Govt to rehabilitate returnees from Libya, says Buhari



President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday promised to rehabilitate Nigerian citizens who were evacuated from Libya.

About 493 of the returnees arrived at the Port Harcourt International Airport Omugwa at 4: 55 pm yesterday aboard Max Airline.

They are the first batch of the 5,027 Nigerians to be evacuated by the Federal Government from Libya were they were reportedly being enslaved.

President Buhari, who spoke through Minister of Foreign Affairs Geofrey Onyeama while addressing the returnees at the Port Harcourt Airport Hajj Camp, where they are being housed, said plans had been concluded to rehabilitate and empower the returnees. He urged them to be law abiding.

Onyeama said:  “We are very happy at home. As you know, Mr.  President and the people of Nigeria are very worried and concerned about your well-being, and the President sent a delegation which I led to Libya where many of you are being held in very difficult inhuman condition.

“With all the necessary resources at our disposal, he said we should go to Libya and do everything possible to bring you back as quickly as possible.

“We with the Director General of Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA),  the Senior Special Adviser to the President in Diaspora,  The Director General of The Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in persons(NAPTIP).

“Also with me was the Federal Commissioner for Refugees as well as a representative from the office of the National Security Adviser, and the comptroller general of Immigration.

“We went to Libya, we discussed with the government, we saw all of you young children, young boys and young girls, and we negotiated to ensure you came back.  There were a lot of challenges that we faced, but we were ready to overcome them and bring you here and you are the first batch that has arrived.

“We saw the very difficult conditions in which you were held, we felt for you for the very traumatic experience you went through and our hearts really went out to you and I must say that each an every one of us at that delegation really felt so proud of you.

“As young children,  notwithstanding everything that you went through,  you maintained your dignity,  your composure, your respect and you stood up when we came and sang the national Anthem,  the national pledge with pride, we are extremely proud of you; extremely proud of the way you comported yourself notwithstanding the condition, the most inhuman condition that you were found yourself during this stay.

“We hope that one thing you have learnt is that your lives matter to Nigerians, your lives matter to Mr president.

“There is no other place in this world that can be there than to be with your brothers, your sister and your parents here in Nigeria.

“We know that many if you were trafficked many of you taken against your better judgement, you have come home and you will not be abandoned.  There are provisions in place to provide for an extensive rehabilitation for you to enable you to get education, skills and development to equip you to get jobs.” He stated.

He thanked the Rivers state government on the behalf of the returnees for accepting to accommodate them.

He urged the youths to become advocates of discouraging intending illegal migrants outside the country.

“After all you have been through in Libya, we want you to go out there as advocate to tell other young boys and girls in the country your experiences in Libya  so that they will not make the same mistakes, so that they will not be in the same condition to be exploited and be deceived into embarking on this hazardous journey.”

Director General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede advised Nigerians against illegal traveling, stressing that other Nigerians who travelled to Libya are being treated well.

The returnees who were clothed in tick track suits came in with no luggage save nylon bags and worn out sack bags. They are mainly youths aged between 19 and 42 years, majority of the returnees are from Edo and Delta states.

On arrival they were screened by a medical team from the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital.

Secretary to the State Government Kenneth Konami who represented Governor Nyesom Wike, pledged to partner with the Federal Government to see to the welfare of the returnees.


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Senior Writer

Bura-Bari Nwilo lives in Port Harcourt, in Nigeria. He is the author of A Tiny Place Called Happiness – a book of stories.

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