By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri, 28 Oct 2011
Thirty days in the desert after fleeing the crisis-torn Libya, 450 Nigerians yesterday arrived Maiduguri, Borno State, with tales of rape, torture and loss of their personal effects to the fighters opposed to the regime of late Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Over 300 others were said to be still languishing in Ndjamena, the capital of neighbouring Chad Republic.
The Nigerians, who looked dirty and unkept, arrived Gamboru, a border town between Nigeria and Chad, early yesterday morning. And after undergoing the necessary immigration processes, proceeded to Maiduguri from where some of them left for their various states.
Some of them, who arrived the country without any money on them, had to seek refuge from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which was alerted as to their entry into the country by Immigration officials. The NEMA officials subsequently arranged accommodation for them at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp within Maiduguri metropolis.
Narrating her ordeal, Splendid Eze, who claimed that she had been in Libya since the last four years, said at the peak of the revolution, she had to take refuge at the United Nations camp in Saba, Libya for two months. Eze said she was repatriated alongside 450 others from the camp on 28 September and they were made to take the long and tortuous journey through the desert. She said before leaving the camp at Saba, they faced various hazardous situations including sleeping in the open and getting hit by bullets from the warring factions.
According to her, they did not fare better on the journey back home as they “were robbed and raped by the rebels”. She said: “I was robbed of my US$1000 and some of those in my company were robbed of their valuables including laptops and handsets.”
Another returnee, Obire Matthew Tony, said they were packed in a truck like sardines and sent on the long and tortuous journey through the desert to Nigeria. He revealed that they had a stopover for three days in Ndjamena where they were accommodated by the International Organisation for Immigration and subsequently sent to Nigeria by the organisation.
He alleged that the Nigerian ambassador to Chad avoided them like plague and at no time came to their assistance.
Speaking to journalists on what plan the agency has for the returnees, the Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Aliyu Sambo, said they would be kept at the camp, fed and transported to their various states after their respective state emergency management agencies must have been approached. On how the agency got to know of their arrival, Sambo revealed that they were alerted by the Immigration officials at the Gamboru border and the agency immediately started making preparations for them.
He said quite a number of them arrived the country early in the morning and came to Maiduguri around noon, but some had since left for their various destinations since they could not be held back against their wishes. He further disclosed that the returnees were the first batch and others were still being expected to come through the Gamboru border into the country.