Nigeria migrants evacuated from Libya by the Federal Government on Sunday have described their experiences as “hellish.” On arrival at the Port Harcourt International Airport on Sunday, one of the returnees shouted, “see food oh” when he sighted Federal Government officials serving plates of rice with water to the victims.
Six-month pregnant Lewisa Comfort, 23, narrated her experience to The Guardian. She said: “The Nigerians who collected money and took us to Libya usually betrayed us. They did sell Nigerian ladies to Arab men for about N200,000 and the Arab men would use the girls as sex machines and for house cleaning jobs and with all these, we would only be given one dry bread to eat per day without water.
“If you were sold to a black man, it was a continuous sale, because the black men kept selling and re-selling the individual, just to make money. Human trafficking is the only lucrative business in Libya. “The situation there is very bad, so pathetic that it is not an experience one would wish his worst enemy. The desert experience is worse than the sea experience. In my set, 14 Hilux vans carrying 27 passengers each left Nigeria but only 10 people survived. More than 1,000 died.”
The pretty lady, who hails from Edo State, disclosed that some of them paid between N600,000 and N800,000 to cross over to Italy but regretted that their hopes were dashed when they were left stranded in Libya.Lewisa said when they arrived in Libya, some of them were arrested, while some were sold out. Others were moved from prison to prison with severe toture. “No water or food,” she said.She said the hellish experience forced most of them to fast and pray, seeking divine intervention for rescue.
According to her, “When we were going through all these experiences, we decided to turn our hunger into fasting and prayers .We fasted and prayed for three days and we saw ourselves as one; there was unity (of mind) among all of us in Libya.
“It was on the third day when our fasting ended we heard the cheering news that our President Muhammadu Buhari, has sent some delegations to come and evacuate us out from Libya and we were very happy, we are so glad that finally, we are back to our country and we have our freedom.”
She advised those nursing the idea to travel out of the country through illegal means to have a rethink, warning that it is better to learn skills and work with freedom in Nigeria than to be a slave in a foreign country.
She lamented that she left the country due to frustration, saying the educational system in Nigeria is very costly with no jobs at the end.
“As a graduate, I was earning N8, 000 monthly where I was teaching and before the month ran halfway, the money would have been exhausted. At a point, I was tired and decided to go look for greener pastures.”
Lewisa also urged the Federal Government to create the enabling environment that would help people learn skills, trade, work and become useful to society.
Another returnee, Shedrack Lagarde, said he was happy to return to Nigeria alive, noting that six of his friends died in his presence due to hunger and severe torture.On his part, Harry Musa said, “it feels very good to be home,” adding, “one does not know what he has until he loses it. Now we know that there is no place like home.”
While disclosing that he ate only two spoonfuls of indomie for two months, he advised people not to travel to foreign countries illegally.Meanwhile, the President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), Dr. Ona Ekhomu, has advised the Federal Government to ensure proper vetting and documentation of the Nigerian returnees from Libya before releasing them to society.
This is to detect ISIS fighters who might be masquerading as Nigerian returnees.In a statement yesterday, Ekhomu said that given the threat of infiltration into Nigeria of ISIS fighters, it is prudent to carefully prove the identity of each of the returnees before releasing them.“Some of these people might have pledged Bayat (loyalty or oath) to ISIS. They need to be separated from those who migrated for economic reasons,” he added.He observed that there was no way of knowing a Nigerian by face. And it is presumed that most of the returnees do not have travel documents.It is therefore, merely assumed that they are Nigerians.
A questionnaire must be quickly drawn up to enable the returnees to prove their national identity. These should include questions about their date of birth, place of birth, LGA, name of town, traditional ruler, primary and secondary school attended, ethnic nationality and native language spoken.
In order to discern their purpose for migration, Ekhomu suggested that they should be questioned about the source of funds for their trip to Libya, while all information provided must be quickly investigated (verified) and each individual cleared to enter society.
Ekhomu commended Buhari for ordering the repatriation of the Nigerians: “As a responsible government, the Federal Government did the right thing by bringing back ‘fellow Nigerians’ to our country.The security expert noted: “Nigeria currently has too many active killing fields, and does not need the threat of ISIS infiltration.”