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News Features: Need to Check Incidences of Stowaways En-route Nigerian Waters

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Last week, eleven Nigerian stowaways fleeing the country hidden in concealed area of a ship GWANGZHOU Highway Panama vessel were stopped by operatives of Nigerian patrol ship, NNS BEECROFT.

A stowaway is someone who hides on a ship, airplane, etc., in order to travel without paying or being seen.

Nigerian youths constitute one of the largest populations among migrants travelling from countries of the Global South to Europe. While there had been few reported cases where young people hide in a plane to illegally migrate, majority of incidents are through sea route.

In almost all the cases, when arrested, these Stowaways give economic hardship, lack of education and seeking greener pastures as among reasons for their wanting to leave their homes for a strange land.

According to the Commander, NNS BEECROFT, Commodore Kolawole Oguntuga, the stowaways were discovered in concealed areas of the stern gate of the ship while on its way to Ghana before it was intercepted.

Oguntuga said that four stowaways were initially apprehended from the stern of the vessel but upon interrogation, they revealed the presence of additional seven stowaways inside the ship.

“Following a comprehensive search, these stowaways were uncovered within the ship, bringing the total to 11 stowaways who were promptly disembarked from the vessel and taken into custody,” a statement from the NNS BEECROFT.

The statement also noted that those apprehended included Shedrack David, 19yrs from Ondo State, Emmanuel Godbless, 30yrs from Delta State, Ibrahim Hassan, 30yrs from Adamawa State, Solomon Francis, 21yrs from Ondo State, Bolaji Johnson, 28yrs from Ondo State and Samsom Aimy, 37yrs from Bayelsa State.

Others were Ayefuwei Collins, 27yrs from Delta State, Ayo Gula, 28yrs from Delta State, Jolomi Daniel, 23yrs from Ondo State, Abubakar Ibrahim, 19yrs from Zamfara State and Precious Uwalogho, 30yrs from Delta State.

In September, the Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft, Apapa Lagos, also arrested eight stowaways from a Tanker Ship, Charminar Panama which was on its way out of the country to Europe.

According to the Navy, the stowaways, all Nigerians were arrested while trying to flee the country illegally to Spain through the vessel.

It also stated that the Stowaways said to have sneaked into the vessel under the cover of darkness, were found inside the vessel’s rudder compartment, with some loaves of bread biscuits and sachets water, within the Lagos Anchorage.

Again, the Nigerian Navy also in August this year paraded no fewer than five stowaways arrested aboard a vessel, MSC Martha in Lagos.

The arrested stowaways were 44-year-old Effiong Okon, Ayewuni Daniel, 27, Ajagboma Asiko, 29, Adebanjo Ayewumi, 23 and 25-year-old Christian Joseph.

The Navy said the stowaways were arrested while trying to flee the country illegally to Spain through the vessel.

Most regrettable is the fact that these illegal migrants most times to get to their destinations. They are also ignorant of the challenges and hardships they are about to face as they embark on the ‘journey of no return.’

In August this year, the Nigerian Immigration Service lamented the unnecessary deaths and hardships facing Nigerians attempting to travel outside the country through illegal means.

The Comptroller, NIS Ekiti State Command, Ademola Abdulrashed, who said Nigerians could travel abroad for reasons best known to them, advised that such must be “safe, orderly and regular.”

Abdulrashed, who spoke during the 60th anniversary of the NIS, said the “Japa” syndrome is a big challenge to those enrouting illegal ports of exit in the quest for greener pasture.

He said many of the youths die in the Sahara Desert, the Mediterranean Sea and so on.

“From available data from International Organisation for Migration, at least 1,200 Nigerians have died while trying to migrate through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea in the year 2023 alone,” he stated.

According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report, smugglers and other actors perpetrate abuses and crimes against smuggled Nigerian migrants at an alarming rate.

It said half of smuggled Nigerians surveyed in 2021 reported physical violence, while 25 per cent cited being detained and 20 per cent described sexual violence.

Also reports say one of the most high profile incidents of Stowaways saw 26 young Nigerian women drown in the Mediterranean on November 5. The women, most of whom were unidentified, were buried in Italy on November 17, in the year 2021.

According to the Nigerian Navy, apart from the stowaways putting themselves in life threatening situations during the long voyage at sea, they also present myriad of safety and security challenges.

Going by the reasons given by these desperate but ignorant Nigerians in wanting to leave their countries, the rate of Stowaway incidences are bound to increase, especially as Nigerians continue to face harsh economic realities and coupled with the continued fall of the naira against the dollar.

There is therefore the need for the government to consciously create economic opportunities for the teeming youths through conscious policies and programmes that address economic hardships.

There is also the need for the federal government to adequately sensitise the public, especially youths on the dangers of illegal migration, as a way of checking the trend.

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