We were abducted, sold into slavery in Libya – Nigerian returnees


While the uproar over revelations that Libyans nationals are buying and selling migrants as slaves in Libya, it has been discovered that Nigerians based in the country also sell their fellow countrymen, Punch reports.

This was disclosed as more Nigerians are repatriated in an ongoing exercise by the International Organisation for Migration, which is back by the European Union.

So far this year 2017, about 5,578 Nigerian migrants has been brought back from Libya, with 1,295 migrants in November alone.

According to Punch, 150 migrants arrived the country aboard a Buraq Airplane at the cargo terminal of the Murtala International Airport, Lagos and most of these migrants are from Edo and Delta states.

Many of the returnees confirmed that they were sold by their fellow countrymen, who were getting rich in Libya.

Odion Saliu, one of the returnees, is a 26-year old hairdresser from Edo state. She said she was kidnapped and handed over to a Nigerian, who forced her to call her mother.

According to her, after her mother paid N200, 000, she was again sold by the same Nigerian for 3,000 dinars (about N794,000).

She said:

“When I was kidnapped with others and held for some weeks, the Arabs asked if I wanted to be taken to a Nigerian and I readily said yes. I was very happy that I was going to someone from my country. But it was a lie.

“The Nigerian they took me to locked me in a cell and told me to call my mother and ask for N60, 000. The man said he would sell me to a connection house if my family did not get the money. I called to inform my mother and the trafficker who facilitated my journey from Nigeria.

“But the trafficker spoke with them on the phone and told them the amount they demanded was too small. They increased it to N200, 000. My mother paid into an account after they provided her with the account number over the phone.

“The Nigerian said if I wanted to cross the sea, I had to pay him again. But when we got to the seaside, he sold me again.”

Sunday Anyaegbunam, another Edo state indigene, also left Nigeria along with his wife in April.

He said during their nine-day journey through the desert, they were sold twice by Nigerians.

According to him, when their Nigerian “burger” (trafficker) sold them to another set of Libyan traffickers at Agadez, Niger, the traffickers sold him and his wife to a Nigerian who took them to Sabha, Libya, where they were separated in different cells.

“We were made to contact our families on the phone and I had to ensure the payment of N400, 000 for my release and N300, 000 for my wife,” Anyaegbunam said.

Like others, he could only identify the Nigerians trading in their countrymen in Libya through the Nigerian languages they spoke and their accent.

He said, “The Nigerians selling people in Libya are more wicked than many of the Arabs. I have never seen people so heartless as the Nigerians who bought and sold me.

“There are many of them in Agadez and Sabha, who are making so much money from selling their own people. But there are other West Africans doing the business too.

“When you approach them and say, ‘Please, my brother, help me.’ They would tell you, “No brother in the jungle.”

A 25-year-old woman, Esosa Osas, who was in Libya for six months, said she also met many Nigerians selling their countrymen.

“You dare not talk to them, else they would beat you and lock you up. They sell women for 5,000 dinars and men for N4, 000 dinars. I noticed that the connection houses were also controlled by Nigerian women.”

All these accounts were corroborated by 35-year-old Harrison Okotie who lived in Libya for three years until his repatriation.

“Nigerians and Libyans are doing the business like they are one big happy family,” he said.

Officials of the state’s task force on illegal migration were on hand with luxurious buses to transport their people back home and most of the migrants were from Edo state.

Mr. Okoduwa Solomon, one of the members of the task force, said that his team had made six such journeys to the airport within the last one month to take their indigenes repatriated from Libya back home.

He said: “The first process is to take them through counselling, then we profile them.

“After that, we put them in a home that the state government has provided for the returnees. The Edo State Government is paying each of the returnees from the state a stipend.

They are going to undergo a training in agriculture, poultry, fishery and others to make them useful to themselves and the system.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has been called upon by the President of Women Arise and Centre for Change, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin to use all diplomatic channels to prevail on the Libyan authorities to ensure the dignity of our people.

In a statement on Friday, she said: “We must build a country where our people have opportunities to prosper and lead useful and productive lives and will only travel on leisure and business and not as illegal migrants desperate to live anywhere other than Nigeria,”

It is however confirmed by the Head of African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, that over 400,000 Nigerians are still stranded in Libya.

Hundreds of thousands more — “400,000 to 700, 000,” according to Mahamat — remain stranded.

Meanwhile, the Edo state government has set aside N100m, 150 hectares of land for farming for the returnees.

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