April 20, 2024

Japa: Nigerian youths opt for stowing on ships


•lodge in coastal communities to monitor foreign ships
•Navy arrests 75 stowaways in 8 months, expresses concern

By Evelyn Usman

The desperation by Nigerians to escape poverty and hardship that have defined their present state, and to seek greener pastures in the Western world has raised concern, following the increased number of youths who are stowing away on ships.

These youths between ages 20 and 45, who come from different parts of the country, sometimes sneak into the Lagos ports and make their way to ships preparing to set sail. They would climb up the anchor chain and hide behind a stack of crates, holding their breath as the crew cast off.

Saturday Vanguard reliably gathered that at other times, these youths would spend two to three days in coastal communities where they would monitor foreign ships leaving from the Apapa or Tin-Can Ports.

Immediately, they saw one, they would charter wooden canoes from the coastal communities, pretending to be fishermen, only to paddle behind the vessels.

These vessels are trailed to the Lagos Channel or Fairway Boy, from where these youths would sneak in, under the cover of darkness and hide themselves inside the rudder compartment of the vessels, as the ships set sail. While some of them successfully reached their destinations in Europe, luck ran against others who were arrested by eagle-eyed naval personnel .

75 stowaways arrested

Statistics released by the Nigerian Navy showed that 75 stowaways were arrested in eight months.

A breakdown of the arrest as revealed by the Director of Information, Commodore Aiwiyor Adams-Aliu , showed that five persons were arrested on the Lagos Channel in August 2023, onboard a vessel – MSC Martha; eight stowaways onboard vessel Charminar Panama, were in September 2023, at the Lagos Fairway Bouy; 11 in a vessel with the name GWANGZHOU HIGHWAY PANAMA, on the Lagos channel, in October and eight others inside a ship named NATAL on the Lagos Fairway Bouy, in November , all in 2023.

The month of December 2023 recorded the highest arrest of stowaways, with 20 persons , on three different ships: MT UOG CONSTANTINE, with 14 stowaways; a container vessel TEME with four stowaways , both on the Lagos Channel and two stowaways in a vessel named GRANDE GUINEA , on the Lagos Fairway Bouy. The statistics also revealed that in January 2024, three stowaways were arrested in the vessel- FRONT ALTIERS, on the Lagos Fairway Bouy and four on MT CHIP on the Lagos channel in the month of February.

Two arrests were made in two different ships in the month of March, with three stowaways on MT ADVANTAGE LOVE and nine on MT LYSIAS VALLETTA , while the month of April recorded arrest of four stowaways on MT PRINCESS ERIN , on the Lagos Channel.

Navy raises concern

Expressing the Nigerian Navy’s concern over the surge in cases of stowaways on Nigerian waters, its Director of Information, Commodore Aiwuyor Adams-Aliu, described the action as illegal.

According to him : “ For clarity, the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention) defines a stowaway as someone who is secreted on a ship, or in cargo without the consent of the shipowners or the master or any other responsible person. Migration as a stowaway is illegal, dangerous and is considered a security threat to shipowners”.

He said that the arrest of the 75 stowaways was in line with the strategic directive of the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla.

Commodore Adams-Aliu, said, “ the NN deployed advanced Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) equipment to vector Quick Response Teams (QRT) to all parts of Nigeria’s territorial waters. Consequently, the NN apprehended about 75 stowaways from August 2023 to April 2024.

“During the operations, the QRT carefully extracted the stowaways who had concealed themselves inside the rudder compartment of the vessels. All apprehended stowaways were handed over to the Nigeria Immigration Service,NIS in accordance with the established protocols for further necessary action.

“The NN wishes to enlighten the general public on the dangers of attempting to travel as a stowaway. These include severe legal consequences and significant health risks such as negative effects of harsh weather conditions, lack of food and water, injuries and even death. Hence, the NN uses this opportunity to discourage Nigerian youths from embarking on such misadventures.