“We drank our urine and fuel to survive” — Nigerian-Libya returnees narrate horrific experiences
On Thursday, November 30, 2017, 153 Nigerian migrants, including men, women, and children returned from Libya aboard a Libyan chartered flight at about 9:15pm, just two days after 239 Nigerian were returned following the ongoing slave trade crisis.
Out of the 153 Nigerian migrants who returned on Thursday, a few of them narrated the challenges they encountered before getting to Libya and horrific experiences they suffered at the hands of their abductors.
Speaking with Saturday Punch, 20-year-old Clement Chibuzor, a Delta State indigene, was working as a Plaster of Paris artisan when his father met a trafficker, who told him he could help his son to Europe.
According to him, he had worked for eight months and was able to save up little money, but his father told him not to worry and sold his land to help him out.
“I never thought about going to Europe. My father was the one who brought the idea. He sold his land and raised N450,000 which he gave to my ‘burger’ (trafficker). He did not tell my mother until I was already in Libya,” Chibuzor said.
The young who spent 18 months in Libya, continued: “After many of my co-travellers died in the desert, I was kidnapped as soon as I got to Libya. I was in prison for four months until my father sent N300,000 for my release.
“In the prison, our food was a piece of bread every day. When I got out of the prison. I was on the street one day when I met a Nigerian who promised to help me. I worked in his house for some weeks until he sold me to a gang. They kept me in a cell. I was there for a very long time. I cannot count the number of people who died in the cell.
“The police were raiding different places where black people were kept and I willingly surrendered to the police. That was how I got an opportunity to come back to Nigeria.
“While working on the streets of Libya, if the gangs saw you, they would grab you and put you in a cell. They put you in a cell with many others where you would either be sold or made to call your people to pay for your freedom.
“While I was trying to get money the to free myself from the prison, I spoke with my father two months ago. He then told me that if I had the chance, I should return home. I told him that I might die before I had the opportunity to return home because I saw people die every day.”
Another returnee, Kelvin Sunday, 21, an Edo State indigene, said he spent N965,000 to get to Libya after raising the money with the help of friends and his sister.
He explained that a friend of his, who made it to Europe, convinced him to embark on the journey.
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According to him, 41 of them set out in Kano for the journey through the desert but only 10 made it to Libya. He said their fate was sealed when their vehicle developed an engine fault in the desert.
Sunday said, “We were in the desert for three days without food or water. We were drinking our urine to survive. It got to a point that when there was no more urine to drink, we started to drink fuel.
“When we got to Libya, I was working in my burger’s house. I spent two weeks there before I went to the seaside (in Tripoli) where we would cross. From Sabha to the seaside in Tripoli, I spent two weeks. On the way, some traffickers kidnapped us. They beat and loaded us into their Hilux van, but few of us jumped down and I broke my leg. I managed to escape as they were shooting.
“We spent two days in the desert again after that escape. We later saw a motorist whom we begged to help us get to the seaside.
“We were camped at the seaside for three months without any opportunity to cross through the seas. People trying to cross the sea told me to avoid Nigerians helping Libyans to sell people. But later our camp was raided by soldiers, who took us to prison.”
He had spent four months in the cell before he was repatriated alongside many others
Harrison Okotie, 35, he was kidnapped by some violent traffickers, less than a year he got to Libya. He was attacked by his abductors, who hit him in the eye with the butt of a gun. He lost his left eye to that attack.
“Now, I don’t know if my wife and two children would ever recognise me when I get back home. I left Nigeria a whole man but I am returning with one eye,” Okotie said.
He explained that before leaving Nigeria in 2014, he worked as a painter after graduating from the Delta State University.
After paying N600,000 for the journey through the desert, he got to Libya where he was grabbed off the street by some traffickers who sold him for 2,000 dinars (about N529,000).
“When you got to the person you were sold to, he sold you again for double the previous amount.
“Many Nigerians have gone mad and cannot even say where they are in Libya right now. The day officials came to register us for repatriation, we were in a queue when one of the Libyan officials shot a Nigerian dead right there. They said he was trying to run, whereas he was desperate to return home.”
Esosa Osas, 25, another returnee, who was a hairdresser before he left Nigeria, spent six months in Libya.
According to her, several women were raped in Libya, by their abductors.
“It is either rape or death. Nobody could refuse being raped,” she said.
A fellow Edo State indigene, Odion Saliu, 26, said that the Nigerian trafficker who facilitated her trip deceived her.
She said, “She told me that once in Kano, we were going to take a plane to Libya. I was shocked when we were loaded into a vehicle.
“We spent nine days crossing the desert to Libya. I was kidnapped and sold at least three times before God brought me back to my fatherland. I am really thankful to God that I am alive.”