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Four Nigerians rescued on a ship rudder

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By Abraham Adekunle

Brazilian police found the stowaways in the Atlantic Ocean after 14 days.

Stories of Nigerians migrating from Nigeria in surprising ways never cease to find its place on the news. As the economic situation continues to bite harder, desperate Nigerians find means to sneak on oversea-bound vehicles in the hope that they would find their way by any means when they get there. This is the story of four Nigerians who days ago were rescued by the Brazilian police at sea. The four Nigerians had crossed the Atlantic in a tiny space above the rudder of a cargo ship.

They ran out of food ten days into their maritime voyage. According to them, they had survived by drinking the sea water crashing just meters below them, before being rescued by Brazilian federal police in the southeastern port of Vitoria. Indeed, their remarkable death-defying journey across some 5,600 kilometers (3,500 miles) of ocean paints a picture of the risks some migrants are prepared to take for a shot at a better life. One of the four, 38-year-old Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye, said that it was a terrible experience for him.

Shocked to have missed their way to Europe, two apply for asylum.

However, their relief at being rescued soon became a surprise when they discovered that they were in fact not in Europe. The four men said that they had hoped to reach Europe and were shocked to learn they had in fact landed on the other side of the Atlantic, in Brazil. Two of the men have since been returned to Nigeria upon their request, while Yeye and Roman Ebimene Friday, a 35-year-old from Bayelsa State remained.

Friday hoped that the government of Brazil will pity him and grant him the permission to stay in the country. He had already attempted to flee Nigeria by ship once before but was arrested by authorities in the country. Both of them said economic hardship, political instability and crime had left them with no option but to abandon their country. Yeye, who was a pentecostal minister from Lagos state, said that his peanut and palm oil farm was destroyed by floods this year, which left him and his family homeless. He hoped that they could now join him in Brazil.

How the four men plotted their way onto the ship.

According to Friday, his journey to Brazil began on June 27, when a fisherman friend rowed him up to the stern of the Liberian-flagged Ken Wave, docked in Lagos, and left him by the rudder. To his surprise, he found three men already there, waiting for the ship to depart. He said that he was terrified. He had never met his new shipmates and feared they could toss him into the sea at any moment. Once the ship was moving, the men made efforts not to be discovered by the crew because they thought that they might be tossed over into the sea.

In order to prevent themselves from falling into the water, Friday said that the men rigged up a net around the rudder and tied themselves to it with a rope. He said that he could see big fish such as sharks when they looked down into the sea. They also could not sleep because of the cramped conditions and the noise of the engine. Friday said that he was very happy when they were rescued.

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Father Paolo Parise, a priest at the Sao Paulo shelter, said he had come across other cases of stowaways but never one so dangerous. “People do unimaginable and deeply dangerous things,” he said. The journey through the Sahara Desert to get to the sea that some undertake is an example. Nigerians are also known to undergo this journey in a bid to escape the economic woes of the country. Many of them die at sea, eaten by sharks because their companions always throw them over to ease their burden.

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