06 Dec Nigeria: Stowaway Saga: Nine Nigerians Intercepted at Gambia Sea Repatriated to Lagos
By Ahmad Hadizat Omayoza, Mamos Nigeria
In a recent incident that underscores the perilous journey of irregular migration, nine Nigerians who attempted to stowaway to Europe through The Gambia have been repatriated to Lagos after their unsuccessful venture. The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos Command received the returnees, shedding light on the desperate circumstances that led them to embark on this perilous journey.
These nine individuals, aged between 21 to 30, had endeavored to reach Europe by sea through The Gambia. Unfortunately, their plan was foiled when the ship captain spotted them, prompting immediate action from security agencies in the neighboring country. In a desperate bid to escape arrest, two of the stowaways jumped into the high sea but were eventually rescued from drowning.
The Nigeria High Commission in The Gambia facilitated the processing of emergency travel documents for the returnees, despite their reluctance to come back to Nigeria. Asky Airlines transported them back through Lome, Togo.
Mrs. Adesola Adesokan, the Comptroller of NIS, MMIA Command, expressed deep concern over the recurrent incidents of stowaway attempts among Nigerians. Describing such endeavors as “deathtraps,” she emphasized the inherent risks and urged individuals to refrain from resorting to such perilous means of travel.
The stowaways were initially discovered by the ship captain, who promptly alerted the Gambian immigration officers. Their unsuccessful attempt at illegal migration led to their repatriation to Nigeria. Mrs. Adesokan commended the collaborative efforts that ensured the safe return of these individuals.
Despite their reluctance to return, the Nigeria High Commission in The Gambia played a pivotal role in persuading the stowaways and issuing emergency travel documents for their journey back to Nigeria.
In response to the situation, one of the stowaways, Abdul Yakubu, recounted being coerced into the trip while engaged in selling noodles and dried eggs on Lagos Island. He revealed losing N70,000, which he paid to the person who introduced and facilitated his boarding on the ship.
Another returnee, Daniel Vincent, expressed shock at the realization that the promised journey to Europe was far from reality. He recounted the crew members detecting them before leaving the shores of Africa, emphasizing the regrettable nature of the experience.
Mrs. Adesokan urged Nigerians to change their mindset and opt for legal channels when aspiring to travel abroad. Emphasizing the importance of education and legal processes, she highlighted the risks associated with illegal migration, urging individuals to showcase Nigeria positively on the global stage.
These accounts from the stowaways and the NIS officials shed light on the complex challenges surrounding irregular migration and the need for comprehensive efforts to address the root causes and promote safer, legal means of travel. The recurring nature of such incidents underscores the importance of awareness and education to dissuade individuals from embarking on perilous journeys with potentially dire consequences.