The Charge d’Affaires of Nigeria in Libya, Mr Illiya Danladi Fachano, has said that there is element of truth in the recent video by the Cable News Network (CNN) that some Nigerians were sold off for $400.
The Charge d’Affaires who is in the country on the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, over developments in Libya, told Daily Sun exclusively that even Nigerians sell fellow Nigerians in Libya.
He spoke on this and other sundry issues surrounding the illegal trafficking to Europe through Libya.
You arrived on Sunday night from Libya?
Yes. I arrived yesterday night around 23:40, although on Turkish Airline.
Abuja or Lagos?
I arrived Abuja.
How was Libya before you left?
Libya, like I said, is not the former Libya. It is a shadow of its former self. The government in Tripoli is trying to maintain security by having police at checkpoints, airport area, roads and so on. Libya is trying to regain its position, but Libya said it does not want externally imposed solution on their political problem. They want a Libyan-Libyan solution and the international community is hoping that they would arrive at that Libyan-Libyan solution so that peace would return and Libya would go back to its glorious past.
Would you say that migration to Europe through Libya received an upsurge after Ghadaffi?
Yeah! After Ghadaffi, there is an upsurge because there is an agreement between the Italian government and the Libyan authority to return migrants that they arrest on the Mediterranean Sea back to Libya. And indeed, the Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the Western Europe are against that agreement. But that is why we have increased number of detainees in the detention centres.
So, the population wasn’t as much as that under Ghadaffi?
It was not so. It was less because Ghadaffi was a little bit liberal to migration. But at the moment, the European Union has trained the Libyan Coast Guards on how to stop and arrest smugglers or traffickers on the Mediterranean Sea and bring them back to the detention camps where people say conditions are horrible.
Have you done a study on migration to Europe through Libya and what do you think can be done to halt it?
We have made some proposals. Some of them are not new, some are new. The proposal is that they should tighten borders and that arrested migrants in detention centres that express willingness to be repatriated, should be immediately repatriated. And that is why we said if government can send more aircraft to assist in the repatriation of Nigerians back home, the better.
How many Nigerians have been repatriated so far?
So far, about 3000 Nigerian migrants.
How many do you repatriate weekly?
Weekly is 250. Tomorrow (Tuesday) like I said, 250 are arriving Lagos by 7pm.
The video that was trending online, were Nigerians actually sold off for $400?
The video can be confirmed because the structure, the place are really Libyan cities. Like the street that they were passing through is the same street that I pass through to my office. When the CNN reporters went to confirm the veracity of the slave trade before they even embark on the video, they went to the place and said, ‘can we go inside to see the auctioning of migrants as slaves?’ The person at the gate said ‘no.’ The reason is for security. Once light is beamed on him, the traffickers or the people involved in the slave trade could be identified and arrested.
So, they didn’t like that exposure and they resisted. The camp they visited, I interviewed the Nigerians in that camp in Tripoli, this is the camp that Nigerian embassy officials have been visiting to identify our detainees. It is a real camp well known to Ben (referring to one of the Nigerian officials with him in Libya).
Are you saying that there is element of truth in that video?
Yeah! There is element of truth in it. Why am I saying there is element of truth? Even Nigerians themselves in Libya, who go to Libya, also buy and sell. When you buy somebody as a commodity, you detect the type and the price.
So, Nigerians buy and sell fellow Nigerians in Libya?
Correct! They do! So, this is what is not known to the public. Why is the practice going on? It is a condemnable practice. It is because there is no effective government. It is something that the rest of the world should help the Libyans with, so as to have a centrally-agreed government. Presently, they have parallel institutions: three central banks, they have three governments; each is predominant in the area of its control. So, it is a situation that the world does not like. We want Libya that is rich in oil to come back to its old self.
There are reports that there is a syndicate perpetuating this evil in Libya. Is it true?
Correct! It is true too that there are syndicates. The syndicates are both in Nigeria and in Libya. As we register Nigerians in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to repatriate Nigerians, some are taking off immediately from here. In fact, in one instance, we got notice in Lagos that some people were transporting some ladies to go again after we have repatriated some. We called the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and informed them. Whatever they did, we don’t know. But they didn’t come back to us.
So, it is true that there are syndicates. Why? Because crime pay for other people. That is the real truth. While you choose to have income through your profession, legal profession, some choose crime. You can see why Evans (the notorious kidnapper) is one of the richest people in Nigeria.
How can the syndicate be crushed?
Our security agencies must live up to their duties. They must leave their individual interest, look at the patriotic interest and do a work of checking the movement of our people at the legal border. Not only the security people, we have some transporters that specialise in smuggling people. They know how to pass through the illegal routes.
Are the syndicates known to the government?
Some are known, some have been arrested, and some are not yet known to the government. Some of the victims even graduate to become traffickers too and thank the first person that trafficked them. This is not theory; it is what we got by interviewing them. But government can break them, they are human beings.
In one instance, I was in the Church in Libya. Maybe the trafficker didn’t even know that I was there or he didn’t think that I would do something against him. He came to give testimony that he is involved in trading in girls and while they were coming from Sabratha, they had accident and that thank God that he is here, that he didn’t die. I thought that he would confess that he was trading in girls, that he was no longer doing that, but he didn’t say that. So, some are even taking it as a profession.
The Charge d’Affaires of Libya in Abuja said the government of Libya should not be held accountable for the anomaly. What is your take on that?
That is the position of the Charge d’Affaires. I may not agree with him. The issue is, both the country of origin and the country of destination, Libya, has a duty to manage migration. It is something that you can manage. If somebody arrives in your country illegally, you put him in a detention camp that the conditions are good, pending the repatriation of that person. What people complain about is the horrible condition in the detention; the lack of food, the medicals; these are the complaints. But we, the country of origin too, are concerned that our nationals can just violate the borders, move freely without passport illegally and they are detained. So, we have the duty of getting them emergency travel certificate to come back home.
How many Nigerians are in Libyan camps?
From the ones we have registered, we have about 2778. Out of that number, 250 are coming tomorrow (Tuesday). But the numbers keeps increasing. There are other camps that you cannot reach without police escort. We are yet to visit the camp with 5000 in Gariam because the Libyan government is yet to give us permission, including the police escort to go there and bring them to Tripoli so that they will be repatriated.
Is it true that people defecate in the mouths of fellow humans in Libya?
Some of the reports are exaggerated. It is normal. You won’t say that human beings are 100 percent perfect. There is some maltreatment that is shocking, but defecating and others are exaggerated. I saw on social media that some people were tied. These are things that happened maybe during the revolution when they were fighting the blacks, thinking that the blacks were pro-Ghadaffi. So, they are using the pictures of the past.
Personally, how do you feel about the situation in Libya?
We are praying to God that the situation should improve.
Are you overwhelmed by the situation?
I would accept that. I am overwhelmed because I didn’t know it would be of that magnitude.
What is your personal recommendation?
The government should, like I said, send aircraft because the number is increasing. Even though we are repatriating 250, the number is large. To get these people repatriated in time is to add more aircraft to bring them. Once government do that, then it is our responsibility to bring back our people. Anybody that says he wants to come back home immediately, we should, as a government, bring the person home. That is my recommendation.