The Delta State Chairman for National Association of Professional Divers (NAPROD), Mr Anthony Eferegor has drowned, sending shockwaves to Nigerian Divers particularly, those working offshore.
A NAPROD member who spoke on conditions of anonymity said they were disturbed, because members were yet to fully understand the actual circumstances surrounding the death, except that Anthony Eferegor died in mysterious circumstances, alongside a cook, who was also on board.
“Nobody is telling us anything. If he died through an accident as alleged, we expect the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to investigate, as the Custodian of the nation’s conscience and Safety; and to tell us something. But this has not happened!”, he said, stressing that the news of the death which occurred on March 6th was never announced until on the 9th.
Investigation by the NOMMA indicated that Eferegor died alongside a cook on board a Self Elevated Workover Platform (SEWOP) popularly known as Jack up barge when the vessel allegedly capsized en route Bonny from Warri on March 6.
It was further gathered that the vessel actually sailed with 30 persons on board and was given the permission to sail, in spite of a meteorological forecast that warned of a looming bad weather.
Divers who spoke to NOMMA on the ground of anonymity said they suspected foulplay and their fears had been exacerbated by the silence of critical regulatory agencies like NIMASA and the Ministry of Mining which responsibility should otherwise centre on the protection of the interest of indigenous divers.
The diving professionals also queried the use of the Maritime Labour department as well as the Cabotage department if the wellbeing of seafarers on board vessels is not prioritised.
A document accessed by NOMMA showed that Shell Nigeria had conducted a preliminary investigation which results failed to hit the nail on he head; aside from providing haphazard and skeletal, shoddy information instead of the critical details, like on whose authority the vessel sailed, against meteorological warnings.
NOMMA also was shocked that even more than seven weeks after the accident, no detailed report has been issued as business activities have gone on as normal. No mention was also made of the Cook, as if he wasn’t a human being.
Worse still, by Eferogor’s death, Industry operators are worried that if nothing is done, the fate of his poor widow and under-five year old daughter may be worse than a dead dog.
For instance, while preliminary report refers to bad weather as the cause of the accident, a colleague of Eferegor at the association level who also spoke on ground that his identity be withheld wondered how the sad event was anchored on negligence, without a mention of how the negligence came.
He insisted that aside from Eferogor being an expert who could navigate through familiar waters like that of Warri, it was important the authorities came clean on who permitted the vessel to sail in spite of the bad weather forecast.
He went on to allege that the decision to sail amidst bad weather shows the slave -drive culture under which crew members on board vessels are compelled to work, even against international regulations and standards, while Nigerian agencies looked on.
He maintained that with the criminal silence of supervising agencies, seafarers are left to whatever choices foreign oil and gas firms come up with.