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Libya: Is slave trade returning?

It was indeed disturbing when the news broke out recently of migrants being bought and sold into slavery in Libya; a trade since abolished for its repugnance to nature, equity and good conscience. From the abounding reports and investigations, it was alleged from unofficial records that there were as many as 17,000 ‘slaves’ in that destabilised country. Any wonder then that it had led to protests outside several Libyan embassies worldwide including the one at Abuja. A situation that saw the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) releasing a statement expressing ‘a grave concern’ , the African Union calling for an immediate probe into it and the Nigerian Senate ordering a ‘writ of summons’ on the local Libyan ambassador.

The sadder part of the tale though is that unlike their predecessors in the nefarious trade, these new slaves enlist willingly as it were. Mostly made up by people from Sub-Saharan Africa, these migrants, often in the prime of their lives, are mostly beguiled into leaving their countries in search of the proverbial ‘greener pastures’ in Europe. Unable to make the upper echelons of this wave due to paucity of funds, they end up being charged lesser fees to embark on the trip overland; to virtually leapfrog across the Mediterranean to their destination.

Like most of the ‘lucky’ few of them that have lived to recount the tale as vouchsafed, the bargain was often the only roseate part of the story. As it happens always, they end up stranded in the Sahara Desert at the mercy of the many factional warlords bequeathed by the fall of the Ghadaffi regime. Thus does what was supposed to be a one-horse risk transform into a flotilla of them. Rather than that hazardous ferry across the sea, many have ended up slaves detained in dungeons to be sold and resold at random.

On this count, kudos must go to President Muhammadu Buhari who has ‘eaten a hair plucked from his head’ – like they say – that all the Nigerians entrapped in the web must be repatriated. It is on record that ever since more than 3,000 of these unfortunate compatriots of ours have been brought home with their many tales of woes. Indeed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have been doing a yeo(wo)man’s job and deserve all our commendation. They should, however, never rest on their oars till every one of them is returned, to the glory of God and our heroes past.

Also, it should be ensured that, like they pledged, we are happy that all the returnees are adequately resettled by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) before their relocation to their home states. On this count, we are most gratified that all the bodies set up by the government to curb this malady are up to the task. Rather than joining the chorus blaming the tragedy on the migration policies of the European Union (EU) they are calling things by their names. The recent press conference addressed by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) calling on our youths to be mindful of the lures of these sugar-mouthed traffickers is easily the better way to curb the menace.

Waiting till one has made the horrendous trip and learnt the hard way can only be counterproductive, to say the least. We hereby call on the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved to borrow their leaf. The target should be to lay emphases on the education of the yet inchoate minds of these would-be migrants. They should be sensitised to rather stay home than risk from enslavement to death on the highway of a pipedream like the 26 teenage girls who recently perished off the coast of an Italian island.

All said and done, the government should also double its ongoing efforts at getting at the root of the abnormality. Like opined by the UN Secretary General, the root cause of the problem remains poverty. Although our economy is marginally out of recession, more oil needs to be put in its gear to get it up to speed with on-ground realities. The tailors of our economic cloth should be in the know that an urgent need to balance the gap between the statistical readings of our economic indices with that of our streets subsists.

We at THIS NIGERIA humbly urge that now, more than ever before, is the time to endeavour to reach those double-digit growth indices so well enunciated in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the government. Only then will the many of us forever tempted by the need to leave these shores in search of greener pastures abroad see no need for the purposeless adventure. Most pertinently too as the grass indeed only appears greener from a distance as testified by the many that have taken the plunge and survived to recount their ordea

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