95 Libya returnees arrive Nigeria

By Evelyn Usman

A chartered Boeing 737-800 aircraft- Al Buraq, landed at the cargo wing of  Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja Lagos,  Wednesday night, with 159 stranded Nigerians returnees  from Libya ,alighting from the air stair.

Two of them could barely walk unassisted.  While one  sat on a wheelchair, the other was with crutches. They stood at the aircraft’s service door, unable to alight, until officials of the National Emergency Management Agency ,NEMA went to carry them to a waiting ambulance.

The returnees’ gloomy countenances changed immediately they stepped on the soil of their fatherland, a mission most of them thought was impossible owing to the near-death conditions treatments in their search for a better living condition in a strange land.

Statistics of returnee

 This is not the first time stranded Nigerians would be assisted back home  from Libya. Statistics at Saturday Vanguard’s disposal revealed that  between 2016 and February 2022, 17,414 Nigerians have been assisted back home from Libya alone.

A breakdown of this figure showed that   315 Nigerians voluntarily returned in 2016; 6,806 returned  in 2017;  4,123 in 2018 and 4,628 in 2019.

In 2020,   816 stranded Nigerian returnees were assisted back home from Libya   and 360 of them in 2021. Between January and February 2022 alone,  the nation has witnessed  the return of  346 stranded Nigerians .

Out of this number, 167 were repatriated from Libya , in addition to the  159 Nigerians that voluntarily returned on Wednesday . Among  the latest returnees  were  80 adult females,  four female children and an infant . There were also 67 adult males, six children and one male infant.

Astonishingly, the majority of the ladies whose ages were between 20 and 43, were discovered to be from the South West region of the state, as against previous insinuation  that girls from Edo State were specialists in travelling out of the country.

The deceit

With the number of Nigerian returnees from Libya and the constant reportage of their  near death  experiences there, one would have expected  Nigerian  youths to shun the temptation of attempting to go through the valley of death  in their search for greener pasture.

Surprisingly, among those who just returned were undergraduates who abandoned their studies in Nigeria . Some of them were also discovered to have left just last year , thereby leaving one to wonder if they never read the robust reports of previous returnees either on the pages of  newspapers or  on  different  social media handles.

One of  the returnees  who  proffered  an answer to this question  blamed  some travel agents for their woes, saying they were never told from the onset that their destination was Libya. But this has always been the story, yet many yearly embark on this grave journey.

Too late to turn back

For  Mrs Olaitan who hails from Oyo State, she had this to say: “  My  journey to Libya started when I got the news that I could  get a good job overseas. I left my job at Ikeja, Lagos   to embark on the journey for  a better life. I left Lagos in 2018, with some other people who were also deceived. The agents said  some of us were going to Germany and others, Italy. We were excited as we prepared for the  journey . We were told that the process would  start when we got to Kano state.

 The  journey to greener pastures took us about a month. Some of us were stranded and ran  out of cash. We passed so many terrorist camps before we got to Libya. We stayed without food for  days until we eventually reached Libya.

“What we saw  in Libya wasn’t what we were told. Rather, we were told that the available jobs were prostitution and house-help. By then, going back home was difficult.  We were used like slaves, with no time  to rest.

“We worked as a maid and were paid between N50,000 and N70,000, depending on the agreement with the family we worked for. But prostitution was the best chance of survival. Those who worked  in the hospital also had their fair share  of the hellish condition.

 I paid up to N2million  to settle with my agent. Many others went into prostitution because that was the fastest way they could pay their agents”.

 On her part,  32- year- old single mother, Oluwande Aisha, who left Nigeria in 2018, also said her agent never told her she was going to Libya.

She said:  “ We spent  one month  in the desert before we arrived  Libya.  On reaching there, I worked as a maid for one year and six months before I could pay N1.8 million to the agent who sponsored the trip.

Working as a maid is horrible. There was never a time to rest except after midnight.  We were drained to the extent that  we had no strength to work. Besides,  security agents were very unfriendly too.  I regret making that move and I am glad to be  home”

Abandoned university education

For  28-year Foluke Olatunji,  she abandoned her  education at the  Federal Polytechnic, Offa,  Ilorin, Kwara State, with the intention to go to Europe to further her study and at the same time, work.

She said: “  I had a  friend  who had  been assisting me  for a long time, when I lamented about the situation in Nigeria. At one point she stopped  and suggested I should come over . I thought over the matter for two months before deciding to leave.

“My journey started at Agege, Pen Cinema, to Kano,   where I met other girls .  On our journey in the desert,   our vehicle  had technical problems.  I got scared  and started crying,  I wanted to go back but I was told  to pay  N100,000.

“When I got to Libya, the woman  I was supposed to meet was nowhere to be found. I was told she was in Italy. I confronted my friend who linked me up with the opportunity to  express my disappointment to her because this was not what we agreed.

“ I spent three years and some months in Libya working as a house maid. I was told to pay 1.7million naira to the agent that facilitated the journey. I  was shocked and surprised because none of this was mentioned to me, I was only promised help, and was told that whatever I wished to do after, would be appreciated. Other Nigerian ladies I met there told me how they were deceived with mouth watery promises of good jobs.

For me, the family  I stayed with could speak English .So, it was easy for me to communicate. However after paying, my agent still collected my 10 months’ salary, without giving me a dime. This was because we were not paid directly.

“ I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t inform my parents about my journey to Libya.  Even when I got there, I lied to them that  I was in  Dubai. I came back to Nigeria to continue my education, even if I have  to start afresh. I hope other Nigerian youths will learn from my story” she said bitterly.

Chained for 10 days

During a chat with 23-year-old Bose, an Ogun state born,  she spoke with difficulty as she was still writhing in  excruciating pains from her broken leg.

Her ordeal was the most pathetic as she revealed that she was chained for 10 days for refusing to go into prostitution , in order to pay  her agent.

According to her: “After   completing my apprenticeship in nursing here in Nigeria,  I got an opportunity to work overseas as a trainee for six months.  I was not the only one involved. I got excited and jumped on the opportunity. I went with my certificate with the hope of getting a job after the training, unknown to all of us that we were being taken to Libya for prostitution and human trafficking.

“The picture of what we would face yonder started in the one month journey in the desert. When we arrived there, I was shocked that all they  told us about getting jobs and training were  lies.

“Rather, I was sold to a Nigerian family . This was  a routine for everyone who  was  taken there with the promise of  getting a  Job. To my greatest surprise, the human  trafficking business  was mostly done by Nigerians who have stayed long  there. That is one major way of making money.  They sell us to families in need of our services, especially  for prostitution ,so we can be used to make money for them.

On getting to the Nigerian family I was sold to, I  was chained  with wire and a cloth was put in my throat, with tape covering my mouth. They told me  I would remain there  if  I refused  to go into  prostitution, that it was the only job they could offer me.  I rejected the offer and I was kept in a room for about a week and three days. The wife of the man later directed   that I should be untied and  sold away. “ When I got to the second family, I was taken to a place called  connection house for prostitution.  In the connection house,   both boys and girls were  kept there for prostitution.  That is also a place where human beings are sold as in the days of slave trade

“I was lucky to get a telephone call from a man there , with which I contacted my family. That was how I managed to escape to Nigeria’s embassy.

“ But other girls are still trapped there. Some died of diseases while a lot of them are  living with different types of venereal diseases because of the different types of men who came to have them against their volition. Some of these men would not take their bath for days . Some of them  who looked sickly  would not use condom”.

NEMA DG speaks 

Director General of NEMA, Alhaji Mustapha Ahmed who received the last batch of Nigerian returnees from Libya , Wednesday, admonished them to  adopt a positive attitude towards life challenges.

Represented by the Lagos Territorial Office Coordinator, Ibrahim Farinloye, he said, “It is normal in life to struggle for better and improved living conditions. But  in the struggle, we must avoid endangering our lives. There is nowhere in the world that its citizens will not have to strive to  attain a good life within the limited resources available in that country.

“Nigeria is better endowed  than most countries where young Nigerians are travelling to seek greener pastures. What we need to do is for all of us to look inward and avail ourselves of the countless opportunities in Nigeria.

“ Government of the day  has been providing an enabling environment for us to thrive and will continue to cooperate with development partners in creating level playing grounds for all Nigerians in the country”, he said even as he advised them to discourage other youths who have the intention of migrating.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.