The Nigeria Immigration Service, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos Command has received nine Nigerians who attempted to stowaway to Europe through The Gambia.
The stowaways were brought back to Nigeria onboard a flight via Lome, Togo on Tuesday, December 5, 2023.
The stowaways, within the age range of 21 and 30, claimed they were lured into the voyage by some of their friends who were lucky to make it to Europe on the same path.
It was gathered that the young Nigerians attempted to travel to Europe through The Gambia Sea, but they were spotted by the ship captain who immediately alerted the security agencies of the neighbouring country.
In a bid to escape arrest, the stowaways jumped into the high sea with two of them struggling to swim.
They were eventually rescued from drowning and taken to the Nigeria High Commission in The Gambia which immediately processed emergency travel documents for them to be repatriated to Nigeria, despite their reluctance to return to the country.
In an interview with journalists, the Comptroller, NIS, MMIA Command, Mrs. Adekola Adesokan, advised Nigerians against irregular travels to Europe, describing such as a deathtrap.
She lamented the incessant stowaway incidents among Nigerians and admonished them against it.
According to her, such a trip was a deathtrap waiting to happen, regretting that many Nigerians had lost their lives through such means in the past.
She explained that the nine stowaways were handed over to the MMIA command by the officials of The Gambian immigration service.
“About nine Nigerians were sent back by The Gambian immigration officers for attempted stowaway in the high sea and two of them almost lost their lives in the process because when they were discovered, they attempted to escape and jumped into the high sea. Unfortunately for them, two of them could not swim,” she explained.
“The captain of the ship had to get in touch with the country that is within the neighbourhood for the rescue mission. The security officers were able to quickly rescue them, put them in the boat and took them to a hotel where they were given food
“But, they were very resistant and refused to return to Nigeria. They were still demanding money from the immigration service there before they could return to Nigeria. They were eventually taken to the Nigeria High Commission in The Gambia, which persuaded them and issued them emergency travel documents for them to be able to be brought back to Nigeria through the MMIA.”
She also appealed to such irregular travellers to desist from it and follow the right channel of travel to any country of their choice.
“We need to change our mentality. When they get there illegally, the first thing is they will begin to hide and when they are caught, they will be deported. Even when they are not caught, they go there to do odd jobs that they cannot be proud of doing to their friends and family members
“They should look before they leap. Most of the time, it may be a journey of no return. I am not saying you can’t travel abroad, but, go there legally, read your books, apply it in the right way, apply to travel and go and showcase Nigeria as a very intelligent nation in the comity of nations,” she said.
In his statement, one of the stowaways, Abdul Yakubu, alleged that he was selling noodles and dried eggs on Lagos Island before he was cajoled to embark on the trip.
Yakubu said he paid N70,000 to the man who introduced and boarded him on the ship.
Another returnee, Daniel Vincent, said he thought he would have been in Europe after three days of the trip.
Vincent said he was shocked to realise that he had not left the shore of Africa when they were detected by the crew members of the ship and handed over to immigration in The Gambia.
“They told us we would be in Europe within five or six days. We didn’t carry any food or water with us when we boarded the ship at Tin Can Port in Lagos. It was a very regrettable experience I would not encourage even my enemies to embark upon,” he said.
A boat driver who declined to give his name claimed he once embarked on an unsuccessful trip as a stowaway.
He said he was convinced to embark on the journey by a friend who successfully entered Europe through an illegal method.