Libya slave trade: Echoes from House of Representatives

The widely condemned act of modern slavery in Libya, helped by human traffickers who promised heaven on earth benefits to unsuspecting persons, mostly Africans, to embark on illegal migration to Europe, recently assumed a dangerous dimension.JOSHUA EGBODO, reviews the concerns of members of the House of Representatives.
House resolution
On November 29, 2017, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, calling on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to urgently liaise with its Libyan government to find lasting solution to the dangerous menace of illegal migration, and the ugly development of human auctioning by some modern day slave merchants.
The House in the resolution also mandated its joint committee on Human Rights, and Foreign Affairs to interface with the foreign affairs ministry and relevant stakeholders to identify factors that seemed to be encouraging people to embark on the dangerous journeys, as well as suggest possible solution to discourage intending migrants. The committee was also expected to recommend how Nigerians caught in the ugly web, can be returned back home.
A member of the House, Hon. Shaheed Akande-Fijabi had in a motion that gave rise to the resolution, harped on the need to investigate what he described as “inhuman and barbaric act of slave trade involving the auctioning of black Africans in Libya”.
The lawmaker recalled that the recent uproar against the menace started on November 14, when the CNN broke the news of the barbaric act through a video footage of the auctioning process, showing how African migrants from countries including Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Gambia, who made dangerous crossing through the Sahara Desert to Libya with the hope of making it over the Mediterranean Sea, to Europe in search of greener pastures”, were being sold for paltry sums of money.
He said “young men were being sold to North African buyers as potential farm hands and one of the unidentified young men sold off for as little as $400 (144,000) is said to be a Nigerian in his twenties”.
The matter elicited condemnation from other members, including Hon. Oghene Ego, Chairman of the Committee on Diaspoara, Hon. Rita Orji, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, Hon. Omesede Igbiniedon and Hon. Edward Pwajok.

Presidential assurance
President Buhari later gave assurances that all Nigerians stranded in Libya under such move to illegally enter Europe would be assisted to return back home. But before then, Speaker of the House of Representatives, just back from a trip to Italy, re-emphasised the concerns of his colleagues last Thursday when called for urgent intervention of the Nigerian government.

Dogara’s plea for succour
Dogara, who blamed the continuous rise in the illicit business of human trafficking on greed for money, as well as organ harvest by some evil merchants, said “I wish to make few remarks on the subject matter of my trip to Italy where I participated in a Conference specifically convened by the President of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, Her Excellency, MS LAURA BODRINI, to discuss a very topical issue; ‘Women Empowerment and the Fight against Trafficking in Persons. The Partnership between Nigeria & Italy’.
Dogara recalled that the conference was convened in the aftermath of the very tragic event of 5th November, 2017 at the shores of Italy which resulted in the death of some 26, mostly Nigerian girls having embarked on what has now become the riskiest journey on earth, attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, an incident the House had earlier passed a resolution on, calling for investigation of the tragedy.
“If you thought the horrific events that led to the deaths of our girls were appalling just as we prepared to leave Italy last Friday, we received the terrifying news that another set of 30 migrants had died in the Mediterranean Sea while 200 were rescued. To our collective shame, these kinds of deaths have become a recurring decimal on account of which the Mediterranean Sea has become the cemetery where Africa’s future, which our young represent, is buried.
“Our findings reveal that the deaths are under-reported as the figures more often than not do not take into account those deaths for which the corpses are not recovered. It must be noted that in most cases some of the immigrants are deliberately dumped into the sea like bags of weed.
“To add salt to injury, humanity’s conscience was recently jolted by the CNN report of auctioning of black African migrants as slaves in Libya where these migrants are normally held in servitude in human cargo holding facilities. I believe most of us have seen the atrocious pictures of black Africans in such overcrowded holding facilities where they are packed like sardines and often mercilessly beaten and terrorized by their captors in order to keep them subjugated. These pictures, which the social media is replete with, have moved even the brute and the cruel to tears”, Dogara stated in the emotion-laden speech.
On why the trade was thriving without recourse by the perpetrators to concerns of human dignity, Dogara said “the answer is, money. They do it for the money. Slavery is so lucrative especially now that it involves human organ harvesting. It was and it is still a money spinner. In the past, it was so lucrative that a part of the sweet Land of Liberty fought a vicious civil war to keep slavery until the abolitionists won.

All are guilty
But beyond the talks, many are asking that what has been the concrete effort of the Nigerian government to halt these journeys of no return by Nigerians. To such people, aside the greed and organ harvest merchants who use all manner of deception to lure victims, the real push factors which include bad governance and unemployment were yet far from being addressed.
The Speaker said all would be guilty, especially by keeping silent. “It is my considered opinion that we are all involved in this crime either as perpetrators or those who are aiding and abetting human trafficking by standing aloof. We are ultimately responsible for what we allow or permit. There is a place for Nigeria in all these.

Way forward
Going forward, analysts are of the opinion that the nation’s anti-human trafficking laws ought to be urgently strengthened. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has been grossly underfunded, which the National Assembly can in its capacity improve. Parents and relations have also been advised to shun the desperation to send their kids and wards abroad.
Dogara was, however, of the opinion that the legal framework to combat Human Trafficking is fairly well developed. “What is required is the political will and the muscle to execute the laws and policies already in place”, he said urging his colleagues that “we have a responsibility to use our legislative tools of oversight to ensure that all agencies empowered by law to fight this scourge are made to account to our people. But to what extent will this call be heeded, is the looming question.

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