Official details of boat mishap unavailable, six days after 160 people feared dead

About 160 Nigerians are feared dead from the accident.

The fatal boat mishap in which about 160 Nigerians were feared killed at the weekend happened four days before any Nigerian agency got wind of it, some residents of the area claim.

The wooden transport boat, which reportedly set out on the ill-fated journey on Friday night from Oron in Akwa Ibom State, capsized at a location near Malabo, 40 nautical miles from Calabar, Cross River State, on its way to Gabon.

Most of the victims were said to be Igbo traders from the South Eastern part of the country who joined others in Oron, Akwa Ibom State, to board the wooden boat because of its cheap fares.

Though news of the incident was reported in the media late on Tuesday, it was gathered that the incident happened on Friday evening.

None of the government agencies is yet able to give the full details of the incident. All government agencies PREMIUM TIMES contacted could not provide specific information about the boat on Tuesday evening when news of the incident first broke. Information like where the boat originated from, it’s destination, the exact number of passengers at the time of the accident, the exact location and time the boat capsized, as well as number of victims and survivors.

As of Tuesday night, the Nigerian Navy, which is charged with the responsibility of protecting Nigeria’s territorial waters, was not aware of the incident even though it probably occurred four days earlier.

Yushau Shuaib of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, which responded immediately it was notified on Tuesday, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that all his agency could volunteer was the information that only two survivors were rescued, while nine bodies so far recovered were taken to the morgue at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital.

“The truth is that nobody knows exactly when the incident happened. All what we can tell you is that two survivors were rescued and taken to the hospital, while nine bodies have been recovered. Any other information any other person might say is all speculation, because nobody knows exactly what happened,” Mr. Shuaib said.

The two survivors, a young boy and a lady, reportedly clung to a gas cylinder till they were rescued by fishermen.

Both were received late Tuesday evening by a team of officials from NEMA, the Cross River Emergency Management Agency; the Navy; Nigerian Maritime Agency for Security and Administration, NIMASA; and others at the Eco Marine, ECM, jetty in Calabar.

The Assistant Director of Information with the Cross River Emergency Management Agency, David Akate, who confirmed the rescue, declined further comment.

All the other agencies declined comments on the incident, claiming investigations were on-going and the two survivors were being treated.

It was gathered that following the incident, local fishermen in the area rallied efforts and mobilised a rescue team on Sunday that managed to recover 45 bodies, most of them women. They were reportedly wrapped in body bags and deposited in the hospital morgue on Tuesday.

NEMA has however said it will provide more information on the catastrophe as soon as it can get them from the two survivors.

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