As another 228 Libya returnees arrived in Benin City last Wednesday, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II has thrown his weight behind the fight against human trafficking. Oba Ewuare II, who spoke during the inauguration of the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs by Governor Godwin Obaseki, condemned the act and expressed disappointment at the Nigerian Embassy in Libya and the Libyan government for their inability to tackle the crisis.
The monarch regretted that it was particularly frustrating that it took a report by the Cable News Network (CNN) for government and other stakeholders to respond to the crisis. The crisis, he said, could have been better managed if relevant authorities had lived up to their responsibilities, saying they allowed it to fester instead. He commended the governor for his efforts to resettle the Libya returnees through skills acquisition programs.
Obaseki, who also spoke at the occasion, described the situation in Libya as sad and unacceptable and assured that his administration would continue to partner the traditional council in the areas of law, order and security, stemming the tide of illegal migration, environmental sanitation, registration of Edo citizens and the mobilization of indigenes and residents to participate in government policies and programs, settlement of land disputes, agriculture, amongst others. Of the 228 latest returnees, 39 were women, six of whom were pregnant; four were children while others were men.
Sunday Vanguard spoke with a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley, who claimed to have watched as 59 Nigerians were shot dead, 19-year-old Precious, who had a baby in Libyan prison, and Blessing who had no training in nursing but providence pushed her to midwife the delivery of five children inside the prison. Their stories:
Mr. Kingsley said he decided to embark on the journey to Europe via Libya with his wife. Though they were unable to get to their destination, which was Italy, God gave them a baby girl in Libya
“I traveled with my wife through Kano. From Kano we went to Alghadez, Saba, Tripoli and Sabescerine. When we got to Tripoli, I paid N1 million to somebody for myself and my wife for the Mediterranean Sea crossing to Italy but we ended staying there for over one year there. And to make matters worse, there was no money because there was no work. I always called my brother in Nigeria to help us with some to eat.
"That country is a disaster; they enjoy killing blacks, especially Nigerians. About 59 Nigerians were shot dead in my presence. One of my friends was shot on the leg and the leg was amputated. They pushed me and my wife into the boat to cross the sea but Libyan militia arrested us and took us to prison. I called my brother in Nigeria who sent money to us. I gave the militia the money and we were released from prison. We waited for our man to come and push us again across the sea but while we were waiting, the militia boys came again and started shooting. People started running and I could not escape with my wife carrying our baby, so we surrendered and they took us to prison. Some people, who tried to run away, were shot dead.
"We spent two weeks in the prison and it was there that we registered and they returned us to Nigeria. And what these Libya people always did was that whenever the United Nations people came, they will quickly take out some Nigerians and hide them in another prison, so that they will not register them and take them home. They do this because they want to be using those people to collect money from families in Nigeria. And in that prison they don’t feed you. And they will beat the hell out of you whenever you fail to bring money from you relations. That place is hell on earth."
Why did you not leave your wife here in Nigeria when you were leaving?
"My plan was to take my wife to Italy and that is why I embarked on the trip with her. I believed if she was with me in Italy, we will be happy because I was working in Oredo as a bus driver. Nothing was working for us, Agbero people were disturbing us. My wife is a stylist but I didn’t have money to give her to open a shop, so I told her we should embark on the journey together not knowing that Libya is a very bad place. But we thank God that we came back alive, many people died. I am only appealing to people to come and help us because I have a little daughter now."
Were you not scared traveling with you husband to Libya?
"No I left everything to God. I became pregnant when I got there. We passed through the desert and saw many dead bodies on the ground. When I was pregnant, I never went to see any doctor or nurse because there was nobody to help you. But I thank God that on the day of delivery, it was very successful. One woman who had experience in delivering babies helped me. I am happy I returned alive because many people died, some came back with ailments or broken hand or leg but I thank God I came back alive with my family. I am happy to be back home. But I will never advise anybody to go to Libya. It is not a place that anyone should go. They shoot gun every minute and they had no value for life."
Precious, one of the returnees, said the suffering in Libya was too much.
“I traveled last year October 5. I became pregnant in Libya after I traveled through the desert. I traveled with a woman who said she will help me to get to Italy. I am an orphan. I am from Ikpoba Okhai Local Government. Our madam’s name is Blessing. She planned to take me to Europe but I could not cross the sea. Each time I wanted to cross the sea, they will tell us that it was not suitable. I was not doing anything in Libya throughout the one year I was there. The suffering was just too much."
So who was responsible for your pregnancy?
"My boyfriend impregnated me. He has crossed to Europe now. We were going together but in separate boats. His boat crossed the sea but the police arrested my own boat. They arrested all of us in that boat and put us in prison. And that was where I delivered my baby with the help of Blessing. I thank God for the safe delivery. I will name the child Success because we succeeded in coming home alive and for the safe delivery. Everyday was like war in Libya."
"I was in the same camp with her (Precious) boyfriend. She was very heavy and, when she entered labor, it was not easy but we did it. I am not a nurse, I had no experience but God gave me the motivation. I will deliver people and cut the placenta. I will bath the baby and the mother so they will be neat a little. The day Precious entered labor, it was midnight and there was nobody to help her. The prison door was opposite our cell. So people started calling for help.
"I rushed to her and I saw the baby coming. I had to do it as there was no one else to deliver Precious and the other women of their babies. We were dumped in the camp without any care in the world. It was a living hell because no one was there for you when you fall sick. It was the situation that inspired me to save the lives of these women and their babies. I took up the responsibility because some of the pregnant women were small girls and they saw me as their elder sister, their mother. I always told them when I felt the baby was coming, ‘As the baby is pushing you, you should also be pushing”. Just like that, I delivered five women of their babies with my bare hands and they all made it.
"I am not a nurse and I have no idea of nursing but I believe God used me to help the poor mothers and the innocent children. Though Precious started bleeding in the morning, she was now rushed to the hospital where they stopped the bleeding. What pushed you to venture into the deadly trip? I traveled to make money. I spent seven months. Every day was like war in Libya, they used us as slaves because they hate black people. I borrowed N600, 000 to pay to the woman who helped me.
"I stayed in the camp for months hoping they will push us across the sea but no way. They kept telling us that the sea was not calm. But we were arguing that other camps had been pushing people across but it was later we heard that those who were pushed across are being arrested on the seas. I had wanted to come back earlier but whenever I thought about the money I had spent in the journey, I said I would go on. And the truth is that it was not a journey you could easily get a vehicle that will bring you back. You cannot survive passing through the Sahara desert twice, so when you pass it once, you cannot come back because it is death. Gangs shoot indiscriminately and kidnap people to make money. And when you are arrested, you could be used as slaves. The people who were even supposed to help me cross the sea ate my money and they were asking me to tell my people to bring more money from Nigeria. What will you like to do now? I will like to do business and I wish the state government can help. I am frustrated right now because I have no money and nothing to do. I appreciate the fact that they helped to bring us back to Nigeria but they should finish it by empowering us. I have four children before I left Nigeria and I need to feed them. My children are learning different trades and I need to support them to conclude their apprenticeship."