the crew members had delayed in opening the cabin we hid in, we would have been dead by now.
“While inside, we were praying to get to the country safe and also planned how to sneak out of the ship at night. But three days into the journey, we started perceiving a foul odour. We endured for some time.

“At a point, we could not breathe any longer. I suggested we started banging the door to attract the crew members in order to go back to our country alive rather than dying without reaching our destination.

“Others suggested we should hold on. When I couldn’t bear it, I started banging on the cabin door because we could not open it from inside. Others joined me and in the process, the crew members came and opened the cabin.
That was my third attempt and I promise never to leave the country through such means again.”

I excreted inside polythene bags
For 24-year-old Agburum, who claimed that was his first attempt , he said: “I was tempted to embark on the journey because some of  my friends succeeded through same means.

“On the night we sneaked in, I had a running stomach. I took several polythene bags because I was told that we would not come out once we have entered. I excreted all though the night inside polythene bags, as the nauseating feeling aggravated my condition. I almost died. I only managed to eat eight wraps of sausage rolls out of the 15 I went with. I do not intend to attempt it again because it was not a pleasant experience.”

Handing them over to personnel of the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ilesanmi Alade, said the arrest and subsequent rescue were  done in conjunction with personnel of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.

He however, appealed to ship owners and all seafarers to ensure thorough security checks were conducted onboard prior to departure from harbours.”

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