From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Kemi Yesufu and Fred Itua, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, spoke on the vexed issue of allegations that hundreds of African refugees and migrants were being bought and sold in modern-day slave markets.
According to reports, the trade works by preying on tens of thousands of vulnerable people who risk everything to get to Libya’s coast and then cross the Mediterranean into Europe, a route described as the deadliest on earth.
He assured that those still there would be evacuated, adding that his administration would do everything humanly possible to make the country conducive to discourage youths from embarking on the journey and risking their lives.
Buhari said fixing security as well as providing other critical infrastructure would reduce the chances of people taking the risk and ending up in the Mediterranean Sea.
In a swift reaction to the pledge to evacuate the remaining Nigerians stranded in Libya, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo convened a meeting of relevant agencies in Abuja to address the situation.
Those in attendance were the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Refugee Commission. They met at the State House, Abuja to jointly review the situation with intent to taking a firm position on the matter.
In his opening remark before the meeting went into closed door, Osinbajo recalled the comment of the president at the interactive session with the Nigerian community in Abidjan that all those stranded in the hostile country would be given an opportunity to return to home.
He reiterated the commitment of Buhari’s administration to ensure that young Nigerian men and ladies were no longer exposed to the danger involved in wandering through the Sahara Desert and eventual attempt to cross the sea.
While recalling a CNN report that some of the victims were being sold in Libya, Osinbajo said it was necessary to brainstorm on the matter with a view to coming up with a well prepared position on how to tackle the menace.
Most of the Speakers at the opening of the fifth European Union-African Union (EU-AU) Summit, had condemned the disturbing images coming out of Libya and urged both continents to work together to halt the ugly trend.
Meanwhile, the Senate has told the Federal Government to immediately investigate the number of Nigerians that have so far been affected in the Libyan slavery auctions.
It equally urged the government to kickstart the process of repatriation and rehabilitation of victims of the human rights abuses in the North African country.
The resolution followed the adoption of a motion on “Urgent need to protect Nigerian citizens from the Libyan slavery auctions” raised by Baba Kaka Garbai (Borno Central).
Garbai in his lead debate observed with dismay, the report of slave markets at various locations in Libya, where Africans and mostly Nigerians were being auctioned as slaves, priced as merchandise and sold off like animals.
The lawmaker said he was sad to observe an online video which exposed the sale of 12 Nigerians for prices ranging between $400 and $800.
He noted with concern that the stone-age, inhuman and barbaric act was going on in the 21 century.
Similarly, the House of Representatives called on the Federal Government to urgently liaise with the Libyan government with the aim of curbing illegal immigration and the sale of Nigerians as slaves.
The House also mandated its committees on Foreign Relations and Human Rights to interface with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant stakeholders to identify factors that makes youths desperate enough to resort to illegal immigration despite the risk.
The joint committee, which is to report back to the House in four weeks was equally directed to come up with recommendations on how stranded Nigerian migrants could be repatriated.
The decision of the House followed the adoption of a motion entitled: “Need to investigate the inhuman and barbaric acts of slave trade involving the auctioning of Black Africans in Libya.” sponsored by Saheed Fijabi.
Leading the debate, Fijabi wondered why slave trade has been re-introduced over 200 years ago after it was abolished.
In her contribution, Nnena Elendu-Ukeje informed the House that the Federal Government had seen to the safe return of 234 Nigerians from Libya.
Looking beyond recent reports from the North-African country, Ukeje who heads the Foreign Relations committee said so far, the National Agency for prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has brought 3000 Nigerians back home.