By Sylvanus Ekpo, Tina Edogor
The slave markets of Libya are abuzz with young Nigerian slaves who are tortured, humiliated and eventually sold off on the auction block for a few, miserable dollars. While some are held in detention centres waiting to be deported, the not-so-lucky ones are roasted as suya and their body parts serve as barbecue for the cannibals of Libya. Once a thriving nation, Libya was ruled by Col. Muamar Gaddafi, who took power in 1969 in a bloodless revolution. He used the oil wealth of his country to improve healthcare, free education, free housing and a strong economy. Millions of impoverished peoples around the world flocked to Libya in search of the good life. Nigerians, tired of bad governance and failed promises, saw that country as the next best destination for business and an escape route into the future in Europe, Asia and America.
They dare the Sahara and Mediterranean Sea, often travelling without proper documentation in shanty boats, ill-equipped and unprepared for the storms of life in Europe. Some get caught in the vagaries of the voyage and never get to their destination. A few others remain in Libya to join the sex trade while others end up as house helps in Arab homes where they are abused and debased by their new masters.
So, in the ensuring outrage, Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, speaking on the sidelines at the 5th European Union-African Union (EU-AU) Summit in Abidjan, said his government would airlft properly documented Nigerians and rehabilitate them on their return. He further promised to make the country conducive for decent work and living.
Also reacting to the news, the Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo, expressed sadness over the inhuman treatment meted out to Nigerians, calling them ” scandalous abuses of human rights and mockeries of the alleged solidarity of African nations grouped in African Union which Libya belongs.”
At the sub-regional level, the head of the Ecowas Commission, Marcel Alain de Souza while presenting the Status Report on the State of the Community to the Second Ordinary Session of the Eco was Parliament in Abuja, said the commission had written to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for assistance in regard to the rescue of Africans in Libya. Similarly, the Nigerian Senate under Dr. Bukola Saraki, has called for urgent action from the Nigerian government to save Nigerians from the slave markets of Libya, saying it offends the United Nations Convention on Human Rights.
Recently, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the president, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the 26 Africans who died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea had been hurriedly buried without official autopsies conducted on them. These unfortunate Nigerian citizens were in Libya for sometime before finally sailing into their deaths.
Consequently, the Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Dame Julie Okah-Donli, has called on the Italian authorities to unravel the mystery behind the deaths of those 26 Nigerian migrants.
Dame Okah-Donli should take it upon herself to engage the Libyan Ambassador to Nigeria in these despicable atrocities against the Nigerian people. Since the death of Col. Ghaddafi in 2012, the Libyan nation has become ungovernable and a thriving slave market that specialises in buying and selling Nigerian slaves has quickly evolved to feed their ego. NAPTIP must step up its campaign about the ills of travelling without proper documentation, trying to dare the Mediterranean Sea and end up in the belly of the beast.
For too long, Nigerian youth have been sold on the idea that any life abroad is better life in Nigeria. Sometime last year, a Nigerian migrant who gave birth to her baby while crossing the Mediterranean Sea said it was better to die in the sea than to live in Nigeria.