By Patrick Dele Cole
THE Nigerians who cross the Sahara on their way to Europe were exploited by all kinds of people: in Nigeria in Benin by the agent, in Sahara, on the way to Agadez, by Bedouins and Berbers who extorted money from them.
In Libya, they were sold as slaves usually because they could not pay the asking price which had doubled since they left Benin or for any capricious reason by the racketeers.
Many thousands die in the Mediterranean Sea while crossing Italy or Greece. When rescued; they sought asylum. Many ended up in immigrant camps, with little food and water. Some escaped or are helped to escape for a fee to get to Europe, the Promised Land. Those who did regard their ordeal as a success. Some soon settled down, marry, work; send money home to parents, build houses, in Benin and elsewhere, etc.
All these economic migrant adventurers claim that the reason for leaving was there were no opportunities in Nigeria for them to work.
There is some evidence to support this: for example, 6 million Nigerian were refused university places in five years. Nigeria has massive graduate unemployment even among the few who go to university. There is no viable scheme for skill acquisition and no political will to engage the unemployed beyond slogans.
Frustrations make them fall into the hands of racketeers – African and European, which make them prey to the recruiter (huntsmen) and racketeers.
We in effect have a self-perpetuating myth because the inadequacy of Government, business, and family to respond at all levels. The upshot is the inability to manage ambition, even when these ambitious are irresponsible and unrealistic.
Europe’s hunger for cheap labour, cheap sex, stories which Europeans tell back home about opportunities in Nigeria/African encourage the traffic; expatriate salaries in Africa compared to local salaries merely exacerbate a bad situation.
Some feel that if Europeans can earn such huge salaries in Africa, why should Africans not have such differential pay in Europe? Even legitimate services – an expatriate doctor or engineer – earns well above his Nigerian counterpart in Nigeria. When the Nigerian doctor or engineer works in Europe the Nigeria has no such luck: in fact, his pay, some claim, is usually less.
Victor was sold as a slave, rescued in Libya, deported to Nigeria. CNN traced him back to Benin where his story originally began and thus informing CNN’s story of how the trade is conducted.
The CNN does not tell us how or by whom Victor was rescued. When slaves are sold it is usually for life but Victor is able to escape. Large swarth of Southern Sudan is occupied by Nigerians – at last count – over 1.5 million – usually people on their way to Mecca who failed to do so. There are Nigerians in almost all the countries in Africa. But they are not slaves.
Long before the CNN exposé, Nigerian women have been recruited and trafficked, mainly by people from East European countries – Serbia, Montenegro, Chek, Slovakia, and Russia. Others are Italian, Dutch traffickers who use a different route – the women fly into these countries and join an elaborate network of prostitution, menial labour during which they pay off their recruiters, sometimes with promises that the Nigerians arrange for their sisters, and relatives and friends as new fodder for the system. Hundreds are enterprising, work hard, pay off their debts, marry locally, and send money home. Benin is full of houses built by women who live overseas.
Back to Victor: he is vocal in captivity – and returns to Nigeria. If CNN can find him, so can many other organizations. What has happened to Victor and other returnees in Nigeria? Our security service presumably has debriefed them. If so how come no arrest of the traffickers in Benin and elsewhere despite the boast of Edo State Attorney General.
There are Nigerian’s who are enamored to NGOs. Why is there not one trying to help returnees?
Government response has so far been short of any coherent policy and woefully inadequate. An old adage is don’t give fish to a person: rather teach him how to fish.
If a CNN reporter can identify the traffickers in Nigeria, so can our security forces – why not persecute and jail them for their activities? The usual panacea of job training, counseling, etc. should be employed in Nigeria for Victor and his ilk. What is the ministry of Nigeria Foreign Affairs doing in Libya? We always had a robust security service system in Libya and Niger and Chad? What happened? Is there no Consular Service in Libya?
However, we should ask the Bleeding Hearts of the United States and Europe, who broke Libya? The traffickers started operating fully, after the West removed the most effective Government in Libya since 1966. They orchestrated the destruction of Gadhafi without replacing him with an effective Government – a feat they repeated in Egypt and Iraq and Iran. Western interests in these areas are different and opposed to the progressive interests of the people of the area.
The West must own the vessel they broke in Libya in as much the same way as they must own that broken in Egypt and the rest of the Maghreb.
Why does Libya want slaves? Don’t they have enough workers? The CNN does not tell us this because it would explain why a widespread practice of two or three auctions is held daily in Libya.
Victor wants to be a designer but there are technical colleges in Nigeria – why didn’t he go there? What was his qualification which made him unable to get a job? Many of the returnees have claimed that they saved N1.5 million which they spent on the Libyan adventure.
According to CNN, there is international complicity in the trafficking of slaves. The arrival of these economic migrants is one of the feedstock for the far right movement and the isolation politics in Europe.
The world response when CNN aired this programme operation of slavery was against the West. This was massive. The reaction in Nigeria was tepid and even indifferent.
The West moved to repatriate 15,000 instead of the miserable 1000 per month.
CNN traced those repatriated – CNN comes to Nigeria, to an unsavoury neighbourhood where they men Pusherman, Eveke and an army of traffickers – selling hopes through trafficking human beings. The pusherman Eveke arranged for them to go to Auchi the North of Edo State. The programme now introduced the possibility that women were or might be abused – Eveke – knows and tell them – gives them condoms. The arrangement was that you pay nothing at the beginning; payment was to be made in Libya. In my more cynical mood, I would have doubted several aspects of this arrangement. The CNN did not find one female in camp in Libya. Eveke’s “introduction” of condoms may have been to sex up the story by CNN.
Thus a customer presumably carried the money and contraception during the trip.
The Edo Attorney General condemned the traffic, threatened prosecution and imprisonment but gratuitously added that the causes of human trafficking had “deep cultural roots, which must be exposed and pulled out”. Really!! Mr. A.G. what could this possibly mean?
We are told that Victor was responsible for his mother and three siblings – Victor was of an indeterminable age anywhere between 26 and 36 years old. He had, he claimed, returned to poverty which was worse than slavery. He hoped to go to Europe again through Libya
Victor is responsible for mother including a baby and 3 siblings but have no father. Victor looks like 30 years old, what was his CV and what did he do to collect N1.5million plus the other money that was lost to rescue him?