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Libyan Returnees: A Case For Collective Action As The Stories Continue



We saw hell, were the words of Edehe Mathias, a Libyan returnee while recanting her trauma and experience in the hands of Libyan Policeman to LEADERSHIP Friday Reporter, Blessing Bature, Edehe saida, saying, “We were hunted and humiliated, but thank God we are back home.

We saw hell, were the words of Edehe Mathias, a Libyan returnee while recanting her trauma and experience in the hands of Libyan Policeman to LEADERSHIP Friday Reporter, Blessing Bature, Edehe saida, saying, “We were hunted and humiliated, but thank God we are back home.”

According to her, “many people died in Libya, but see us here, we are back to Nigeria alive. It is a thing of joy. We thank God that we are back to the country.

“We had so many bitter experiences, so many Nigerians were killed and lots of us were injured. Some were even shot.” She said as she pointed to her leg, “An Arab man beat me up and shot me in the leg. But I thank God that my leg is all right now,” she said.

With deep relief on her face, she added that she has no desire to ever to return to Libya.
Another victim, Lucky Iyamusa from Edo State, who narrates his tales of woe, said he traveled to Libya on June 2018, all in a bid to enter Europe, “Because of poverty and financial challenges,”

Iyamusa, who said he was an orphan and breadwinner of his surviving family, recalled that they had taken off from Lagos and passed through Kano, then found themselves in a desert. Unfortunately for Iyamusa’s migrating group, there were security officials that paraded the waterways in Libya.

He said, “About 290 migrants were arrested at seaside, on November 9, including Nigerians, Malians, Ghanians. While some of us were injured, several others lost their lives. Some were taken to the hospital and had their legs amputated by the Libyan police,” he narrated sadly.

Iyamusa said, “Some of us that were lucky were arrested and detained in an underground prison. When we got to the prison, we met some Nigerians who had been detained for over three years. Some of them had been there for four months and others six.”

In the prison, they were fed once a day with macaroni and noodles. They were given little water to drink for the whole day. Iyamusa advised youths to work hard and settle down in Nigeria, instead of going to Libya.

Without undermining the idea that government could provide a solution to the economic problems of the country which has been a major instigator of migrants, it is imperative to look at leadership as a corporate responsibility to ameliorate the critical economic situation of the country in terms of employment opportunities and reduce the ongoing difficulties encountered in the pursuit of greener pasture.

From 2016 till date, an operation to rescue stranded Nigerians in Libya, has culminated in the repatriation of over 1,400 young Nigerians, especially teenage girls from the North African country. However, with many Nigerians still stranded in the country, there are fears that the exodus of Nigerians to Libya in search of greener pastures may not stop unless the syndicates are tracked, arrested and stopped

Following the recent wave of repatriations, it has been revealed how some parents fall for the lies and deception of the syndicates that specialise in luring young boys and girls to Libya with promise of

juicy jobs and employments. This has called for collective action in tackling the menace.
The news of the travails of Nigerians trapped in Libya and the Mediterranean went viral even as the world was stunned with the expose of return of slave trade in the 21st century. Shockingly, most of the victims are from Edo State, who fell prey to human traffickers, a global cartel with strong links to some unpatriotic Nigerians who have sold their souls to the devil.

Tracking down one of the victims who hails from a community in Kwara South, Bose Tiamiyu (true name withheld), the girl, aged 22, was one of the lucky returnees from Libya who spent almost a year in detention before the intervention of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in partnership with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), she was repatriated back to Nigeria alongside others, recently.

Accusing the government of being the major stimulator of Nigerian migrants on such dangerous journeys, the returnee said, “If elected public officials, fulfilled even half of their electioneering campaign promises, the number of irregular migrants from Nigeria would reduce drastically.”

In what appears an indictment on the federal government, a cross section of Libyan returnees said more Nigerians would continue to flee to Libya in spite of the sufferings and torture associated with such trips, except government, at all levels, become more responsive to the yearnings of the youth.

Most illegal migrants have not been as lucky as in previous years as even Europe, their dream destination, had tightened the noose for illegal migrants while the wicked trolleys capitalised on the weaknesses of institutions in the country to perpetrate their evil deeds against the victims.

Aside from being subjected to hostile weather conditions, both in the desert and on the sea, they have been reportedly confronted by hostile Libyans who molested, tortured, raped, maimed and gruesomely murdered thousands of Nigerian travelers. Several others have suffered untold and horrible experiences in prison cells across the country.

In its effort to tackle the migrant issue, the current administration established an anti-human trafficking Task Force led by the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof Yinka Omorogbe, who said the returnees have all sorts of tales of woe to tell, “But we are glad that they are realising early enough.”

She revealed that a returnee from Libya informed that 25 compatriots, ferried from Nigeria to Libya by a trafficker identified as Charles, perished in the Sahara Desert, in the course of the journey. The returnee, also said seven members of the group also died inside a Libyan jail from hunger and thirst.

Recently, a non-governmental organisation, the Network of Civil Society Organisations Against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labour (NACTAL), has also urged the Federal Government and stakeholders to empower Nigerian returnees from Libya and European countries.

National President of the network, Mr Adaramola Emmanuel, gave the advice in an interview, saying that this would prevent the returnees from falling into the hands of traffickers again and the foundation and areas of interest of the returnees must be taken into consideration, while empowering them on skills acquisition.

Also speaking, governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, has hailed the magnanimity of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewaure II, for placing some returnees from Libya on salary, noting that the gesture was a landmark effort in rehabilitating the returnees.

He also called on philanthropists and business moguls to emulate the gesture.
The governor, in a statement, said that the gesture shows Oba Ewuare II’s commitment to seeing that the youths, who have returned home from treacherous sojourn overseas, are catered for and protected from the vagaries of idleness.

According to the governor, “I commend the Oba’s support for the returnees. This has shown that the Oba is not just committed to ensuring that our youths break loose from the grip of human trafficking, but that those who survived the hellish experience in Libya are catered for and do not have any reasons whatsoever to go back to their vomit.”

Noting that the Oba Ewaure II’s gesture came at a time the returnees need to be assured that they are not left in the lurch, Obaseki said, “This gesture came at the right time and will further complement the state government’s efforts to rehabilitate the returnees and reintegrate them into society. We are delighted and appreciate the Oba’s support since the onset of the recent campaign to stem the tide of illegal migration and human trafficking.”

The governor said much as the Oba of Benin is to be commended for the gesture, it was imperative to use the opportunity to call on philanthropists, wealthy Edo businessmen and others to support the campaign by also providing such palliative measure in rehabilitating the returnees.

“We, at this juncture, want to call on our illustrious sons and daughters to join in this campaign and help our brothers and sisters as they settle back into society. The Oba’s gesture is a clarion call to all. Much as the state government is committing resources to make this happen, we are certain that this cause could do with more hands. This will help build structures and institutions to stem the tide of the menace and restore our ethos and pride as a people,” Obaseki said.

A cleric with the Omega Fire Ministries, Mr Azemhe Azena, has warned parents against encouraging their children to embark on illegal migration.

Azena gave the advice when he played host to Mr Solomon Okoduwa, the senior special assistant to Gov Godwin Obaseki of Edo on Illegal Migration and Human Trafficking, during a church service on Sunday in Benin, he warned that parents, who encourage their children to embark on these journeys as well as the traffickers, are working against God’s purposes.

According to him, while the law of the land would catch up with them if they do not stop the act, God would also visit their sins, saying rather than embarking on a risky journey through the desert, the youths must realise that there are greater opportunities for them in Nigeria.

“Some people, especially the youths, are being deceived into embarking on this journey with lucrative offers of jobs that do not exist there. There is nothing special there that is not here. There is no better life there that is not here. It is easier to make it in Nigeria than abroad. You must make it and don’t be deceived by anybody on travelling abroad for a better life” he said

He said the Obaseki administration was worried that more than half of Nigerian returnees from Libya are from Edo.
Okoduwa had said the governor was working hard to change this narrative by investing massively in human capital development and engaging youths through the Edo Job Portal.

“We have a total of 3,220 Libya returnees as I speak, but we are saying this must not be allowed to continue.
“What we are saying is that the government cannot do it all alone, we are appealing to religious leaders and the traditional institution to help mount vigorous campaigns against this menace,’’ he said.

LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that Human Rights Activist and president, Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration, Immigration, Development and Reintegration (IYAMIDR), Mr Solomon Okoduwa, who had campaigned for government to take the issue of Nigerian migrants in Libya seriously, had also made several personal sacrifices to bring the issue of Nigerian migrants in Libya to the attention of the authorities without much success until the CNN blew the issue open to the world of the modern slavery in Libya and Europe.

In his words “Now that we have thousands of Nigerians returning from their ill-fated journey in search of hope and greener pastures, it is incumbent on government and the non-state actors alike to work out their rehabilitation and reintegration into the society. It is not time for trading blames. It is time for all hands to be on deck to show them love and care. It is not a job for government alone. Government needs the support of the public in not only rehabilitating the returnees, but also to take measures to burst the cartels involved in the trade.”

The returnees without capacities and skills need to be empowered. It is heart-warming to know that the state government is on the driver’s seat also for this. This should not be left for government alone. Business counselors and experts need to move in to provide some technical training and support for the returnees. This is the only way society can prove and correct the injustices they have suffered.

Tackling human trafficking at all fronts would require very strong institutions. It is quite good also that the taskforce against human trafficking has tendered a bill for passage at the State House of Assembly to give bite to the campaign and set effective punitive measures against those fueling the illegal trade in the state. The proposed law must provide very stringent punishments for offenders to deter them, whether in Nigeria or abroad, from the illicit trade.

The National Assembly also needs to accelerate the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill and provide serious sanctions against human traffickers in the country and should be able to track their overseas links and dismantle them. Modern slavery must be brought to an immediate end. The onus of achieving this lies with both government and citizens.

If elected public officials, fulfilled even half of their electioneering campaign promises, the number of irregular migrants from Nigeria would reduce drastically.