By Evelyn Usman
THE Nigerian Navy, Wednesday evening, intercepted a cargo/passenger ship, MV CHIMBA EXPRESS, with 406 suspected deportees from some African countries, for entering the country illegally.
Out of the figure, 18 are Nigerians deportees from Garbon. Other Nigerians were also 40 pale looking Nigerian women and 10 children.
But some of the Nigerian returnees on board lamented the harrowing experiences they went through during the six days journey, adding that they bought valid tickets at Libreville, Gabon, with the intention of visiting their families in Nigeria, only to be sandwiched with those they alleged to be criminals.
The ship, as gathered, left Libreville, Gabon, last Friday, laden with deportees, regular and deportees passengers from Togo, Benin Republic, Nigeria, Niger and Mali.
“It was scheduled to arrive Benin Republic last Sunday, where deportees, regular passengers and cargo from Benin, Togo, Mali and Niger were expected to disembark and thereafter, proceed to Calabar, Cross River State capital to disembark Nigerian deportees and their cargoes.
But as at the time operatives of the Nigerian Navy Ship NNS Beecroft intercepted, all 406 passengers were still on board.
Nigerian embassy aware of deportation
At press time, it was established that there was no formal contact at governmental levels for the delivery of the deportees in Nigeria. An unconfirmed report, however, had it that the Nigerian embassy in Libreville was aware of the deportation.
The charterers of the vessel were named by the Navy as one Alhaji Mubashiu Lawal from Republic of Benin, while the Nigerian was identified as Decma Services Limited, Apapa, with one Jide Adeniji mentioned as the representative.
Briefing journalists on the interception, shortly after a three -hour meeting with security agencies in the country and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA , yesterday, Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft, Commodore Okon Eyo, said telephone conversation with the agents’ representative provided a claim that the company had made contact with the port control to get permission to come in.
He, however, stated that permission was yet to be granted at the time of the interception. He also observed that international passports of the passengers were with the agent, who claimed to be processing them, adding that the Navy had to make provision for food, water and soft drinks for passengers on board the vessel as there was no food or water as at the time of interception.
Some of the Nigerian returnees who lamented the harrowing experiences during the six days journey said they bought valid ticket at Libreville, Gabon, with the intention of visiting their families in Nigeria, only to be sandwiched with those they alleged to be criminals.
One of the returnees, Esther Ike (37), with four children on board, said: “I travelled to Gabon alongside my eldest daughter, in 2008 to join my husband, Chisom. We reside in Libreville and my husband is a businessman.
“He owns a shop in Libreville and deals in footwear. I had my three other children in Gabon. We decided to bring the children back home because they don’t speak good English over there. Besides, they do not write WAEC, coupled with the dehumanizing treatment meted on foreigners over there.
“My husband bought us three valid tickets to travel back to Nigeria, at the rate of N100,000 equivalent. We were told that the ship would take us to Calabar from where we will join bus to my hometown in Imo State, only for me to realise later that we were going to be dumped with some deportees without food or water.”
Another returnee, Joseph Emakpo, who hails from Warri, Delta State, said he had lived in Gabon for 16 years but decided to come back home because of the unfriendly condition meted out to them by the Gabonese security agencies.
He said: “I lost all I earned in my 16 years stay in Libreville. I am a stylist and I owned a flourishing salon, which I lost in one day when the Gabonese Immigration came to raid my shop under the guise that they were looking for something.
“They carted away my property and threw me behind bars for days. When they could not find anything against me, I was set free and by the time I returned to my shop, everything had gone.
“I got the greatest shock of my life, after buying my ticket, as the Gabonese Immigration said the only reason they would allow our ship to go was for it to carry about 18 deportees. You can imagine a situation where children would be kept alongside criminals.”
Eyo said armed men had been deployed on board the ship to ensure the security of the passengers, even as he added that relevant agencies would work together to unravel the motives behind the whole affairs as well as deal with other associated issues.