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Greener pastures: Libya returnees’ tales and repatriation debate

.We can’t blame government – Ubani

.‘It’s the direct consequence of bad governance’ – Joe Odumakin

.There is need for more awareness, says NAPTIP DG

Trapped in the chasm of destitution, he was ready to put his life on the line to escape poverty’s dark cell. After weighing all the available options, David Onah, a plumber and National Diploma certificate holder, concluded that travelling to Europe would bring the needed transformation he craved for.

Having been repatriated to Nigeria from Libya after a botched attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea, his is a story of a lucky survivor that walked through the valley of the shadow of death but escaped being grabbed by the icy hands of death.

On arrival via a Chartered BURAQ Airline 737 marked 5A – DMG at the Cargo wing of Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos on December 8, 2017, the joy of arriving back to his fatherland safe and sound went sour with the thought of creditors anxiously waiting to be settled after bankrolling a failed trip that cost him N1.3million.

But, David does not have the monopoly of stories that touch the heart.

Another Nigerian, 27-year-old Eric Idemudia desired Eldorado but got stuck in the ghettos of Libya. He had thought slave trade had ended.

Unfortunately for David, he was one of the Nigerians sold by Nigerians to fellow Nigerians as slaves in Libya. He drank his own urine like juice and watched humans die and thrown away like chickens while in the desert. Having seen it all, he has this advice for struggling Nigerians, “I cannot advise anybody to pass through this in life‘.’

Speaking like someone well taught by experience, he added that, “People died like chickens everyday there. I buried many people with my bare hands. So, it is better to suffer here than over there. Even if you don’t have food to eat in your country, it is better than going to Libya to die. I was a bricklayer before I left and I am ready to go back to it.’’

Almost on a daily basis in recent times, stories of how repatriated Nigerians from Libya hit the headlines. In their hundreds and thousands, they sing songs of lamentation and tell tales of woes over their sad experiences.

While some Nigerians receive them with dry eyes, stating without mincing words that they got what they asked for, a handful of others sympathise with their compatriots over what they describe as man’s inhumanity to man.

But, the repatriation of Nigerians and the obsession with Europe and America have sparked debate about whether or not the federal government is doing enough to make Nigeria comfortable for Nigerians in certain quarters.

No reason to seek greener pastures abroad – Ubani

Commenting on the matter, the second Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Onyekachi Ubani, said Nigeria has enough resources for everyone to make it big. He, however, advised young ones to embrace agriculture, urging Nigerians not to waste their lives seeking greener pastures abroad.

He said, “It’s been happening since Nigeria’s independence. It’s a welcome development that they are being repatriated to Nigeria. Let them come back to their fatherland and go into agriculture and other businesses. We have land to cultivate. Nigeria is a rich country. Let us not waste our lives looking for greener pasture.

How can a young man go to Libya and waste his life looking for what is in Nigeria? We have farmlands and mineral resources. How can a woman leave Nigeria and go for prostitution? Is that not what they are doing there? Let them come back and do good business and go into farming and cultivate to help Nigeria. So, why not be in Nigeria and do whatever business they want to do?’’

Ubani added that governments cannot be blamed if people decide to seek greener pastures.

“We can’t blame government. Our families, the parents should be blamed. When they can be blamed is when they don’t provide the amenities for farming,’’ he added.

Repatriation of Nigerians, consequence of bad governance’ – Okei-Odumakin

On her part, rights activist and the President of Women Arise, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, traced the repatriation of Nigerians from Libya to bad governance.

She added that the inhuman treatment meted out to Nigerians in Libya was disheartening.

She said,“The everyday repatriation is a direct consequence of bad governance we have had to endure for a long time. But beyond the issue of bad governance, we must as a people begin to appreciate what we have because not all that glitters is gold.

“No matter how bad we may want to complain about the situation in Nigeria, people still make millions in this country legitimately without having to bend the rules or carry guns. It is in our best interest to have our nationals back home. The level of lawlessness and inhuman treatment meted out to Africans particularly in Libya is very disheartening.”

Action and cause cannot be isolated- Effiong

For the Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Mr Inibehe Effiong, he says he will not dehumanise those in search of greener pastures by blaming them for their travails.

Inibehe said: “These are people looking for solution to the problems of unemployment, the problem of lack of infrastructure, the problem of poverty and the problem of poor economy. These are issues that are affecting the Nigerian people. For me, those who are leaving are leaving out of necessity. They are leaving out of compulsion.

He continued: “While I do not agree with the risk being taken, my view is that the circumstance is created by the Nigerian government.

“You are aware that we have so many issues in this country that the government has not resolved. I see the migrants as victims of the Nigerian state. Nobody will have a good condition at home and go to another man’s land. They are victims of bad governance.’’

On what the Federal Government should do, Inibehe had this to say: “The government should ensure that policies are put in place to discourage Nigerians from embarking on this kind of journey. We need to educate Nigerians on the risk involved. And, we cannot isolate the action from the cause or the consequence. Look at why migration is taking place as risky as it is. It is not enough to bring them back, what are we doing to better the lot of our people? That is what should concern the Nigerian government.’’

There is need for more awareness – NAPTIP DG

Meanwhile, the Director General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, has said that all hands must be on deck to stop smuggling and trafficking in persons by Nigerians within and outside Nigeria, saying that there is need for a lot awareness to stop unsuspecting Nigerians from being smuggled to Libya.

The NAPTIB boss also told The Daily Times that, “We have a working relationship with the government of Libya. We see this ending very soon. The smugglers who take them along take a lot of money. It’s not a free trip. By the grace of God, everything will be okay soon. Once people are aware of the dangers of being smuggled abroad, I think it will be reduced drastically”.

Okah-Donli also said three Nigerians allegedly involved in trafficking of smuggled Nigerians in Libya had been arrested.

“We have arrested two suspects that were identified by some of the returnees. They are being investigated and they are in custody. We have another one that has been sent to the Lagos command,” she added.

Ladesope Ladelokun

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