President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that the citizens still stranded abroad will be evacuated.
He spoke in Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire, on Tuesday night on the allegations that hundreds of African refugees and migrants passing through Libya are being bought and sold in modern-day slave markets.
Buhari, who was in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire for the 5th European Union-African Union (EU-AU) Summit.
He also promised to evacuate all Nigerians stranded in Libya and other parts of the world.
Stressing that they will be rehabilitated in Nigeria, he said his administration would do everything possible to make the country conducive to discourage youths from embarking on dangerous journeys and risking their lives.
He said: “I am telling you all these because I know that those of you who are making it here are sending contributions home for feeding and for school fees and for healthcare. These are the basic things that the government should do and we are to make sure that only a few Nigerians are heading for the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean and getting perished.
“When it was announced that 26 Nigerians died but before they could prove that they were all Nigerians, they were buried. But the evidence I got from the Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs now is that only three were identified as Nigerians. But I won’t be surprised if the majority of them were really Nigerians.
“And for people to cross the Sahara Desert to go into shanty boats across the Mediterranean Sea, I think we will try and keep them at home. But for anyone who dared the desert and the Mediterranean without document to prove that he/she is a Nigerian, there is nothing we can do, absolutely nothing.
“In the interview some of you saw, some of the Nigerians said they were being sold like goats for few dollars for years in Libya. Now, after 43 years of Gaddafi, where he recruited so many people from the Sahel, including Nigerians and so on, all they learnt was how to shoot and kill. They didn’t learn to become electricians, plumbers or any other trade.
“So, when the Libyans stood against their leader, those who are not their people, they chased them out. A lot of them came back home with their workers, some of them participated in Boko Haram and become part of Boko Haram.”
The President, who urged Nigerians in Côte d’Ivoire to be good ambassadors by obeying the law of their host country, enjoined them to also report those portraying the image of the country in bad light to the embassy so that the bad eggs will be flushed out.
Nigerian Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire Ibrahim Isah noted that the largest number of Nigerians in sub Saharan Africa, second only to Sudan, are in Côte d’Ivoire, estimated at about 1.5 million.
The ambassador, who is barely three months old in his post, said the greatest challenge faced by the embassy was the issue of child trafficking and prostitution. He said 50 persons had been repatriated since he resumed.
Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora and Foreign Affairs Abike Dabiri-Erewa said 5,000 Nigerians stranded in Libya had been brought back to the country under the Buhari Administration.
She expressed regret that some of them found their way back despite warnings. She said with Buhari’s directive on massive evacuation, all of them will be back to Nigeria.
A Nigerian police officer, ACP Sunny Okeobor, with Interpol said many Nigerians are being trafficked, including three employees of NNPC who were deceived into slavery after promising them a job with an oil company for $250 per day but were lucky to have been rescued after one of them escaped.
Other Nigerians who spoke urged President Buhari to ensure stable power supply in the country which will in turn boost the economy as more companies will be able to remain in business and engage the unemployed youths, thereby discouraging them from risking their lives and ending up being trafficked or forced into prostitution.
The Senate, the House of Representatives and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) yesterday asked the Federal Government to urgently investigate the number of Nigerians affected in the Libyan slavery auctions.
The upper chamber also urged the government to immediately begin the process of repatriation and rehabilitation of Nigerians caught up in the despicable treatment and human rights abuses in Libya.
The House of Representatives urged the Federal Government to liaise with Libyan Government to find a solution to the menace of migration and modern day slavery in Libya.
The House mandated its Committees on Human Rights, and Foreign Affairs to interface with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant stakeholders to identify the factors that encourage the migrants to embark on the perilous journey.
SERAP urged President Buhari to “seize the opportunity presented by the summit, to push for a joint EU-AU international commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of slave auction in Libya.”
In the statement by its Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said: “Nigerians and other African victims of abuses in Libya are crying out for leadership.
“They urgently need African leaders to act.”