Four Nigerian stowaways have revealed they survived their perilous journey through the Atlantic in a tiny space above the rudder of a cargo ship after they ran out of food and drink on the 10th day at sea.
According to the men arrested by Brazilian police, they survived another four days at sea, by drinking the sea water, before being rescued in the southeastern port of Victoria.
Their remarkable, death-defying journey across some 5,600 kilometers (3,500 miles) of ocean underlines the risks Nigerians are prepared to face to leave the country.
“It was a terrible experience for me,” said 38-year-old Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye, told Reuters.
“On board it is not easy. I was shaking, so scared. But I’m here.”
The four men planned 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, have applied for asylum in Brazil.
“I pray the government of Brazil will have pity on me,” said Friday, who had already attempted to flee Nigeria by ship once before but was arrested by authorities in Nigeria .
According to Friday and Yeye economic hardship, political instability and crime in Nigeria made them flee.
Yeye, who says he is a pastor from Lagos state, said his peanut and palm oil farm was destroyed by floods this year, leaving him and his family homeless. He hopes his family can now join him in Brazil.
Friday said 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.
Upon reaching the rudder, he found three men already there, waiting for the ship to depart. Friday said he was terrified because he felt his new shipmates could toss him into the sea at any moment as he didn’t know them.
Once the ship was moving, Friday said the four men made every effort not to be discovered by the ship’s crew, who they also worried might toss them off.
“Maybe if they catch you they will throw you in the water,” he said. “So we taught ourselves never to make a noise.”
To prevent themselves from falling into the water for two weeks, Friday said the men rigged up a net around the rudder and tied themselves to it with a rope.
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 “I was very happy when we got rescued,” he said.
Brazilian clergy, Reverend father Paolo Parise, a priest at the Sao Paulo shelter, said he had come across other stowaways, but the one carried out by the Nigerians was the most dangerous.
“People do unimaginable and deeply dangerous things.” He said