By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, SOLOMON AYADO, AHURAKA ISAH and Kauthar Anumba-Khaleel, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari in Abidjan expressed dismay that Nigerians are being sold like goats for few dollars in the ongoing modern day slavery in Libya.
He, however, declared that all Nigerians stranded in that country and other parts of the world will be brought home and rehabilitated.
He spoke on Tuesday night at in an interactive session with members of the Nigerian community in Cote D’ Ivoire on the margins of the 5th European Union-African Union (AU-EU) Summit.
Buhari vowed to reduce the number of Nigerians heading for Europe illegally through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea by providing basic social amenities such as education, healthcare, and food security at home.
Reacting to a recent footage on the sale of Africans in Libya, the president said it was appalling that “some Nigerians (in the footage) where being sold like goats for few dollars in Libya.
‘‘After 43 years of Gadhafi, why are they recruiting so many people from the Sahel, including Nigerians? All they learnt was how to shoot and kill. They didn’t learn to be electricians, plumbers or any other trade”.
A statement by his senior special assistant media, Garba Shehu, also quoted the president as saying all necessary steps will be taken to stem the tide of illegal migration by Nigerians.
He, however, noted that it is very difficult to know the origin of the people who died while attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean because of lack of documentation.
He said, “When it was announced that 26 Nigerians died recently in the Mediterranean, before they proved that they were all Nigerians, they buried them.
“But the evidence I have from the Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora and Foreign Affairs, (Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa) is that only three of them were identified as Nigerians. But I’ll not be surprised if the majority of them were Nigerians.
“For people to cross the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean through shanty boats… we will try and keep them at home. But anybody who died in the desert and Mediterranean without documents to prove that he is a Nigerian, there is absolutely nothing we can do’’.
On domestic issues, President Buhari told Nigerians in the Diaspora that there is ‘‘good news from home’’ in the area of security, economy and anti-corruption.
He said, “We are not doing too badly in trying to secure the country, improve the economy and deal with corruption. We are doing our best at all levels including security.
“It is absolute madness for people to blow others up in markets, churches, and mosques. No religion advocates violence. Justice is the basic thing all religions demand and you can’t go wrong if you do it”.
On food security, the president said that his vision of repositioning Nigeria as a food-secured nation is on course, as the country is on the verge of attaining food security.
He attributed the development to positive agricultural reform programmes and bumper harvest occasioned by good weather.
According to the President, interventions through the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the CBN and the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, among others had been very successful in the agricultural reform initiative.
The president advised Nigerians in Cote D’ Ivoire to be good ambassadors in their host country, warning that the Embassy will not hesitate to repatriate those who tarnish the image of the country abroad.
10,000 Die in Mediterranean Sea, Deserts
Meanwhile, the Senate said yesterday that no fewer than 10,000 Nigerians have died while trying to illegally migrate through the Mediterranean Sea and the deserts.
The revelation is coming just as the Red Chamber condemned the latest report being aired on CNN of slave markets at various locations across Libya where Africans and mostly Nigerians are auctioned as slaves, priced as merchandise and sold off like animals.
Consequently, the Senate has urged the federal government to urgently commence the process of repatriation and rehabilitation of Nigerian citizens caught in the despicable treatment and human right abuses.
The Senate also urged the federal government to, as matter of urgency, take all diplomatic steps to ensure that everyone involved in the heinous act is held accountable to face the wrath of international law and justice.
The resolution of the Senate followed a motion by Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai (Borno Central) on the urgent need to protect Nigerian citizens from the Libya slavery auctions.
Leading the debate, Garbai noted that the maltreatment of Nigerians in Libya is a humiliation, not just to the country and the entire Africa, but also to fundamental principles of Human Rights under the United Nations Charter.
According to him, the illegal migrants are Nigerians trying to flee from poverty and deprivation in the country and called for need to boost the economy.
He further noted that there is claim by Libyan officials that its detention centres are full and have only deported 5% of the illegal migrants due to lack of response from the home government.
While stating that Libya does not have the means to crack down on perpetrators simply because their hands are full,
Garbai insisted that the Nigerian government will be failing in its responsibility to provide welfare and protect the citizens as enshrined in the constitution.
The Senate therefore urged the federal government to investigate how many Nigerian citizens are affected and detained or being put into slavery.
Also worried by the plight of Nigerians sold to slavery in Libya, the House of Representatives has urged the federal government to liaise with the government of Libya to find a solution to the menace of migration and modern day slavery in Libya.
The decision followed the adoption of a motion on the need to investigate the inhuman and barbaric acts of slave trade involving the auctioning of black Africans in Libya sponsored by Hon. Saheed Akinade-Fijabi yesterday.
Leading the debate, Fijabi who recalled that slave trade was abolished over 200 years ago lamented over recent reports on black migrants who make the dangerous crossing through the Sahara desert to Europe, get caught and sold to slavery in Libya.
The lawmaker stressed the need for the Nigerian government to realize that the economic condition of the country is responsible for the migration of Nigerian, youths hence the need for it to take charge.
In her contribution, Hon. Omosede Igbinedion while decrying the development said, “It is quite saddening to see how Nigerians end up and if we don’t say or do anything, it only also goes to show our insensitivity”.
Similarly, Hon. Rita Orji maintained that the economic condition of the country was responsible for Nigerians seeking greener pastures in Europe, adding that the slavery in Libya calls for parliamentary intervention.
In the same vain, House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, noted that the problem is also a domestic one, saying that some Nigerians are responsible for selling others, while others go into it voluntarily.
In adopting the motion, the House also resolved to mandate its committee on Human Rights and that of Foreign Affairs to interface with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant stakeholders to identify the factors that encourage the migrants to embark on the perilous journey.
They are also to proffer solutions that would discourage migration and provide for how the Nigerian youths caught in the web would return to the country and report back in four (4) weeks for further legislative action.
Osinbajo Summons NAPTIP, Others As FG Evacuates 7,250 migrants
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday convened a meeting of relevant agencies in Abuja to evacuate the remaining Nigerians stranded in Libya while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
Osinbajo summoned the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Refugee Commission to the State House, Abuja for a joint review of the situation with the aim of taking a firm position on the matter.
In his opening remark, the vice president recalled the comment of the president that all Nigerians who are stranded in the hostile country would be given an opportunity to return to the country.
He also recalled how the president reiterated the commitment of his administration to ensure that young Nigerian men and ladies are no longer exposed to the huge danger involved in wandering through the Sahara desert and eventual attempt to cross the sea.
Osinbajo who said it was necessary to sensitise young Nigerians on the danger involved in moves to cross the Mediterranean after being brainwashed by unscrupulous individuals, noted that it had become imperative for them to review the situation and take a position on how to halt the trend.
While recalling a CNN report that some of the victims are being sold in Libya, Osinbajo said it was necessary to brainstorm on the matter with a view to coming up with a well-prepared position on how to tackle the menace.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Refugees Commission, Sadia Umar Faruk, said no fewer than 7950 Nigerians had been repatriated to the country while 460 others are still being expected.
Faruk who said a committee had been constituted to come up with solution to the issue of immigration to Libya disclosed that another set of 250 migrants returned to the country yesterday.
She said, “A Committee has been set up consisting of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NAPTIP, the Refugee Commission and NEMA to come up with terms of reference as to how to go about solving the issue of Libyan migrants and also what happened in Italy.
“I think so far they have repatriated about 7000 and daily, they are coming in. As I speak to you now, a plane is arriving with about 250 migrants. So, we are expecting more on daily basis. I think I was speaking with the Director General of NEMA and he said so far, about 4600 are expected”.
PMB Hints On Seeking Re-election In Abidjan
Meanwhile, President Buhari yesterday in Abidjan made veiled reference to the fact that he might contest the 2019 presidential election.
He gave the hint jokingly while interacting with the Nigerian community in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire.
The president who is in Abidjan for the 5th EU-AU Summit, while apologizing for keeping those that came for the interactive session waiting, explained jocularly that he insisted on having Governors Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State and Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State president so that Nigerians in Côte d’Ivoire from the two states will be happy that he was accompanied by their governors and that might end him votes from Nigerians in future.
“First I want to apologise for keeping you for too long seating. This is because I insisted on the governors attending this meeting. This is why I came along with them so that when we are going to meet you, when you are going to meet the rest of Nigerians, if you tell them that their governors were in the accompany of the president, I think that will be another vote for me the future. I’m very pleased that they were able to turn up”, Buhari told Nigerians in that country who laughed and chaired him heartily.
…APC Ticket For Him Logical- Etiebet
Meanwhile, former chairman of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and BoT member of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Don Etiebet, yesterday expressed optimism that Nigerians will overwhelmingly vote to re-elect President Muhammadu Buhari by 2019.
In a statement he personally signed and made available to journalists, Etiebet said giving the president sole ticket for the ruling APC by 2019 is the most logical thing for the party to do.
He expressed optimism that Nigerians will return PMB “for the second term with far more votes than they did in 2015 and more votes for him than any presidential candidate in our national history”.
His words: “The President’s APC ticket for 2019 is natural, logical and cultural in a presidential system. An incumbent, most importantly and particularly a highly acclaimed performing president, is the pride bearer of his party’s touch.
“I can tell you that PMB will be given the honor and respect by his own party, the APC by returning him unopposed at the convention”.
The APC BoT member hinged his resolve to rally support for the president’s reelection on the fact that the president has justified the confidence reposed on him and noted that his fulfillment of campaign promises was legendary.
He continued: “Let me tell you the reasons that merit his second term: his fulfillment of his campaign promises- insecurity, corruption and a rejuvenated economy. It is astonishing the achievements in these key areas in two years; it’s a feat for the administration, considering where the country was and was descending to as at 2015.
“Boko Haram has been significantly degraded, peace in Niger Delta has been stabilizing, Nigerians are now afraid to become corrupt and an economy at the verge of being collapsed is not only being brought back and stabilized but gaining growth momentum.
“So therefore, being on this projectile for the next six years of this administration, we can all be assured that Nigeria will be the hub and centre piece of Africa’s democratic, economic and strategic renaissance”.
Etiebet stressed that except for the successes recorded in the war against corruption and the dutiful implementation of the TSA policy, Nigeria would have been worst than South Sudan or Zimbabwe.
“The successes recorded in the agricultural sector whereby very soon we will be self sufficient in rice production among others will sustain our agricultural aspirations in the medium and long term.
“In the solid mineral sector, the groundwork for growth has been laid such that its contribution will push our economic growth in the second term above 6 to 7 per cent growth. Our GDP is growing positively with strength and Nigeria’s economic outlook has never been rosier.
“So, my brothers, with a growing GDP, a growing foreign reserves, dynamic economic activity and resurgence, incoming improved living wage, school feeding, poverty reduction programmes all over the country, a secured national security and prosperity, our party is blessed to
happily at the next year’s national convention offer without
reservations the automatic ticket of our party to our performing president and his vice. We cannot loose this continuity and momentum.
“This is the position of everyone who love and care for our nation. This is the general opinion of majority of our party stakeholders at all levels. Since you are asking for the percentage of votes Mr. President can get in the 2019 election, it is my opinion that it will be above 78 per cent of
total votes cast. The 2019 general elections will send a singular message to all Nigerians abiding faith in the unity of our country, as the president will receive massive votes unprecedented in our history from the six regions of our country.
“South South votes will be 100 per cent at the Convention anda unlike in 2015, our South South votes will count in the 2019 general elections”.
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