Four Nigerian stowaways have shared their 14-day ordeal during a perilous journey across the Atlantic ocean in a tiny space above the rudder of a cargo ship. The men revealed that they ran out of food and water by the 10th day at sea and had to survive on sea water for four days before being rescued at the southeastern port of Victoria by the Brazilian police. In an interview with Reuters, 38-year-old Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye said, “It was a terrible experience for me. On board it is not easy. I was shaking, so scared. But I’m here.”
The four men thought the ship was headed for Europe but were shocked to discover that they had, in fact, ended up on the other side of the Atlantic, in Brazil. Upon their request, two of the men have been returned to Nigeria, while Yeye and Roman Ebimene Friday, a 35-year-old from Bayelsa state, have applied for asylum in Brazil. Yeye, said to be a pastor from Lagos state, revealed that his peanut and palm oil farm was destroyed by floods this year, leaving him and his family homeless. He said he hopes his family can join him in Brazil. Friday, on his part, said his journey to Brazil started on June 27, when a fisherman friend rowed him to the stern of the Liberian-flagged vessel, Ken Wave, which was docked in Lagos.
His friend left him by the rudder, where he found three other men already waiting for the ship to depart. He said he was scared because he feared that the other men might throw him into the sea at any moment because he didn’t know them. As the ship set sail, the four men made every possible effort to remain undetected by the ship’s crew, fearing that they might be thrown off the ship if discovered.
“Maybe if they catch you they will throw you in the water,” he said. “So we taught ourselves never to make a noise.” To avoid falling into the sea during their two-week journey, Friday and the other men set up a net around the rudder and secured themselves to it with ropes. When he looked down, he said he could see “big fish like whales and sharks.” They say they found it hard and also risky to sleep due to the noise of the engine and their lying position, stating that they were happy when they were rescued.
According to Reverend Father Paolo Parise, a Brazilian clergy and priest at the Sao Paulo shelter, he has encountered other stowaways before, but the method employed by Nigerians was the most dangerous he had ever witnessed. “People do unimaginable and deeply dangerous things.” He said