A total of 16,387 Nigerians were repatriated from different parts of the world in 2017.Comptroller General of immigration, Mr. Muhammed Babandede, who gave the figure yesterday as the Federal Government delegation to Libya disclosed their findings, however expressed worries that more Nigerians might be deported this year.
According to Babandede, out of the16,387 figure, only 5,908 were evacuated from Libya, 3,836 were deported from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia while 6,643 were sent home from other countries of the world.He said: “I want to state that in 2017 alone, we received in to the country, 5908 deportees specifically from Libya. So, if you add that figure to the 485 we received on January 7, it will give you a total of 6,393 deportees received Libya.”
On the total however, 3,498 males, 2,684 females and 211 minors were evacuated from Libya in 2017. “The ratio between male and female is almost balance”, Babandede stated.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, had on January 5, led government delegation on a fact finding mission towards the evacuation of Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya.He revealed that they engaged Libyan government at the very highest level on how to facilitate the evacuation of remaining stranded Nigerians in the country.
He however cited political and security challenges as factors against smooth repatriation of Nigerians remaining in Libya. “There are different centres of power in Libya. The central government recognized by the United Nations and African Union does not have full control of the territories controlled by rebels.
“There are over 50 detention camps in Libya, some of them not under the country of the UN-backed government,” he stated. Aside Libya and Saudi Arabia, the Minister noted South Africa, Italy and Austria toppedthe list of countries from where large number of Nigerians have been repatriated.
“The total number we have from other countries is 6643, which is greater than the one in Libya.”He further explained that not all Nigerians in Libya were in slave camp as being reported.
According to Babandede, while some were trafficked for sexually exploited, others irregular migrants seeking greener pasture, majority however live and work legitimately in Libya as revealed in a meeting with Nigerian community in the country.
“A questionnaire must be quickly drawn up to enable the returnees prove their national identity. These should include questions about their date of birth, place of birth, LGA, name of own traditional ruler, primary and secondary school attended, ethnic nationality, native language spoken among others. In order to discern their purpose for migration, they should be questioned about the source of funds for their trip to Libya,All information provided must be quickly verified and each individual cleared to enter society.’’
He praised President Muhammadu Buhari for ordering the repatriation of the Nigerians. He said that as a responsible government, the Federal Government did the right thing by bringing back “fellow Nigerians” to the country. However, the Government must again do the “responsible thing” of ascertaining the true identity of these returnees as there is a high probability that a few of them may be ISIS Fighters escaping from Libya, or coming to Nigeria to carry out a possible terrorist plot.
Ekhomu said: “Nigeria has too many active killing fields right now, and does not need the threat of ISIS infiltration. Preventing extremist elements from entering the country under any disguise was an effective strategy of counter-extremism.’’