Diving Sector in Dire Need of Government’s Support – Nigeria’s first female diver, Eve Daferede

Not many would consider diving a profession for females. Perhaps, very few would even think of it as an interesting, adventurous or lucrative career. But, between July 2012 and January 2013, three daring young Nigerian women took up the challenge and became the first set of professional female divers in Nigeria. TNMN spoke with one of trio on her motivation, drills ,experiences so far and dream. Evelyn Omotowore Anastasia Daferede, simply known as Eve by her colleagues is an underwater commercial diver and an educationist. Read on…her story is exhilarating!

I am from a lineage of great swimmerEve 6s. In fact, my father was a great fisherman. I started out my life’s career teaching primary school children to swim in Lagos. It was while on that job that a friend (also a diver) told me of a diving training school which was trying to introduce females into the commercial diving industry. He encouraged me and since I enjoy challenges a lot, I enrolled for the training. I got motivated when I saw that it is a rare profession with a big challenge. Supported by my family, i proceeded to Mieka Dive Training Institute at the Nigerian Navy Underwater Warfare School, Navy Town, Ojo, Lagos State and after seven months of very demanding training and i graduated as a Class II Commercial Air Diver.

The training was rigorous. We started with the endurance swimming of 200meters (5-6 laps) at the swimming pool. We were also taught how to fin and use the snorkels and later introduced to the first level which is SCUBA (This is used for training only not commercial diving operations). We were taken to the Dive Hyperbaric chamber to test our ability to work in depths. Thereafter, we went to a 33 feet dive training (with visibility) tank where we have to do our emergency drills, ditching drills, and underwater works. We were also sent to the open water to carry out same exercise we did in the dive tank. We carried also carried out activities like search, jackstay, rigging etc. after a successful SCUBA phase, we moved to the real training which is the use of Surface Supplied Diving Equipment (SSDE). The heavy dive hat or helmet has communication devices and one can talk with surface compared to SCUBA that one uses only the rope (lifeline) for communication. When one is fully kitted in the SSDE, one looks like a man from the moon. My first experience with SSDE was in the dive tank where I had to carry out underwater cutting of a pipe. I did water jetting, underwater welding and burning. It is really a rigorous process having to work with electricity underwater and maintaining balance to carry out activities. It is better experienced than explained. But although it is a tough, it is lucrative.

“We were three females trained at the same time. My other female partners are based in
Delta State furthering their education. It is a male dominated profession and so many male divers have not really seen or worked with females before. It is strange for them and they have to treat us like eggs. I am respected and always given opportunities to dive whenever there is a diving operation so that I can be stronger. Not easy too because I will have to set up my equipment no matter the weight and I don’t expect anyone to be a perfect gentleman and help me rig up. Generally,I love challenges and so I don’t complain much.

“Wow! My first open water dive was a sweet one. Nigeria water has no visibility (you can’t see in it). I was prepared for my first open water dive to a depth of 33 feet of sea water. I used to have a problem with my buoyancy. You can actually call me a natural floater and I won’t be offended. I had to carry lots of weight to balance my buoyancy so that I can get to the seabed. I gave my necessary signal and left surface. All of a sudden it was so dark like your eyes are completely shut. I couldn’t see my palms no matter how close I brought them to my eyes. I was like a blind person. I got to the seabed. It was really cold and quiet. I could only hear myself breathing. After giving my necessary signals indicating i was at the seabed and relaxed, I knelt down and prayed, thanking God for allowing me touch the seabed. I was scared initially but I realized I was all alone with my thoughts and I just knelt down and pondered what will be around me if the water became clear. All of a sudden I noticed that my lifeline (communication line with surface) was shaking. I knew someone or something was approaching and it came closer. My heart began to pound. I was prepared
for whatever was coming. All I needed to do was stay calm. As I began to relax and expect the unexpected, my dive instructor touched me and held my hand giving me the OK signal and I responded and he left. (laughs) But it was so dark and I was given the signal to come out after twenty minutes .That was my first dive in the open water. I had so many other dives and great experiences afterwards.

Well, a saying goes thus; “practice makes perfect”. When my supervisors saw the fear they gave me more diving tasks. I kept on practicing and believed that professionals are the ones training us and diving is all about safety. Once I obeyed the rules then I could be safe. All I did was trust them, i followed all procedures and stayed safe. A diving slogan says ‘DO NOT PANIC’. I remembered the words and braced up for the challenges ahead.

Soon after her training, I was engaged as the Administrative Officer of Mieka Dive Training Institute. I majored in Education and taught for two years after my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) before becoming a diver. As a Diver and an educationist the training school engaged me. And I am living my dream because this is a very big challenge for me being a diver, an educationist and a female diver who is also an administrator in diving institute in Nigeria. That is huge for me.

THE DREAM. I will consider myself to have excelled in the career when the Commercial Diver Curriculum is accepted and recognized as course to be taught in school of higher learning by National Board of Technical Education. When I see that the Nigeria Training Standard being regulated by government showing that diving in Nigeria is a Profession…when I see Nigeria on the list of recognized diver training schools of the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), then I can say I have excelled in my career. The Nigerian Diving industry needs to move to the next level because we have what it takes to compete favorably with any diver training establishment in the world on air diving in terms of equipment, instructors and facilities.”

My dream is to see the Nigeria’s diving Industry gain national and international recognition and acceptance.It is my dream that divers in Nigeria will be given the opportunity to prove that they can do what our foreign counterparts are doing. It is my dream that all diving supervisors, client companies of the diving industry, oil and gas industry change their perception about Nigerian Divers. I was trained in Mieka Dive Training institute and I have carried out research on quality of training and equipment. I am proud to say that I was well trained with the state of the art equipment. The school has its own Wetbell for training purpose. Their training curriculum is planned according to what one is expected to meet in the real diving operation.

As for women in the industry, I want to encourage them to be involved. It is a matter of decision, determination and motivation. The men in the industry need the women in order to create a balance. Women are ministers, chairpersons, presidents, pastors etc’ They can also be great divers. I am a diver so they too can be divers too. The industry is big enough for all of us. We can all excel in it. People are growing old and leaving and so people need to also come in. There’s need for balance and females can create that balance.

The Nigerian Government needs to support diving Industry. Other countries or divers from other countries excel because they have the backing of their government. That can happen in Nigeria. Government should look into regulating the Nigeria Commercial Diver training standard and code of practices. This will help the industry gain international recognition. It will also give room for employment and investment.

The National Board for Technical Education should also look into the curriculum for Commercial divers and ensure that diving becomes a course that people can go to school and study. Let government agencies like Department of Petroleum Resources, NIMASA, Ministry of Labor, Local Content, NBTE and other oil and gas companies look into the issues surrounding divers in the Nigeria Industry and join us in finding lasting solutions to the problems we are faced with.

Posted on : February 3, 2015

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