18 BDSUNDAY Investigation C002D5556 Sunday 08April 2018 Libya returnees in Edo... Continued from page 17 for 16 hours, I was praying for any rescue, even if it was by a fisherman. Then, the Libyan government came and rescued us and took us back to deportation camp. “In the morning, you might not see food to eat in the prison. They served us small humza bread and in the night, they gave us undone Marconi without pepper or salt. When you turn it, you’ll see water inside like you are swimming. “Of all the connection men in Libya, Nigerians are very wicked people. They will connive with the Arabians to sell you and tell you to call your people so they will send fund, else they won’t stop beating you,” George narrated. He said that many Nigerians in Libya would like to return home but cannot because they are closer to Italy and when they remember the hardship they suffered in the desert, they would change their minds. “If you are unlucky, they will arrest you in the desert because you don’t have papers. You’ll see some many bones of dead people because a lot of people die in the desert. If someone gives me N20 million to pass through that place again, I won’t go. Never!” he said. Desire to return to Libya Although the name Libya could be said to be synonymous with slavery, many returnees from Libya say they want to go back. According to them, Libya is better than Nigeria because of availability of jobs and strong currency value when compared to the Nigerian currency. Some said that the failure of the government to live up to its promise to make the lives of the returnees better is another motivating factor. “They brought us down to Benin in the pretence that the governor has a special package for us only to chase us out of the hotel. Which help do they now have for us?” Babatunde, a trader who left his wife and children under the care of his mother-in-law before setting out for Libya, asked. “We are not even sure they will pay us the N20,000 because those that returned long before us haven’t received theirs. This is what will make most of us to go back,” he said. Babatunde was deported on March 22, 2018 and is making plans to go back to Libya. “I used to deal in plantains. I bought in bulk from the villages and sold in the cities. I want to go back to the business. I can get goods on credit because I didn’t owe anybody. “Within two months, I will raise enough money to return to Libya and from there, I will go to where I want to go. I cannot stay in this country because if I do, I won’t live long,” he said. Favour, one of the returnees who was a painter before he left Nigeria for Libya four years ago, is also nursing plans of going back to Libya. “If I decide to go back tomorrow, even the government cannot stop me. Instead of turning to armed robbery, it’s better for me to go back to Libya because this country is not friendly,” he said. “I’m not a baby on that Libyan route. Libya is better than this country. I only suffered after I was arrested. In Libya, I earned between 400- 500 dinars (N40,000-N50,000) daily. It won’t take me more than a month to ‘gather’ money and travel again,” he said. Favour, an only child, said he was the secretary at the ‘pushing’ camp in Libya, where people board boats to cross over to Italy. His boss, a Ghanaian, did not want to ‘push’ him to Libya since he (Favour) helped him push a lot of people to him. When his boss decided to ‘push’ to Italy, Favour said, they never knew the road had blocked. So, he was caught on the sea and sent to the deportation camp and later deported to Nigeria. “Many people in that country are supposed to come out but they are not ready to return to Nigeria. Many are still in the prison and they are telling the government that they are going nowhere,” said Collins, one of the returnees. “They say they’d rather remain in the prison because they know what they passed through in their Nigeria. They don’t want to come back and Elizabeth face the same thing. You are in a foreign country and you are going through stress, in your country you still face the same thing. So, what’s the use of coming back? It’s better to face it in Libya; anyhow it wants to be, let it be,” he said. Another returnee who gave his name as Paul regretted returning to Nigeria, saying he would return to Libya once he lays his hands on cash. “I was on the Mediterranean Sea, less than an hour to Italy, when I was captured by the Libyan government and jailed in an underground prison,” said Paul, 24, who sold his tailoring machine shortly after apprenticeship to travel to Libya in April 2016. “I suffered in that prison but I knew I would have regained my freedom someday and continued my journey to Europe if I wasn’t so unfortunate to be deported to Nigeria. “I will go back to Libya because I want to ‘confirm’ the Europe country this time if I see someone that will sponsor me. Because I have got some kind of experience, if I go back, it won’t be tough for me. It’s only the newcomers that will find it difficult and this time, my twin brother said he will join,” he said. Growing crime rate The unintended consequence of driving the returnees into oblivion without counselling and training is that the crime rate in Edo State is likely to increase. Findings show that this may already be happening as some returnees have taken to crime. Steve, 27, two-time Libya deportee who was caught in robbery said he did so out of frustration. “I travelled to Libya in 2015 but I did not have money to cross over to Europe. So, while working to save up the money, I was imprisoned and later deported in December 2017,” said Steve, who was a truck driver before his departure to Libya. “I travelled again to Libya in January 2018 because I had nothing doing but I ended up in the deportation camp and was brought back to Nigeria on March 22. When we were driven out of the motel, I had no place to stay. I went to rob so I could rent a room but I was caught. My friends bailed me out and now I owe them N50,000,” he said. Another returnee who retailed female clothing in New Benin before his trip to Libya said most of the returnees took to crime as a way of survival. “When I was still at the motel, a man dropped off a lady at the motel but on getting to Sapele road, his car was snatched. It’s one of us that did that due to hunger,” said the returnee who refused to say his name. “When they received us in Lagos, they told us that our governor and the Oba of Benin wanted to see us and deliver a special package to us, but we did not see anyone and they said we should go. Where did they expect us to go to?’’ he asked. A medical doctor at the Central Hospital, Benin, confirmed that robbery has been on the increase since the returnees started coming home. “It was not like this before,” he said. Government reacts Cruose Osagie, chief press secretary to the Edo State governor, said the government cannot bear the entire burden of the returnees on its shoulders. “If I tell you that our plans are to take over the lives of the people (returnees) and begin to run it for them just because they travelled to Libya, I would be lying because they are still responsible for their lives,” Osagie said. “Just because they travelled to Libya does not mean that they are government’s property. Be that as it may, the government is committed and is giving out the little support it can to resettle the returnees,” he said. Solomon Okoduwa, senior special assistant to Edo State governor on human trafficking and illegal migration, told me on the telephone that the state has received a total of 3,155 returnees since October 2017 and 530 of them had undergone vocational training while 550 had been paid. “We have trained 530 returnees in bead making, cosmetology, soap making and fashion designing between December 2017 and March 2018. When we have a sizeable number of them who are interested in a particular training, we contact the resource persons to train them,” he said. “We are processing the funds of those who are yet to receive their stipend. There are no funds now but that does not mean that we won’t pay them when the funds are available,” he said. However, an inside source at the state task force against human trafficking, told me that only one batch out of the 26 batches of returnees had been paid as at Thursday March 29, 2018. “We paid only one batch because we don’t have enough funds to pay all of them. What we do now is to lodge them for two days and after that, they can find their way,” the source said. Recently, it was reported that the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, placed some returnees from Libya on salary for three months. When asked the number of returnees, the criteria for the selection and when payment would commence, Okoduwa said, “Some of the returnees we trained in skill acquisition requested for funds but when we told them there were no funds for them at that moment, they became agitated and went to Oba’s palace. So, the Oba placed 76 of them on salary. “The Oba’s word is a decree; it does not take time because the Oba is not like the government. The Oba has the capacity to pay the returnees that same day. They will receive the payment as soon as their information is finalised.” While pleading for the returnees to be patient with the government, Okoduwa also solicited for assistance. “We will not dispute the fact that some of the returnees have taken to crime but we are not encouraging crime. Whoever is caught would face the full wrath of law,” he said. “We call on well-meaning people in the state, religious bodies and the business community to support the cause of the Edo State government because the job is enormous and we have other things to take care of,” he said.
Sunday 08April 2018 C002D5556 19 Politics Why I should be elected Imo next governor - Njoku Professor Jude Ejike Njoku, a former vice chancellor of the Federal University of Technology (FUTO), was voted the ‘Best Vice Chancellor in Nigeria’ in 2004 because of his proven excellent leadership quality. He was also a former commissioner for Land Surveys and Urban Planning and commissioner for Education in Imo State. Njoku, in this interview with SABY ELEMBA, says he is the man Imo people are looking for to stabilise the politically-ravaged state and give governance a human face. Excerpts: Why do you think you are the right person to be elected as the next governor of Imo State in 2019? This is because I can add value to the quality of governance to Imo State and help to bring about the desired change that will usher Imo State into a state of prosperity and accelerated development. The reason I say so is that right now there is a clamour for change in Imo State particularly in the style of governance. A lot of people are not happy the way things are; Imo State appears to be ravaged by all kinds of mismanagement and people are not happy, they are clamouring for change, the change in the personal leadership and the change of the party that is in power in the state. Giving my background and experience, I believe I have a unique opportunity to bring about the desired change, bring about prosperity, bring about development to our people so that Imo will begin to move again, begin to restore sanity in the state, begin to restore the dignity of Imo State because Imo has been debased and they have been dehumanised so that we begin to retool our psyche. And after all, we are all people of dignity and should also be treated with some dignity and we want also to accelerate the pace of development and development that is sustainable. Nigerians think that you are only an academician; may we know more about your background? Well, as you know I come from Owerri zone, I come from Ngor Okpala Local Government Area to be precise; the place where Imo Airport is located is my town. The airport is right at the back of my house, I can walk into the airport tarmac from the back of my backyard. And I think that with a very view that the next governor must come from Owerri zone since Owerri zone has not tasted the governorship of Imo State since the new political dispensation in 1999. Secondly, I am a professor of agricultural economics at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO). I rose from the position of head of department to the dean of students’ affairs and then the deputy vice chancellor administration and vice chancellor from 1990 to 2005 when I finished. And also I had the opportunity of being appointed the commissioner for Land Surveys and Urban Planning in Imo State in 2007. In 2009, I was moved to the ministry Jude Ejike Njoku of education as the commissioner for education. And I think if I could manage a very big organisation, a complex organisation for that matter like a University which is a microcosm of a state, everything you look for in a state or in a country is represented in the university. And if you are able to manage a university successfully then you can also manage a country. And you also know that in 2004 I was elected as the Best Vice Chancellor in Nigeria; that attested to the fact that I managed the institution very well to the extent that throughout my period there was no strike and we maintained steady academic calendar even when most other universities in the country lost one academic year. And we maintained a peaceful university, a progressive university that was why I got that award. I worked well as a commissioner for Land Surveys and Urban Planning, we introduced this computerised land administration which was modified by the present government that was supposed to generate a lot of revenue for the state. And we tried to open new layouts that have been allocated and also acquired other lands for development. And of course in education, I was the commissioner that masterminded the return of schools to missionaries which hitherto had been impossible for the administrations that were here before us and other achievements. So we had a lot to show for our outing as a commissioner in Imo State. And in think I have the knowledge and the capacity. I have the experience, the majority, the capacity to govern this state and add value to the governance in the state. And stablise the state where people would be honoured and dignified and give human face to governance. Our people are now looking like people who are defeated and traumatised and we need to return their psyche. If you do not know administration you don’t know it. After politics is governance and governance is all about administrating the human and material resources. You need to be vast in administration. You recall if you read the Leader newspaper recently, the archbishop said Imo needed a seasoned technocrat to rewrite the wrongs that have been inflicted on people by the present administration. I think that is what I am coming to do and that is why it is me. Prof, the party, PDP, the platform under which you are running is still battling with internal problems; how are you going to wade through the crisis? Well, I think to a very large extent we are stable. You do not have a life without problems. There is no life with perfect peace. The only perfect peace that exists is when you die, so you cannot say that the party in Imo State has perfect peace, it has relative peace, relative to the situation that existed last year when there was serious factionalisation in the party. I know that there are few people who have yet not been accommodated but to a large extent the majority is settled. There is still a move to see how some of those unaccommodated people can be accommodated in the party so that we achieve total peace. Nigeria as a political theatre DANIEL OBI Nigeria has become a theatre of sort, entertaining its people and the international community. There are ‘shows’ almost every day in the ‘theatre’ to watch, read or listen to. According to some observers, various events in the country are comical in nature. Last week, it was reported that 5 gunmen invaded a police station around 2:30am in Kogi and killed two policemen and wounded another person. Various news channels which aired the information perhaps, did so to portray how bewildering and incomprehensible the incident of invasion of a police station could be. Everywhere, a police station, not a gas or railway station, is supposed to be vibrant, especially when insecurity level is high. But a police station and its officers went to sleep, leaving themselves vulnerable. According to an observer who does not want his name in print, the incident happened without police retaliation which led to the stealing of police guns and other items. Recently, it was also reported in the media that snake swallowed N36 million belonging to JAMB. Today, there is no clear conclusion on Maina. There was also Ikoyigate where the sum of $43, 449, 947, £27,800 and N23, 218 cash was found in a house. There are many similar jaw-dropping news items including the alleged rat that destroyed President’s office when he was away in London for medical attention. Then, enters the release of looters’ list by the All Progressives Congress (APC). The list of persons who allegedly looted Nigeria’s treasury contains mostly members of the opposition party, PDP, who are standing trial in various courts and who have not been convicted. The released list curiously does not contain the names of PDP politicians, who have defected to the APC. Punch Newspaper Cartoon of Wednesday, April 4, and BusinessDay cartoon of April 6, 2018 captured this incident succinctly. The Punch cartoon showed where EFCC was chasing an alleged looter who was holding Umbrella but the EFCC official became confused the moment the looter dropped the Umbrella for the Broom. BusinessDay cartoon illustrated the story differently but with same meaning. Another worried observer who has been watching the theatrical performance wondered whether these persons who are standing trial would eventually get fair hearing since they have been pronounced “guilty” by the ruling government. He just cautioned that the world is watching Nigeria and its performances in the theatre. Lawyers believe that there was no need to dramatise the release of the names since some of them are standing trial for various offences. Flaying the APC action, Ferdinand Orbih, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in a report, described the release of the names as irresponsible. He said people who were still under trial over corruption allegations were presumed innocent until the cases against them are proven as enshrined in the constitution. “Such persons are presumed innocent until proven otherwise, by the constitution, which the President swore to uphold,” he said. He further said in the report that it seems the Federal Government does not understand what the rule of law or the dynamics of due process entails. In the same report, Daniel Onwe, Lagos-based lawyer and rights activist, said the publication of the list was a violation of the right to presumption of innocence of those on the list. “The difference between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is that while one is now in power, the other is out of government. It is just the names that differ. So, where are APC people who were active players in the PDP? Or has the APC become a cleaning pool, rather than a political party?” he asked. Corruption is a serious issue in Nigeria which has undermined development and economic growth. But the political way it is being handled instead of allowing courts of law to have its say amounts to trivialising and politicising the issue. Today, some Nigerians do not know the difference between a corrupt serving government official and exofficial. Since the list is onesided, it would appear in the public court that they are being targeted for victimisation by the APC government, especially as the 2019 election is getting closer. Nigerians want to see corrupt government officials convicted and sentenced to jail, no matter the political party affiliation. But when a government in power shields ALL its party members and accuses other political party members of looting the treasury, it sounds theatrical and the objective of naming and shaming is not achieved.
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