The Human-Trade in Libya: my kind of Rage

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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Stories have always circulated, of girls auctioned off into sex trade, people kidnapped, their organs harvested and sold in the “black market”. 

Human trafficking it is a sad reality that has hitherto thrived among us, albeit clandestinely.

That is, until a video footage emerged, courtesy of CNN, showing real-life footage of humans – consisting largely of West Africans and predominantly Nigerians - being sold openly in slavery.

The general response from the rest of the world has been one of outrage.

Outrage at the brazenness of this modern-day slave trade.; at the pegging of a human life to as low as $400. That is, a human life is equal to the cost of groceries for a month, in a middle-class household.

There has also been outrage at inadequate publicity on the crisis shed by members of the United Nations (UN), and the UN as a whole, as well as insufficient efforts to put a permanent end not just to this horror.

But mine is a different kind rage. One which is more concerned with the underlying cause of the problems, and not just its indications.

My annoyance is largely directed at the Nigerian Government. And the governments of the other West African countries, whose nationals are also victims of the slave-trade.

It is true that the United Nations and the ‘superpowers’ could do more, show more interest in the (literally) life-or-death crisis. For starters, we have not been inundated with “pray for victims of the Libyan Slave-Trade”, as is similarly awash the media in recent tragedies affecting human lives, especially in the realm of terrorism.

Thus, the easier way out would be to blame the United Nations, blame the world, blame the super-powers for their disinterest. Particularly the United States of America, which appears more preoccupied with its rising sexcapades scandals, than with the dire issue of human lives.

However, just like any person would be hesitant to rush into a burning house to save the effects of the said house, if the house owners are seen to be casually sitting in front of the burning house, drinking and eating away merrily, the rest of the world leaders would only dance to the tune set by the leaders of the countries whose nationals are affected by the slave-trade.

In the face of this crisis, neither the African Union nor ECOWAS have put up strong statements, indicating moves to put an end to this crisis, and protect its nationals.

Bringing it home to Nigeria, the President has been silent, and the office of the Presidency, through the Special Adviser to the President on Foreign Relations has only issued a statement indicating that about 5000 Nigerians migrants have been brought home from Libya since May 2017, and shifting blame to Libya’s internal governance challenges.

Which does nothing to provide assurances on how or when the remaining Nigerian victims will be rescued, or strategies to ensure that future instances of such slave trade (or even, Nigerians illegally migrating to Libya) will be prevented.

In saner climes, heads would be rolling. Figuratively, that is.

(Remember Clinton, and Benghazi??)

In Nigeria’s case, the foreign envoys to Libya have neither been recalled nor questioned. Even as Presidents of other countries whose citizens are not personally affected continue to speak out against the disaster and lend their support, the Head of the Nigerian State remains mum.

You would think we would all be too used to this silence as a mode of response; what with the silent treatment given to the Benue mass-murders by Fulani herdsmen, and the drowning of young boys acclaimed to be IPOB supporters by the Nigerian soldiers.

But one can never get used to betrayal of trust by a trustee, which is the position that our leaders occupy. Herein lies the first source of my outrage: the silence.

Beyond this is the knowledge, that government after government have failed the people, birthing a certain kind of hopelessness which extinguishes the basic instinct for self-preservation, pushing citizens to subject themselves to all forms of self-degradation – and even possible risk of loss of life - in the quest for a “better tomorrow”.

After all (they would say), a life with no food, no water, no security or assurance of a tomorrow is no life at all. This is death already, they think. Until they face actual death.
For as long as the common wealth of the nation is not shared equitably, and the benefits of our ‘democracy’ not cascaded to every Nigerian (born or unborn), the unfortunate truth staring us is that this crisis is far from over. More people will offer themselves up for an unknown (and possibly, lethal) future to escape the hardship of the present they face.

It is the helplessness of this reality that is the root of my rage.

Unless the Nigerian government decisively focuses on improving the standard of living for the common Nigerian, the government may more or less be the hands which tie these citizens, the vehicles which transport them to their harrowed end, and the mouths which haggle the pieces of silver for which their fates may be sealed.

Our elected officials therefore owe us as a whole an obligation to go beyond providing mere statistics on the numbers of migrants returned to Nigeria, to actually quelling this slave trade, by ensuring better living conditions for the Nigerian people.

And it is not far-fetched, or totally herculean.

Cut the salaries of the legislators. Reduce unnecessary numerous personal aides, motorcades and convoys. Provide small-scale business owners with investment opportunities, which would cascade down to the retailer around the corner. Roll out various trades schemes.

Sink boreholes in every village in Nigeria.

Provide farmers with access to adequate capital. Build housing schemes and improve the general infrastructure of the areas inhabited by low-income earners, and not just the high-brow areas.

Invest in improving healthcare in Nigeria, rather than in paying millions abroad for the healthcare of public officials.

Chairmen of local government councils should ensure that road contracts are executed, and the state governments should jointly enforce this.

Provide electricity, so there is no need to waste resources in the importation and use of generators. Make the refineries work, so there is no need to keep importing petrol, thereby sustaining the enrichment of a few.

Rather than spend the common wealth of the nation on lavish parties and in funding the lifestyle of a few, distribute it to every Nigerian, by genuinely using the time in government to ensure access to amenities.

It is only then that some optimism may return, and the people would be inclined to finding hope in the present, rather chasing a tomorrow that may never come.

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In the meantime, the Presidency should clearly indicate present measures being undertaken to secure the release of the other Nigerians still trapped in slavery in Libya, as well as recall its envoys to Libya, while replacing them with personnel more qualified to deal with the intelligence required to deal with the present situation.

The practice of sending rather ill-prepared and oblivious envoys on foreign postings as a way of political ‘compensations’ should be done with. The priority should be (and remain) that foreign emissaries are trained to protect the country’s interests, and be its eyes and ears in the foreign land.

Notwithstanding the failure of the Nigerian (and West African) leaders, the world still owes it to humanity, to put an end to the crisis. Politically-correct arguments surrounding ‘sovereignty’ should not be used as a shield to avoid global responsibility.

At the very least, the United Nations could apply pressure on the leaders of the countries whose nationals are involved to taking lasting measures in preventing continuity or reoccurrence, and actively lend its support in putting an end to this human crisis.

After all, we are humans first, before being citizens of any country.


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  1. Fantastic read, I hope our leaders read more of lasting solutions being proffered by the citizens of our dear country - Nigeria and execute them to the letter. Thanks Meg for this write-up, hoping to stay glued to your busy mind.

    1. You're welcome. I sure hope we get more lasting solutions..

      Be sure to follow the blog, and you'd get an alert every time awesome posts are published.

  2. Thank you for your perspective on this

  3. As long as African leaders don't rise up to doing what they were clearly elected to do. As long as they keep looting the people's treasury under their care. As long as politicians take the citizens for a ride. People would always leave their fatherland in search for greener pastures and this modern day slavery would keep manifesting in different forms.

    1. This is sad... let's hold on to the blind hope that our leaders will become genuine leaders.