When Max Airline, the aircraft that brought back hundreds of Nigerians repatriated from Libya, landed at the Port Harcourt International Airport at exactly 5.05pm on January 7, 2018, the returnees heaved a sigh.
The repatriated, comprising young boys and girls, said they had been liberated from a land of torture, killings, humiliation, rape and other forms of human rights violation. They had finally come back to their fatherland, alive.
As they alighted from the aircraft, some of them prostrated to kiss the earth, and later, ravenously ate the rice served.
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, has promised to engage them in meaningful employment.
Lucky Iyamusa from Edo State travelled to Libya in June 2018, all in a bid to enter Europe. “Because of poverty and financial challenges,” he said.
Iyamusa was working in Nigeria had to sell his working equipment in order to raise money and travel. He was the most senior member of his family and bread winner, since they had no father. There was also his immediate family, which included a wife and children, to take care of.
Eventually, they took off from Lagos and passed through Kano, and then found themselves in a desert. Unfortunately for Iyamusa’s migrating group, there are security officials that parade the waterways in Libya. They were arrested by a seaside, and that day, on November 9, about 290 migrants, including Nigerians, Malians, Ghanaians, among others, lost their lives. Some injured were taken to the hospital and some had their legs amputated by the Libyan police.
“Some of us that were lucky were arrested and detained in an underground prison,” Iyamusa narrated. When they got to the prison, they met some Nigerians who were detained for over three years. Some of them have been there for six months, some for four months.
In the prison, they were fed once a day with macaroni and noodles. They were given little water to drink for the whole day. Iyamusa advised youths to work hard and settle down in Nigeria, instead of going to Libya.
“Going to Libya is not an easy trip. I thank God for his mercies, for saving our lives. I also want to thank the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari for their quick intervention in saving our lives in Libya . Nigerians in Libya are passing through hell,” Iyamusa added.
Another returnee from Edo State, Edehe Mathais, shared her story. She left Nigeria six months ago and described her journey as a very traumatic experience. “We saw hell,” she said. “We were hunted and humiliated, but thank God we are back home. Lots of people died in Libya, but see us here, we are back to Nigeria alive. It is a thing of joy. We thank God that we are back to the country. May glory be to his name. We had so many bitter experiences. So many Nigerians were killed. Lots of us were injured. Some were shot.”
Edehe pointed to her leg: “An Arab man beat me up and shot me in the leg. But I thank God that my leg is all right now,” she said, adding that she never wanted to return to Libya.
Back to business
Jennifer Audu, yet another returnee from Edo State, stayed in Libya for eight months. Before she traveled to Libya she was into the production of creams. But she abandoned her business and sought for greener pasture abroad because “things were very rough for me. Things were not moving fine. The business was not thriving. I actually wanted a change of environment and that was the reason I traveled to Libya. I wanted a breakthrough.”
So, in search of that breakthrough, she entered Libya through the efforts of a facilitator. In a Hilux truck, they hit the desert they took them to Libya. It was not an easy trip, she recalled. Like many others before her, Libya was merely meant to be a transit camp before Europe.
Now, exhausted from her experience, “I want to get back home, settle down and focus on my former business,” she said. “Given another opportunity, I will never try going on such a trip. I cannot contemplate it. I just want to thank God for bringing me back home alive.”