EVEN though the Federal Government wasted a lot of time before swinging into action when outrage over the sale of Nigerian migrants into slavery was exposed, we are encouraged by reports that up to 3,000 out of the estimated 5,000 stranded in Libya were brought home before the end of December 2017, going by the words of Ambassador Illiya Danladi Fachano, Nigeria’s Charge D’Affaires in Libya.
We also rejoice with those of them who have returned to their fatherland and to freedom after falling prey to human traffickers in their deluded search for “better life” in Europe. We are optimistic that their experiences and stories which are now within the reach of anyone who cares, will be a useful lesson to other young men and women.
Now that most of them are back home, it is important for the government and people of Nigeria (especially Edo State, the epicentre and major recipient of these returnees) to be conscious of their needs which we must address to avoid opening another uncontrollable chapter of social security problems for our people.
The Federal Government and the various states receiving these returnees must stand up to the primary duty of government, which is to cater for the needs of citizens especially the vulnerable.
These individuals must be properly profited to establish the correct identity of every one of them. We must guard against a situation where we unwittingly allow foreigners and people with links to radical Islamist groups in war-torn Libya to come into our midst and cause mayhem. They should not be sent home in their current state of financial and psychological destitution. Otherwise, the rest of the law-abiding members of society may not sleep with their eyes closed.
We commend the decision of the Edo State Government to commence the payment of monthly stipends to the returnees who hail from their state, and urge other states to emulate this gesture. The Federal Government should immediately enlist all of them for the monthly N5,000 paid to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians for which N500 billion was voted in the Federal budget last year.
They should also be given the opportunity to learn some trades and crafts which will enable them to earn a decent living and remain law abiding. The state agents of reorientation should mount public education to prevent the possible stigmatisation of these returnees.
We call on the security agencies to be alert and observe them for a period in case some of them are tempted to drift into crimes such as robbery, kidnapping, cultism, militancy and terrorism.
We must manage this human crisis professionally and ensure that they are resettled properly within the society with minimal disruptions.