Calabar — Survivors of Calabar boat mishap in Cross River State yesterday relived their moments of horror, saying when trouble started all passengers on board were asked by the boat captain to pray.
Two survivors Kive Sani, 27, from Togo and Hafsat Zakari, 13, from Benin spoke even though they were yet to fully recover from the shock of the mishap. They were taken to Bakor Clinic in Calabar, and not University of Calabar Teaching Hospital as earlier reported.
Our correspondent reports that those that perished were not only Nigerians as there were many nationals from Chad, Gabon, Niger, Togo, Republic of Benin and Ghana.
Kive Sani said he was heading to Gabon because he was promised a "good job" by a man he kept referring to as his master, saying he arrived in Oron in Akwa Ibom State a month ago from Togo before embarking on the journey.
He said he believed the incident was as a result of stalled engines, saying when boat engines packed up water started entering the boat. He said they were in the water from 9pm on Friday when the incident happened to 3pm on Sunday when he was rescued.
"The Muslims prayed first; then the Christians; and he told us our lives are at the end. Some were shouting 'Allah'; others were shouting 'Jesus'. As water was still entering the boat, people started to jump into the water," he said.
He said there were 128 passengers and five crew members, saying he knew this because he had become friendly with the crew having arrived in the palace a month earlier and he was their interpreter for those who understood only French.
Sani also said after jumping he saw an oil installation in the water and held unto it with his master and two other ladies, saying his master could not however hold on again and so fell into the water. Later the second lady lost grip, and he told the remaining lady to hold on and pray, he said.
He described the boat as being "fabricated with planks" and gave names of the crew members who were all Nigerians as Theo, Kpakpa, Ibrahim, Daniel and Francis.
In her own account, the other survivor Hasaft Zakari said he could not recall all that had happened and she knew that the boat engine stopped working close to an oil installation in the water for they were asked to start praying.
The survivors were rescued by Addax workers on Sunday afternoon. They were brought to Calabar on board a drilling vessel being operated by Addax on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, NEMA said 29 persons were rescued from the boat carrying scores of trafficked immigrants that sank on its way to Gabon.
Initial reports from traders at the dock from where the boat departed suggested there were 166 people on board, but emergency agency spokesman Yushua Shuaib said yesterday that there were actually 128 people based on the boat's manifest.
"The boat originated from Benin. Security agencies are still investigating the allegations that the boat was involved in human trafficking, and rescue operation is still ongoing", he said.