Following harsh criticisms of its perceived indifference to the suffering of thousands of its citizens who are stranded in Libya, Nigeria’s federal government has finally swung into action.
After meeting with heads of agencies in charge of migration in Abuja on Wednesday, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo announced that Nigeria was considering urgent and permanent solutions to the plight of Nigerians refugees in Libya and European countries.
The meeting was attended by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Abba-Ibrahim; Director-General, National Commission for Refugees, Migration and Internally Displaced Persons, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouk; and the Director-General, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking of Persons, Julie Okah-Donli.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the vice-president to coordinate relevant agencies to put an end to the reoccurring migration problems affecting Nigerians in Diaspora, especially the recent happenings in Libya.
Osinbajo decried the situation where young Nigerians were deceived by human traffickers to embark on a dangerous journey that in some cases costs them their lives.
He assured that all Nigerians in Libya and elsewhere would be assisted to return safely to Nigeria.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Presidency also assured that its agencies were also stepping up their education and sensitisation campaigns targeted at vulnerable persons. And that the law enforcement agencies were collaborating to arrest and prosecute the local and international criminal networks responsible for human trafficking and enslavement.
In a related development, President Buhari has assured in Abidjan, where he is currently attending the EU-Africa Summit, that Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya and elsewhere would be bought home.
The president, who was speaking while addressing the Nigerian community in Côte d’Ivoire, vowed to do everything possible to prevent more Nigerians making the perilous journey to Europe.
The plight of those trapped in Libya – a springboard for migrants attempting to reach Europe – was highlighted by the CNN footage showing young men being auctioned for farm work.
“Some Nigerians [in the footage] were being sold like goats for few dollars in Libya,” Buhari lamented.
The president promised that the returnees would be “rehabilitated”, and vowed to tackle corruption, defeat groups like Islamist militants Boko Haram and improve things like education to stop Nigerians leaving in the first place.
About 240 Nigerians were voluntarily flown home in a joint operation by Libya and the UN migrant agency on Tuesday night. More than 5,000 Nigerians have returned home in 2017, according to official figures. About 90 percent of them from Libya, and the remaining from Saudi Arabia.