Author Topic: HOW SOMALI PIRATES SHATTERED MY LIFE, BY SAILOR KIDNAPPED FOR 10 MONTHS  (Read 1217 times)

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How Somali pirates shattered my life, by sailor kidnapped for 10 months
By TESSY IGOMU
Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Agida

He looks forlorn, his flowing garb hanging loosely on his emaciated frame. Home, for Mr. Usman Ochoche Agida and his wife and six children, is a rams......le apartment with worn out curtains in Odogunyan area of Ikorodu, Lagos. The only luxury in the apartment is an old television set as well as a radio covered with dust. Hanging on loose ropes outside the apartment were some tattered children?s clothes belonging to Agida?s kids.

For Agida, putting food on the table for his family is a great challenge. The family?s daily survival depends on the benevolence of sympathizers and church members.
Even as Agida strives to cope with his predicament, seeing his children go to bed without food is gradually stripping him of his pride. And for the past two years, none of the kids has been inside a classroom.

?Most nights, they go to bed hungry. The last one who is just two years and four months is always inconsolable,? he said.
It is not only hunger that stares the Agida family in the face. A quit notice issued by their landlord already expired on March 30 (yesterday).
?The landlord has really tried because I owe him nine months rent but I wish he could give us more time,? he pleaded.

Agida is currently passing through tumultuous times. But then, it was not like that in the past.
?I was doing very well as an Able Seaman (deck worker) with West Coast Shipping Line Limited,? he told the reporter. ?My family was very comfortable and family members flocked my house daily. None of them comes here again.?
He was among the crew whose ship was hijacked on the Indian Ocean in 2008 by Somali pirates. He would have met an untimely death in the hands of the pirates but for the benevolence of fate.

Agida?s problems actually started in 2008 when he was contracted by ESL Integrated Services Limited, owned by Mr. George Onokpite. He was to join a crew that would bring in Onokpite?s newly acquired ship, MV Yenagoa Ocean, from Dubai.
Before the sailors embarked on the journey, the owner of the vessel agreed to pay them 100 dollars daily as allowance, he disclosed.
The journey which was meant to last for just two weeks ended ten months later with a devastating experience.
According to him, their ordeal started when members of the crew were refused entry at the Dubai International Airport. They were informed that what they had on them were fake visas.

?We were shocked because the visa was given to us by the Logistics Manager of ESL Integrated Services Ltd, Emmanuel Bassey and Administration Manager, Terence Dafiaghor.
?The Dubai authorities detained us for 24 hours before we were released by an Egyptian lawyer hired by the owner of the vessel. To avoid deportation, he took us to the Oman Republic for us to return to Dubai as tourists instead of businessmen,? he said.
After staying in the hotel for a week, they were taken aboard MV Yenagoa Ocean on June 17, 2008. They finally set sail for Nigeria on July 21without enough fuel.

According to him, the ship?s surveyor instructed that they should set sail with about 350, 000 tonnes of fuel. But they were forced to leave the port on the owners? instruction with just 173, 000 tonnes. This action nearly cost them their lives as the vessel ran out of fuel in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The captain, Graham Egbegi, then contacted the Oman Ports Authority for help but was told that the ship was 500 Nautical Miles from that port and so couldn?t be helped. They were, however, given a number to send an SOS to in Bosaso, Somalia. But when contacted, the owner of the ship allegedly opposed the idea.

On August 4, 2008, while sailing for Somalia, they were captured by Somali pirates. Their hijackers demanded a ransom of two million dollars, saying the Nigerian government was ?very rich?. They threatened to execute the sailors if their demands were not met.
Agida recalled that following their capture, the Nigerian Internal Affairs office, the Nigerian Ambassador to Kenya and Seychelles, Chijioke Wigwe as well as the ship?s owner, Mr. George Onokpite, were all contacted.
Within the days that followed, the captured sailors suffered indescribable starvation and all forms of deprivations in the hands of the pirates.

?It was quite traumatic to wake up every day to face arms like bazookas, rocket launchers and other high caliber weapons pointing at us. Every morning, we had this terrible feeling that it could be our last,? he said.
The man who is presently having problems with his sight disclosed that for 90 days, they were locked in their dark cabin and not allowed on deck.
The beleaguered sailors were also stripped of every piece of clothing. They had to cut their bed sheets into fragments to sew underwear.

?We almost starved to death,? he said. ?Sometimes, we didn?t eat for three days. Bathing was also a luxury.? He noted that the pirates threatened several times to execute them as the ransom was not forthcoming. In fact, for six months, the ship owner reportedly did not communicate with the pirates. Rather than pay the ransom, the ship owner allegedly contracted a rival pirate gang to hijack the ship from the original pirates. After that failed attack, the pirates were said to have been thoroughly vexed. They allegedly threatened to sink the ship after releasing the sailors.

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Offline Prince

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What a bad experience.

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