The government and people of Sao Tome and Principe have invited the governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri to their country to enable them show appreciation for the hospitality the state showed fishermen from that country who were rescued in Okpoama, Brass Local Government, after they lost their way while fishing on the Atlantic Ocean.
While two of the Sao Tome fishermen were rescued by Okpoama youths, one other was said to have been rescued by NIMASSA officials. But the trio were taken care of by the state government which also gave them clothes, accommodation and food, until their envoy showed up to pick them up in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
Head of Missions of that country in Nigeria, Pires Dos Santos Aguiar, who was obviously impressed by the hospitality of the Okpoama people and that of the governor, extended the invitation of his home government for Diri to visit his country on holiday, after the November 11 gubernatorial election, in which the governor is seeking a re-election.
The governor disclosed on Friday at the launch of the state’s new media campaign initiated by the director-general of the new media office, Dr Kola Oredipe, that the gesture of the government of Sao Tome and Principe was an indication of their acknowledgement of the government’s role in saving the lives of their citizens.
He wondered why the federal government of Nigeria could not show such concerns for its citizens especially during natural and other kinds of disasters that result in loss of or threats to the lives of Nigerians.
He said the federal government must learn from the disposition of the government of Sao Tome that made frantic efforts to go after three of their fishermen, to the extent of finding their way to Bayelsa to get the rescued fishermen.
He recalled how Bayelsans were treated by the federal government during last year’s flood and said such lackadaisical attitude towards the welfare of citizens must stop.
Diri thanked the Okpoma fishermen who dived into the Atlantic Ocean to rescue their Sao Tome colleagues, saying they truly demonstrated the true spirit of an Ijaw man, who would usually care for his brothers and humanity in general.
The governor also commended the role of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the rescue of the fishermen and again called for the agency’s presence in Bayelsa and other coastal states to take care of such situations.
While handing over the rescued fishermen to the Sa Tome envoy on Thursday, the governor had said “I got the news of the rescue of these fishermen informally. I then tried to use a formal government system and the security agencies to confirm that we had two citizens of Sao Tome and Principe that were rescued by some Bayelsa fishermen at Okpoama in Brass Local Government Area of the state while the third one was rescued by NIMASA personnel.
“So, I directed that the three of them be brought to Yenagoa so that they can undergo health checks and probably contact the Sao Tome and Principe Government.
“Fortunately, the Sao Tome and Principe Government’s Head of Missions at the embassy in Nigeria made contacts with our government and informed us that he was coming to Yenagoa to receive them.
“I am really very proud of our fishermen who exhibited their Ijawness because the Ijaw man is very hospitable and loves humanity.
“Let me also appreciate the Government of Sao Tome and Principe for going after their citizens who went missing on the Atlantic Ocean for over one week while trying to navigate their way on the sea and the Gulf of Guinea drifted them to the Nigerian boundary.”
Responding, the Sao Tome and Principe Head of Mission to Nigeria, expressed appreciation to the Bayelsa State Government and Nigeria for their effort to rescue his countrymen.