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Fighting human trafficking, illegal migration amid unemployment, poverty



Government has demonstrated its determination and commitment to ensuring the safety of lives and property of its citizens by prompt response to stranded Nigerians in Libya following public outcry as the Federal Government said it has a record of 2,778 Nigerian migrants registered in “accessible” detention camps in Libya, ready for repatriation.

Out of the 2,778 Nigerian migrants who make up the list of Nigerian migrants registered in “accessible” detention camps in Libya, deported to the country, no fewer than 1,400 of these returnees traced their origin to Edo State, giving the state governor concern to intervene and bring succour to these youths in their numbers.

Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, who lamented the high number of Edo State indigenes among the returnees described the incident as a “desecration of the sanctity of humanity.”

Obaseki who also condemned the act as an evil that must be nipped in the bud, said that indigenes of Edo State who may have been caught up in the web of human traffickers, should come back home, as his government has set up systems to reintegrate them into the society.

As part of measures to reintegrate the returnees into the society, Obaseki has approved 150 hectares of land and N100 million seed capital for the 150 Libyan returnees and victims of human trafficking, who completed skills acquisition training at the Edo Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) office in Benin City, the Edo State capital.

Obaseki, who made the announcement during the graduation ceremony of the returnees, directed the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources to immediately liaise with the relevant authorities towards securing the land for the returnees to commence agribusinesses.

According to the Governor, the returnees will be organised into cooperatives under the supervision of the Benin Owena River Basin Authority and the Edo Agricultural Development Programme (ADP).

Dissent views trail the state government efforts to reintegrate the youths back to the society as many of the returnees who spoke to our correspondent, expressed lack of faith in the government position to provide them with the enablement to pick up the broken pieces of their lives after many fruitless years in Libya to Europe.

One of the returnees, who simply identified himself as Nosakhare, said he managed to raise some money to embark on the journey to Libya, when his parents couldn’t fend for him and his siblings as they were poor pensioners been owed several months by the state government.

He said,” I and my siblings had no job. We managed to acquire skills but could not get jobs, no support or help from anyone, not even government or loan from microfinance bank to start up a small business.”

Nosakhare who lamented that there was no enabling environment for them to do business, said he felt frustrated and so he decided to put an end to the suffering of the family by traveling to Europe enroute Libya in search of greener pastures.

Another female victim who decried the fact that Pensioners in the state are on the street in the state capital protesting daily and praying hard for God to answer their prayers for payment of their pension arrears on or before the yelutide to enable them celebrate the season with their families lamented that they are children of some of these pensioners who have returned home to join their helpless families.

At the point of the Edo state government receiving the returnees, some said they encountered recently when hundreds of menial job workers engaged in sweeping the streets and major roads by the Edo state government were on protest over 8 months salary owed them by the state government.

According to them, this very unpalatable sight of street sweepers protesting over their non-payment of salary and the many months of protest by pensioners in the state over same non-payment of salary arrear frightened the already devastated returnees and instilling fear and hopelessness in them for having returned home.

For the returnees, this challenge in the delay and non- payment of these young men and elderly women who rise up as early as 4 am to sweep and keep the roads and streets of Benin City clean by the government is worrisome and wondered what their fate is likely to be, when those who have worked for the government for months and years are not paid.

A multitude of Edo youths comprising young boys and girls popularly referred to as “Libya retunees” are everywhere in the streets of Benin and its environs on account of the assistance from to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the European Union (EU) after being stranded in the volatile North African country enroute Europe.

These Libya returnees embarked on the life threatening journey through Libya to Europe in search of greener pasture, but their adventure turned into misadventures following their inability to make it to their various destination in Europe, while some suffered different forms of humiliation, torture and eventually kept in detention.

The deadly trip through the desert and Mediterranean sea has lead to the death of many Nigerians, particularly Edo State indigenes dominating the list of those rescued and deported.

While many have commended the effort of the Edo state government for coming to the prompt rescue after a failed journey to Europe through the land routes, others have lamented their hopelessness in getting properly reintegrated into the society.

These returnees feel threatened by the spate of unemployment in the country, particularly the helplessness of pensioners in Edo state, who happen to be their parents protesting over the non-payment of their pension arrears spanning many months.

They lament a situation where they are not gainfully employed even after acquisition of skills training sponsored by both the present and past administrations in the state, which prompted them to earlier embark on the journey to Europe through the lands.

Upon returning to Nigeria, after the tortuous journey, the are doubtful that their survival back home is not certain as they have nothing to fall back to, with complaints that even most of their families breadwinner where pensioners owed several months salary arrears.

Some returnees said they couldn’t afford to join their parents who are hopeful that their children are taking the risk to foreign lands in search of greener pasture to take them out of poverty.

Some Edo indigenes and stakeholders, who lauded the effort of government in bringing them back to the country, urged government to sincerely and adequately address their plight and properly reintegrate them back to the society.

A medical expert and former president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and vice President, Commonwealth Medical Association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele , said that the gross failure of Nigeria’s leadership to provide viable socio-economic opportunities for a majority of her citizens, has led to some despicable untoward effects such as the recent enslavement of Nigerian migrants in the Magreb.

Enabulele lamented the countless deaths of some Nigerians while crossing the sea, as well as mass deportation of these emigrants, stressing that there is great need for urgent medical rehabilitation of the returnees.

He said there are potential health implications associated with this circle of activities which can undermine the overall quality of health of the Nigerian migrants and even their families.

“These include exposure to physical injuries, particularly traumatic injuries resulting from deliberate torture of the migrants, increased cases of physical exhaustion leading to death in some cases, increased incidence of pregnancies and its complications, increased exposure to Sexually Transmitted Infections, increased transmission of infections such as Typhoid, Cholera, and Respiratory infections (including Tuberculosis).

“Importantly, the Nigerian migrants deported from the Magreb are prone to developing Post traumatic Stress Disorders and Panic attacks as a result of their vivid brutal and traumatic experiences in the various detention camps.”Enabulele said.

According to him, Arising from these potentially devastating health effects, there is great need for urgent medical rehabilitation of the deportees. This must necessarily include comprehensive and continuing medical care for the deportees preferably to be undertaken by Family Physicians, as well as intense Psychotherapy and social support for the deportees.

He further added that the poor leadership and governance system of Nigeria needs to be urgently addressed to halt the worsening trend of emigration, including brain drain by Nigeria’s highly skilled and educated professionals.

Others from civil society organizations include, President, Talakawa’s Parliament/Joint Legal Action Aids (JLAA) , Kola Edokpayi, who commended the Edo State Governor for his proactive move in rescuing indigenes of the state who left the shore of Nigeria out of desperation and frustration in search of greener pastures in Libya enroute Europe.

“We want to submit unequivocally that the rationale behind the peregrination of our youth is in connection with unemployment, hunger, insecurity, frustration, poverty. We urge the governor to take seriously the rehabilitation and welfares of the returnees in order for them not to be threats to Edo State security because of their monstrous experience in the iron hands of the Arabs. Human traffickers should be made to face the full wrath of the law.”Edokpayi said.

Edokpayi who harped on the need to address the menace of unemployment, hunger, insecurity in the country inline with the constitutional provisions said, “ This will go a long way to nip in the bud following the mass exodus of our able bodied youths to Libya enroute Europe to be sold into slavery for as low as 400 dollars. Government should fix our country and use the resources at our disposal to bring happiness and joy for poor masses like U.S.A, Italy, Germany and other countries they are running to.”

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