President Muhammadu Buhari has said the Federal Government was hoping to evacuate identified stranded Nigerians in Libya back to Nigeria and rehabilitate them. This came on the heels of reports that hundreds of African refugees and migrants passing through Libya were being bought and sold into slavery.
This came on the heels of reports that hundreds of African refugees and migrants passing through Libya were being bought and sold into slavery.
Meanwhile, no fewer than 11,600 migrants of Nigeria origin are facing repatriation from different parts of the world, Hajia Sadia Umar Faruk, Chief Executive Officer of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, has said.
Speaking while interacting with the Nigerian community in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on Tuesday night, Buhari, who is in Abidjan for the 5th European Union-African Union (EU-AU) Summit, said those still there would be evacuated.
He assured Nigerians that his administration would do everything humanly possible to make the country conducive to discourage youths from embarking on the journey and risking their lives.
To make the country conducive, President Buhari promised that fixing security as well as providing other critical infrastructure would also reduce the chances of people taking the risk and ending up in the Mediterranean Sea, adding that efforts had been made in that direction which had started yielding positive results in agriculture.
He said: “Whenever Nigerians are identified, especially in Libya and so on, we hope to evacuate them back home and then rehabilitate them because the indoctrination is what is happening with the Boko Haram where girls, mainly from the ages of 15 downwards, will strap themselves and go to the market, blow themselves up and anybody around in motor parks, mosques, churches and so on.
“I am telling you all these because I know that those of you who are making it here I’m sure send contributions home for feeding and for school fees and healthcare. “These are the basic things that the government should do and we are to make sure that the people challenging the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean to perish will be less of Nigerians.
‘’It was announced that 26 Nigerians died but before they could prove that they were all Nigerians, they were buried. But the evidence I got from the Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs now is that only three were identified as Nigerians.
“But I won’t be surprised if majority of them were really Nigerians. And for people to cross the Sahara Desert to go into shanty boats across the Mediterranean Sea, I think we will try and keep them at home.
“But for anyone who dared the desert and the Mediterranean without documents to prove that he/she is a Nigerian, there is nothing we can do, absolutely nothing. “In the interview some of you saw, some of the Nigerians said they were being sold like goats for a few dollars for years in Libya. Now after 43 years of Gaddafi where he recruited so many people from the Sahel, including Nigeria and so on, all they learned was how to shoot and kill.
“They didn’t learn to become electricians, plumbers or any other trade. So, when the Libyans stood against their leader, those who are not their people, they chased out.
‘’A lot of them came back home with their workers, some of them became part of Boko Haram.
“So, I’m telling you that our major problem as we have identified, is still the security of the country. We have done much better, everybody is saying it. And then we are talking very regularly with the Niger Delta and the leadership because they know they are holding the throat of the country economically.”
Buhari, who stressed the need for Nigerians in Côte d’Ivoire to be good ambassadors by obeying the law of their host country, urged them to also report those portraying the image of the country in bad light to the embassy so that the bad eggs will be flushed out.
He said: “For you to be good ambassadors of our dear country, it is to live by the law of the country and as much as possible, the bad eggs here among you, you should report quietly to the embassy so that we can get them and repatriate them home as the ambassador has said.
“We, being the biggest country in Africa, at least 180 million people, the requirement for infrastructure is especially education because if you educate people, they can look after themselves and then, of course, healthcare.
“But I’m telling you there is a lot of work to be done back home. We are doing our best and the leadership at all levels are doing their best and the problem we are having is with those being indoctrinated and are hurting our people, blowing up people in mosques, churches, marketplaces, motor parks, which is absolute madness. “No religion advocates violence; all religions advocate justice from your home, town, household to whatever you become, Justice is the basic thing all religion demand.’’
Also speaking, the Nigerian Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, Ibrahim Isah, noted that the largest number of Nigerians in Sub-Sahara Africa, second only to Sudan, were in Côte d’Ivoire, adding that they were as many as 1.5 million. Ambassador Isah, who is just about three months old in his post, said the greatest challenge facing the embassy was the issue of child trafficking and prostitution, disclosing that 50 persons had been repatriated since he resumed.
He said: “We are facing the challenge of child trafficking and prostitution. Over 50 persons have been repatriated since I came three months ago. We put them across to Lagos through the Young Shall Grow Motors and give them stipends. “We have succeeded in getting three traffickers jailed here in Côte d’Ivoire but we need National Agency for the Prohibition Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, and the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to continue doing what they are doing until we stop this illicit trade.”
On her part, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora and Foreign Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said a total of 5,000 Nigerians stranded in Libya had been brought back to the country under the present administration. She regretted, however, that some of them have sadly found their way back, despite warnings, expressing hope that with President Buhari’s directive on massive evacuation, all of them would be back to Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, charged the Federal Government to save Nigerians from slave auctions in Libya. Senate President, Bukola Saraki, described the Libya slave trade reports as a slap in the face of Nigerians.
Saraki said this after Kaka Baba Bashir (Borno Central), had sponsored a motion on the urgent need to protect Nigerian citizens from being sold into slavery. The Senate President wondered why the country had not done anything about the situation.
He said: “Libya slave trade is a slap on us all if a state like Cote D’Ivoire is taking step to address this act while we have not done so.’’ While moving the motion, Bashir had described the slave trade as a “sickening crime against humanity,” wondering why Nigeria was “indifferent”, despite being one of the most affected countries. He said: “This is a humiliation not just to Nigeria and Africa as a whole but also to human civilization and the fundamental principles of human rights under the United Nations Charter.