FG evacuates 1, 030 stranded Nigerians from Libya; Reveals plan to empower returnees

The Federal Government on Monday said it evacuated 1,030 stranded Nigerian migrants from Libya between Jan. 7 and Jan 8, 2018.

This is just as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, said over the weekend in Port Harcourt that the Federal Government would rehabilitate and empower 490 Nigerians evacuated from Libya.

Alhaji Mustapha Maihaja, the Director-General of National Emergency Management Agency, disclosed the number of evacuees this at a joint news conference by the Federal Government delegation to Libya.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, had on Jan. 5 led a delegation on fact finding mission to Libya to secure the release of Nigerian migrants stranded in that country.

The delegation comprised of Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora and Muhammad Babandede, Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service.

Others were Julie Okah-Donli, Director General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Sadiya Umar-Faruq, Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees.

Maihaja told newsmen that the returnees were 485 who came back on Sunday and 545 who came back of Monday, noting that they were part of the 5,037 stranded Nigerians identified for evacuation back home.

He stated that a reception Centre approved by President Muhammadu Buhari had been set up in Port Harcourt, Rivers for the returnees.

According to him, the returnees on arrival will be formally received and profiled before being transported to their various states.

He said that the reception Centre was organized in such a way that the Ministry of Health provided facilities to look after those with health-related problems.

He explained that those who were critically ill were taken to University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital for treatment.

He added that the returnees would be profiled through the Immigration, Directorate of State Service and other agencies, emphasizing that those with criminal tendencies and ISIS inclination would be taken care of by relevant agencies.

Maihaja said the delegation had 21 days to complete its operation.

The Foreign Affairs Minister also said the delegation was in Libya to engage with Libyan Government at the highest level to facilitate the evacuation of the stranded Nigerian migrants from the North African country.

Onyeama said the Nigerian mission in Libya was coordinating the identification of the Nigerian migrants with the support of International Organization for Migration (IOM).

According to him, they are being joined by a technical team comprising representatives from NEMA, Immigration and other relevant Nigerian government agencies.

The minister said that the political and security challenges in that country made it difficult to secure the evacuation of some Nigerians back home.

He added that “there are different centres of power in that country. The central government recognised by the UN and AU do not have full control of the territories controlled by rebels.”

He pointed out that there were over 50 detention camps in Libya, many of them under the control of rebels and militia groups.

The minister said that the young Nigerians being trafficked were shattered and battered and seen as commodity to be traded for economic gains.

He said the Libyan Government blamed the criminal elements for the human trafficking business, noting that the president was keen at dissociating the ordinary Libyan people from the narrative.

He noted that there were complaints about how some migrants in detention camps were being exploited by government officials for economic gains.

He said Nigerians who were residing in Libya legally complained of harassment by Libyan Government officials who they said destroyed their passports and other residency papers.

The NAPTIP Director General said the agency would profile the returnees to identify those who were real victims of trafficking.

Okah-Donli said “the returnees would be counseled by trained personnel and those with medical condition would be treated at the agency’s facilities.”

She said the rehabilitation period would last for six months during which the returnees would be trained on different skills acquisition and empowered with tools.

“We will monitor them for about two years to ensure that they don’t re-embark on the treacherous journey,” she added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, on Sunday in Port Harcourt said that the Federal Government would rehabilitate and empower 490 Nigerians evacuated from Libya.

The minister gave the assurance on the arrival of the returnees at Port Harcourt Airport in Rivers.

He said that President Muhammadu Buhari had made resources available to ensure that returnees were evacuated as quickly as possible and enable them fit back into the society.

“The president had made provisions for every logistics to make sure that we bring you back from Libya,” he said.

He said he was accompanied by officials from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Director General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

Onyeama said officials who accompanied him included the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service and Senior Special Adviser to the President on Diaspora to ensure the evacuation of the returnees.

He said: “We negotiated with Libyan Government to make sure that you are here; we know that many of you were trafficked and passed through humiliation.

“We are proud of you, you maintained your dignity despite all odds, and we hope that one thing that you have learnt is that your life matters to Mr. President and all Nigerians.

“You have come home, you will not be abandoned. There is a place and provision for you to be rehabilitated and be educated. We will also train you on skills to be empowered in your country.

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