Nigerian returnees lament Gabon ordeal
Navy intercepts vessel with 406 passengers on board
Three hundred and ninety returnees from Gabon have decried the ill treatment that was meted out to them by the government of the Country throughout their stay. Of the 390 returnees, 48 of them are Nigerians.
The returnees were among the 406 passengers that were intercepted by the Nigerian Navy onboard MV CHIMBA EXPRESS for allegedly entering the country’s territorial water illegally.
The vessel carrying the returnees was intercepted around 5:00p.m. on Wednesday within the Lagos waters. They include 40 women and 10 children. It was also found to be carrying vehicles among other cargoes.
Most of the returnees, who lamented the harsh treatment they received, said they actually bought their valid ticket at Libreville, Gabon, with the intention of coming back home to visit their families and friends only to be lumped up with criminals who were being deported to their various countries for offense ranging from alleged falsification of documents to robbery and drug trafficking.
Esther Ike, 37, who was returning with her four children, said they were subjected to harsh treatment through the six days journey. She said: “I traveled to Gabon in 2008 to join my husband along with my eldest daughter, Chisom. We reside in Libreville and my husband is a businessman. He owns a shop in Libreville and deals in foot wears. I had my three other children in Gabon.
“The reason why my husband decided that we should come back home was that there is no good English school in Gabon. Besides, the ones available do not write WAEC. Also, the Gabonese immigration are not friendly with foreigners, particularly when it has to do with a Nigerian. I have seen cases where they would corner a foreign national, beat him up and dump him or her inside their cell, which can be described as a rat hole before sending them back to their country in the most dehumanizing nature. This and other reasons are why we decided to relocate back to Nigeria.
“My husband bought us valid ticket to travel back to Nigeria. Each ticket cost 180,000 CFAs, about N100,000 and my husband bought three tickets. We were told that the ship will take us to Calabar from where we will join bus to my home town in Imo State, only for me to realize later that we were going to be dumped along some deportees without food nor water.”
Another returnee, Joseph Emakpo, who hails from Warri, Delta state, said he had lived in Gabon for 16 years and that he decided to come back home because of the unfriendly condition meted out to them by the Gabonese security agencies.
He said the security agents, particularly the Gabonese Immigration officers see Nigerians as hustlers who came to snatch the little business opportunities open to them.
He said: “I lost all I earned for the 16 years I stayed in Libreville. I am a stylist and I own a flourishing salon. Most high profile persons in the town of Libreville come to my salon to make their hair. I lost it in one day when the Gabonese immigration came to raid my shop under the guise that they were looking for something they carted away with my property and threw me behind bars for days.
“When they could not find anything to hold me down with they set me free. When I came back my shop was gone with all my belongings. Yet not worried, I started off again by working as a stylist in a shop owned by a Gabonese. I decided to come back home when I suddenly discovered that the place holds no future for me.
One of the deportees, 29-year-old Adehun Sunday, said he was arrested because his document had expired. Sunday, who said he hails from Igbokoda in Ondo State, said his document expired in 2013 and since then he had been trying to renew his document without any success.
He said: “The Nigerian Embassy in Gabon do not help matters also. They extort money from you any time you go to the Embassy for renewal of international passport. I have lost everything I have worked for since I traveled to Gabon about 10 years ago. I will miss my two children and wife. They are not even aware that I have been deported.”
Andrew Sunday, who said he hails from Abia state said he traveled to Gabon about 17 years ago. “I am a welder and not a criminal like the Gabonese government would like to portray me. My International passport expired in January this year. I was arrested and kept behind bars for days before they finally decided to deport me.”
The Nigerian Navy on Thursday said it had arrested a vessel, MV CHIMBA EXPRESS, with 406 passengers on-board, for unauthorised entry into the country. The Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT, Okon Eyo, a commodore, told journalists in Lagos that the vessel departed Libreville, Gabon, on April 20 and was intercepted in Lagos waters on Wednesday.
“The vessel departed Gabon laden with cargo, regular and deportee passengers of Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger and Malian nationalities. The total number of Nigerians on-board will be determined shortly and among the Nigerians are 18 deported returnees,” he said.
Eyo said charterer of the vessel, identified as Mubashiu Lawal from Republic of Benin, claimed they made contact with Nigerian port control to get permission to come in.