Gover­ment to bring back stranded Nige­ri­ans in Libya

• Se­nate, rights group task govt, seek EU-AU in­quiry on slav­ery • Buhari hints on con­test­ing in 2019

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - From Az­i­mazi Mo­moh Ji­moh, Ter­hemba Daka (Abuja) and Ber­tram Nwan­nekanma (La­gos)

NIGE­RI­ANS stranded in Libya and other parts of the world would be brought home and re­ha­bil­i­tated, Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has stated.

He spoke against the back­drop of re­cent re­ports that hun­dreds of African

refugees and mi­grants in Libya were be­ing sold into slav­ery.

The re­ports in­di­cated mer­chants were prey­ing on vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als at­tempt­ing to reach Europe via the Mediter­ranean Sea, a route de­scribed as the world’s dead­li­est.

In an in­ter­ac­tive ses­sion with mem­bers of the Nige­rian com­mu­nity in Abid­jan, Côte d’ivoire, on the mar­gins of the 5th AU-EU Sum­mit, Buhari said steps would be taken to stem the tide of ille- gal mi­gra­tion by Nige­ri­ans. he com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing the num­ber of ci­ti­zens head­ing for Europe il­le­gally through the Sa­hara Desert and the Mediter­ranean Sea by im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion, health­care, food se­cu­rity and other ne­ces­si­ties in the home­land.

His spokesman, Garba Shehu, yes­ter­day quoted the

Pres­i­dent as not­ing the dif­fi­culty in iden­ti­fy­ing the ori­gin of the peo­ple who died at­tempt­ing the per­ilous jour­ney, given lack of doc­u­men­ta­tion.

“It was an­nounced that 26 Nige­ri­ans died re­cently in the Mediter­ranean and hur­riedly buried with­out au­topsy to es­tab­lish the cause of death be­fore they proved that they were all Nige­ri­ans, they buried them. But the ev­i­dence I have from the Senior Spe­cial As­sis­tant on Di­as­pora and For­eign Af­fairs (Mrs. Abike Dabiri-erewa) is that only three of them were iden­ti­fied as Nige­ri­ans. But I’ll not be sur­prised if the ma­jor­ity of them were Nige­ri­ans.

“For peo­ple to cross the Sa­hara, and the Mediter­ranean in shanty boats... We will try and keep them at home. But any­body who died in the desert and the Mediter­ranean with­out doc­u­ments, to prove that such is a Nige­rian, there is ab­so­lutely noth­ing we can do.”

Re­act­ing to re­cent footage on the sale of Africans in Libya, Buhari said it was ap­palling that “some Nige­ri­ans (in the footage) were be­ing sold like goats for few dol­lars in Libya. Af­ter 43 years of Gaddafi, why are they re­cruit­ing so many peo­ple from the Sa­hel in­clud­ing Nige­ri­ans? All they learned was how to shoot and kill. They didn’t learn to be elec­tri­cians, plumbers or any other trade.” Buhari told Nige­ri­ans in the Di­as­pora that there was “good news” from home. “We are not do­ing too badly in try­ing to se­cure the coun­try, im­prove the econ­omy and deal with cor­rup­tion. We are do­ing our best at all lev­els in­clud­ing se­cu­rity. It is ab­so­lute mad­ness for peo­ple to blow oth­ers up in mar­kets, churches and mosques. No re­li­gion ad­vo­cates vi­o­lence. Jus­tice is the ba­sic thing all re­li­gions de­mand and you can’t go wrong if you do it,” he said.

The pres­i­dent added that with his vi­sion of repo­si­tion­ing Nige­ria as a food bas­ket, the coun­try is on the thresh­old of at­tain­ing food se­cu­rity.

He ad­vised Nige­ri­ans in Cote d’ivoire to be good am­bas­sadors, warn­ing that those who tar­nish the im­age of their coun­try would be repa­tri­ated.

Also, the Se­nate yes­ter­day tasked the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs with find­ing ways to end the shock­ing sale of Africans. This was con­tained in a mo­tion: ‘Ur­gent Need to Pro­tect Nige­rian Ci­ti­zens from Libya’s Slav­ery Auc­tions,’ spon­sored by Baba Kaka Bashir Gar­bai (APC, Borno Cen­tral).

It also urged Buhari to use the sum­mit as an op­por­tu­nity to ta­ble the mat­ter be­fore the Libyan del­e­ga­tion.

Pres­i­dent of the Se­nate, Bukola Saraki, said: “As a coun­try, it is a slap in the face if Nige­ri­ans can be treated in this man­ner. Other coun­tries are tak­ing nec­es­sary ac­tions to bring back their ci­ti­zens from that trou­bled coun­try. We need to be do­ing sim­i­lar things. The Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs must im­me­di­ately sum­mon the Libyan am­bas­sador here in Nige­ria to ex­plain what is hap­pen­ing, so that we can bring an end to this sit­u­a­tion.”

The deputy pres­i­dent of the Se­nate, Ike Ek­w­ere­madu, ad­vised gov­ern­ments in Africa to curb the eco­nomic hard­ship fu­el­ing mi­gra­tion.

Also speak­ing on the mo­tion, Bassey Al­bert Ak­pan (PDP, Akwa Ibom North East) said: “The time has come as a coun­try to look into this is­sue. The Nige­rian am­bas­sador to Libya must be in­vited to ex­plain why this slav­ery auc­tion has been go­ing on un­abated.”

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, the So­cio-eco­nomic Rights and Ac­count­abil­ity Project (SERAP) called for a joint Euro­pean Union-african Union (EU-AU) in­quiry into the slave auc­tion in Libya.

Adetokunbo Mu­muni, SERAP’S ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, urged Buhari to “seize op­por­tu­nity pre­sented by the on­go­ing EU-AU sum­mit in Abid­jan to push for a joint EU-AU in­ter­na­tional com­mis­sion of in­quiry to in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tion.” In a state­ment, he said: “Given Nige­ria’s lead­er­ship role in the re­gion, Buhari can and should pro­vide greater lead­er­ship and push Euro­pean and African lead­ers to go be­yond merely con­demn­ing the atroc­i­ties and act swiftly to end the shock­ing abuses, re­move Nige­ri­ans and other African women, men and chil­dren still trapped in Libya from harm’s way, and guar­an­tee their safety and well­be­ing.

“Nige­rian and other African vic­tims of abuses in Libya are cry­ing out for lead­er­ship and ur­gently need African lead­ers to act. It is not only the right thing to do; it is also crit­i­cal, if Nige­ria wants to re­main rel­e­vant in re­gional and in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. The next two days will re­veal whether Nige­ria is up to the task.”

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