David Onimisi Lawani:
Edo state can be said to be the hub of illegal migrants / Libyan returnees as events in the last few weeks show that Edo has the highest number out of about 500 deportees, writes DAILY ASSET Correspondent, David Onimisi Lawani.
The pains expressed by Edo Libyan-Europe bound returnees were out rightly buried more in hushed tones. Their appearances depict unexplainable gory tales. Some of them were not happy to be brought back while some were still not convinced that they could come back to the same country or state they were running away from.
The returnees who first arrived through the Murtala Muhammad Airport in Lagos were later received by Edo state Government officials in collaboration with NAPTIP and other stakeholders against illegal migration.
In a chat with some of the girls, Rita Isaac, 27 who hails from Oredo Local Government Area of the state, said her experience over there was terrible and that she lacks words to express what she went through but appeal to Government and other concern individuals for support to enable her return back to school.
According Rita, “I was made to understand that things will be fine. The deceit involved is so much. The thing exists like a syndicate. They are well connected and organised. I regretted it. Imagine different men sleeping with me? It was not what I planned for not until I got there and I had no option than to indulge in it. I’m not like myself again. I went through hard times there. I went through terrible pains over there. There are still more than thousands of girls going through similar horrified situations. Some are just uncalled for.
“You run from Nigeria all for you to run into more terrific and dangerous conditions in Libya. You need to see what we go through there. I want to thank the Government for responding promptly to return us back to our country. Thank God there is life. They should send some of us who want to further our studies back to school. Like me, I still want to go to school. Those who want to learn a vocation and other necessary skills should be encourage to do so, “ she noted.
Blessing Evans, 19, from Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Council expressed similar experience. Her tale was more bizarre than Rita’s. First, Blessing said she thought Europe was greener as she was made to believe not knowing that it is all farce.
“I was learning a trade until a friend sold the idea to me. Prostitution is not the best and only way to make money. It is sad that I had to go through this moment in life. You need to see how those people were mistreating us. They will have to sleep with us before handing us to another group who will continue with their version of wickedness. It was that bad. We were sleeping in shanties when we have better homes back.
“I want help because I need to start doing something for myself. The quest to make money. See Nigerians there. Our government is wicked. Why can’t they make life better for us? Why travelling through the risk in the desert? It doesn’t just worth it. It is evil. We have enough that can go round for everybody. Even now that we are back, what plans are on ground for us? We were given some money in Lagos. We are leaving for our various Local Government Councils without transport fare from our own government. This is unfortunate,” she stated.
Blessing and Rita are among the numerous illegal migrants who were deported from Libya trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
Haven come to the reality of their foolery, these illegal migrants said they are not sure of what life holds for them and appealed to the state government for support to enable some of them willing to return to school to do so and those willing to take up a trade that could keep them busy and away from idleness.
The Executive Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki in his reaction after receiving the returnees said that the government was ready and willing to accept these illegal migrants who were ignorant of the deceit that lay ahead of them by this deadly trafficker.
The Governor who was represented by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice who also doubles as Chairman,Taskforce Against Illegal Migration, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, said: “ It is part of the activities of the task force establish by the Governor, Godwin Obaseki. You know he is concern about this immigrants and he should be. Because we have the biggest problem in the area of human trafficking, migration and others especially to those people who are from here.
“And most of the people being returned are also from here too. The governor has taken this great gesture if actually showing that he cares about the people even going to pick them to show them that Edo is a good place to stay. And at the end of the day, the bright future they dream of there is here not to be found in some foreign land but right here, “ she said. On the training so far conducted for those who have returned because there were reports that they hardly receive any form of training , she said: “There is nothing like that because that is certainly not true. There are training programmes going on. Like few weeks ago, we actually passed out some people who were trained and given some support. I don’t know who they were. They were different people but they just needed help. With this, I think they are totally wrong. Since the commencement of this taskforce, I doubt if there will be anything like that, “ she submitted.
When confronted further why the effort of government she is part of was not yielding positive result, she reiterated: “ When did we start? We became commissioners in July and the Taskforce started work in October. And we have done a lot. The taskforce is an entire government effort to the end. It is Government funded effort. No foreign or outside support is in this thing we are talking about. It is a major effort. When birth started, you must give birth to a baby first. You don’t expect your baby like a calculus in a month or two. It is a gradual process. Just wait and see what we want to do. There are a lot that has happened. We have an anti-traffic bill that will be given to the National Assembly very shortly within the next few days. We have started sensitization meetings; town hall meetings that we are taking to all the places specially to places where most of these girls want to go out. And what we are doing now is momentous. We went out to welcome our people. I think this is a welcome development and an initiative from the government.
It will be noted that these, returnee girls were all camped in one Hotel, Benin Motel before being released to leave for their homes and the Hon Commissioner had this to say as report has it that it was not the best they could have done, she explained further: “This is just an opportunity to meet with them and interact. This is the beginning of our meeting and i think this is good.
“There are a lot of plans to take care of this people. The state government is willing to go to any length to work with any of the collaborators who can assist in resettling them in this venture. This is a collective effort. The state recognises that it has to think fast and take the lead in this area and he said that himself when he inaugurated the Taskforce.
We are happy like in this instance in that, we have our earliest partner because as soon as we started, Action Aid came by us through different programmes and I know what they want will benefit us. And we will always have different programmes.
“Their children are invaluable to us. We won’t send them out because if we do then we are sending them to be slaves. Edos are not slaves. They are free born people. They have the right to everything that is good. All those good things right here in Edo state they are also part of it, “ maintained.
The Commandant of NAPTIP, during an interactive session with some Journalists disclosed that trafficking is more like a syndicate whose intention is to keep capitalising on the ignorance of this young girls who do mot know the trouble they were getting themselves into.
His words: “Trafficking is a serious offence. It is painful they cash in on the ignorance of our girls. Their parents have also not helped matters. Some of them could be deceived believing that life outside there is greener not knowing that it is worst. They were deceived or cajoled that as soon as they arrived they will be taken to their place of work all for them to find themselves on the streets of Libya doing prostitution. Some of them are sick. Three weeks ago, a lady was brought on a wheelchair. Deception and ignorance played a critical role in trafficking.
“It is unfortunate that Ikpoba-Okha has the highest number of persons being trafficked in Edo south, Esan North East follow in Edo Central, while Etsako West next in the number of persons trafficked from Edo North axis. It is sad. Some of them are with pregnancies and some with grown up children. It is a national calamity. Parents should be wise. We have a case currently where some of the traffickers are being prosecuted. Some had to swear to an aoth. Like recently, too, we had to arrest one of the babalawo (native doctors) to deactivate the charms then charge him to court. There are lots of prosecution going on in the court.
“NAPTIP is a federal Government agency and I know they will continue to do their best in sensitizing the public on the danger inherent in human trafficking. These girls are too young to be wasted on just because they are seeking for a greener pasture that is non existent,” he stressed.