Our Libya story, by returnees

Following a barrage of reports by both local and international media


Our Libya story, by returnees


about the deplorable and inhuman condition of Nigerians trapped in

Libya, the Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with the

International Organisation for Migration, arranged to airlift those

willing to come back home. The operation led to the deportation of

over 10,000 Nigerians from Libya, since last year.

Majority of the deportees were deceived to believe that they were

traveling to Spain, Italy or America, only to end up in Libya. Many

of the returnees spent over four years in Libya, where they were

subjected to all kinds of torture and slavery. Their stories are that

of disappointments, sorrows, tortures, pains, and even in extreme

cases, deaths.

Back home, many of them became dejected and despondent, believing that

they had lost all. To them, life has no meaning any longer, thereby

taking up a life of alcohol, drug, and crime. Yet, there are those who

have woken up to the realities on the ground and have decided to pick up

the pieces of their lives and move on. For these ones, once there is

life, there is hope of a bright future.

Against this backdrop, the European Union, in collaboration with the

IOM and the Federal Government again embarked on reintegration and

resettlement process for the returnees so as to reintegrate them fully

into the society. At one of the training sessions in Lagos, Daily Sun

encountered some of the returnees, who shared their experiences,

starting from how the journey was conceived in their desert

experiences and life in Libya.

Deceit, the name of the game

Thirty-year-old Ubo Marvin, who came back on May 11, 2017, told Daily

The Sun that life had been very tough for him since his return. “But with

this training, I feel empowered. I feel that things have changed

because I have learned a lot. I want to go into super smart business,”

he said.

Unlike so many others who were deceived to believe that they were

traveling to Europe, Marvin, a native of Agbor in Ika South Local

Government Area of Delta State was told from the outset that he was

going to Libya to work and make money. He spent only two years in

Libya, out of which one year was spent in prison. He just got his

freedom when the opportunity to return home was offered by IOM and he

quickly grabbed it.

On his desert experience, he said he was lucky to have survived but

not without nasty experiences. He said: “I experienced a lot of ugly

things in the desert. I never expected the journey to be that

dangerous. I expected that we were going to use a bus but we were put

in a Toyota Hilux van. The Hilux van that was supposed to take about

10 persons were loaded with more than 25 persons. It was overcrowded

such that people cried as we journeyed. I saw some dead bodies along

the way, mostly those that fell off the Hilux van because we were

just too many to be contained there. It took us only two days from

Nigeria to Agadez in Niger. We rested for two days in Agadez before we

proceeded. It took us another four days to get to Libya from Agadez

because we didn’t have any obstacle on the way. For those that

experienced one problem or the other on the way, they could spend

months in the desert.”

How did he find himself in prison? His answer: “After some months in

Libya, I wanted to cross over to Europe, but in the process, we were

arrested on the Mediterranean Sea by the Libyan police. We had already

traveled for almost three hours before we were intercepted and

arrested. That was how I found myself in prison.

“Life in prison was terrible. We were caged; we didn’t go out. They

didn’t open the place except when somebody died. They would open it

and evacuate the dead body and close it again. It was hell. They

hardly gave us food. We ate once in a day and that was just macaroni.

Even when we were sick, there was no medical provision for us. They

don’t care and that is why many people die in prison over there.

Today, I am happy that I am back. I thought that all hopes were lost

but today I am here, hopeful to forge ahead. I thank the IOM for the


Working as prostitute

For Ogun State-born Popoola Adesewa, who came back on June 26, 2017,

the experience was also hellish. The 27-year-old lady from Abeokuta

said one of her friends sold the idea of traveling to Italy to her.

She grabbed the offer with joy, not knowing that Italy would

eventually turn out to be Libya. She said she spent six agonizing

years in Libya.

“He didn’t tell me we were going to Libya; he told me we were going to

Italy. He told me it would be easier to secure a good job there and I

believed him. I followed him but when we got to Agadez, the story

changed. We had to work there before we got to our destination. I also

worked at Duruku. Although he told me we would travel through the

desert, he never told me that desert was like hell,” she said.

She almost shed tears when asked to narrate her desert experiences.

With barely audible voice, she said: “I can’t describe my experience.

I don’t want to remember it because it was horrible. The things they

forced me to do in Agadez and Dururku are what I can’t share here. I

just thank God that I survived and came back alive.”

But when pressed to at least share one or two of such ugly

experiences, she opened up. Her narration: “When we got to Libya, the

story changed. The man sold me to another woman, who took over me as

her personal property. She told me that she was the one that paid me

money to Libya from Nigeria and that I had to work for her. I worked

for 10 months and two weeks as a prostitute yet she didn’t want to let

I go. She told me that she wanted to use the money I had realized for

her to bring another girl for me from Nigeria. In other words, she

wanted to introduce me to their human trafficking ring but I told her

I was not interested and that she should set me free but she refused.

I said to her, ‘You used me to do ‘runs’ and you still want me to use

another person’s daughter?’ When I told her that I couldn’t do it, we

disagreed and fought. Police burst into her house the day we fought

and arrested me, her husband and two other girls, while she escaped. I

spent five days in prison before I was released. When I went back to

her house, she insisted that I would have to pay for the expenses she

incurred to secure my release from the police. I went back to her

house after I was released from the police custody because I was still

a ‘Jedit,’ that is a newcomer, who hardly knew her ways. I knew she

didn’t pay any money to the police but I was helpless. So, I had to

work for her again to offset the money she claimed she paid to secure

my release from the police. This time, she insisted that I would

double the money. The police clearly told us that we were free to go

and that there was no ‘Banamish’, meaning that no money was collected

from us, but when we came back, the woman insisted that she paid for

our release. So, I continued working for her for another four months

before I told her that enough was enough. She even beat me when I said

I was not working for her again.”

When she left her sister, there was nothing she could do other than

to continue in the same line of business. So, she started hawking her

flesh to survive but at the end of the day, she came back to Nigeria

without a dime. “I left her and started working on my own. But, to

save money in Libya is not easy. And even when you manage to save

money, some people that you trust to help you send the money across to

Nigeria will seize your money and tell you that they are your ‘Buga,’

and there is nothing you can do about it. I came back to Nigeria

empty-handed. In summary, my experience in Libya was terrible and I

wouldn’t want to go back for any reason,” she submitted.

Another lady from Ogun State, Deola Debora, also narrated how she was

deceived by her grandma that she was being taken to the United

The states of America to further her education but ended up in Libya. “We

never knew that the woman was a trafficker. She promised my grandma

that she was taking me to the USA to continue my education and the old

the woman was so excited that her granddaughter would be going to America.

Then I was 21. We took off from Mile 12, Lagos, and before I knew what

was happening, I found myself in Niger and in the desert,” she said.

She also did not want to talk about her desert experiences. “My

experience in the desert was terrible. I saw so many things that I

don’t want to remember again,” she stated.

In Libya, she was lucky, as she was not forced into sex slavery. “When

we got to Libya, he told me that I would have to pay 600 Dinar to

cover what he spent to bring me to Libya from Nigeria. The following

day, I started working as an ‘Arabo,’ that is, a housemaid. I saw a

lot of things that I can’t say. In fact, they treated us as slaves.

Even when you were sick, nobody cared,” she said.

She expressed happiness for being part of the training, saying: “I am

happy that I came back alive. I am also happy with this training. As it

is, the only thing that can make me travel to America now is if I

have my air ticket in my hand and not anybody promising to take me

there again. I have seen hell and I don’t want to repeat my mistake.”

Williams Angel Nwakama from Rivers State spent 19 years in Libya. He

came back to Nigeria on November 23, 2017. He said he left Nigeria for

Libya in 1998 because his father was maltreating him. “Things were

rough than in Nigeria and most people were leaving due to the military

rule. I went through the desert. No trafficker was involved in my

case; it was a personal decision. I left because my father was not

treating me well. He was abusing me and, out of frustration and anger,

I left home when I could not bear it anymore,” he said.

In Libya, he said he engaged in menial work at building construction

sites, just like many other Nigerians at the time. He revealed that

most Nigerians in Libya at that time were also involved in drugs and

human trafficking. “Those of them who had no human feeling was into

human trafficking because that was the easiest way to make money then.

I was too young to even engage in that kind of business. I was just 17

years old,” he added.

He was later involved in drug and that landed him in prison where he

served for six years before he was released. “I served six years at

Matiba Prison in Tripoli. I was eventually set free and compensated

because they found out that I was not really into drugs, but the

people I lived with. All of us were arrested and imprisoned after our

the house was raided,” he stated.

After he was released, he was not deported and he did not want to come

back to Nigeria. So, he continued until 2011 when the crisis broke out

between Ghaddafi’s men and western-sponsored forces. He said they

wanted him to fight on the side of Ghaddafi, but he declined the

offer. “Then in Libya, they see Nigerian young men and ladies as

soldiers because of the military government in Nigeria. But, in actual

sense, the attitude of Nigerians then in Libya was just like those of

military personnel. Nigerians are courageous and fearless. They

believe that Nigerians are the only people that do not have fear in

them; they can even go to the land of the dead and still survive. That

was the impression they had of Nigerians. I don’t know where they

got the impression from, but that was why they wanted to force me into

fighting for Ghaddafi.”

However, when it was clear that he didn’t want to fight, they wanted

him dead, not minding his close relationship with top military brass

in Libya. “I made friends among their top military men – generals and

colonels, among others. I speak Arabic, French, and Italia fluently. I

was very popular from Benghazi to Tripoli and Misrata because I speak

their language. Most of them had farms and I was always going from one

farm to the other, spending time with them. I gave them ideas, like

how to break away from the thought that Africans have no homes. That

time, they believed that there was no single car in Nigeria, so I

tried to change their impression. They were so much in the dark that

they didn’t know about the outside world because Ghaddafi caged them.

I gave them knowledge of how to travel to Europe and many of them

traveled outside, sending their children to Europe and America to

study. At that time, by means of survival was just relating to these

top military men and providing these ideas to them, while they

sustained me by providing my needs.

“So, when the war started, it was easy for those top army officers to

grab me but I refused their offer to fight. They arrested me at

Bograine and confined me to an underground prison. They took me back

to Tripoli. We were about 56 but 53 of us refused to fight and they

tortured us. Even the people who were my friends in the army took part

in torturing me. Throughout the crisis, I was being moved from prison

to prison. Sometimes, I would escape but they would later recapture me

and put me back into the prison,” he narrated.

But, when he found out that his life was on the line, he convinced

them that he had a medical knowledge and that he could take care of

the injured instead of fighting, and they accepted. “That job equally

made me more popular. I even took care of their pregnant women.

Sometimes, I would disguise as a woman to be able to penetrate

war-torn areas to be able to get drugs for the wounded. Even when the

war was moving to Benghazi, where France dropped the bomb that killed

most of the Ghaddafi’s soldiers, I was there.”

Williams said he was so popular that he eventually became the chairman

of Nigerian communities in Libya. “I became the overall chairman of

the Nigerian community there. The Arewa, Ohaneze and Oduduwa groups

were all under my chairmanship. I helped to release a lot of Nigerians

that was in prison. I used my connection to save a lot of Nigerians

and Africans. I became so popular that there was no drug case or any

kind of case at all that they would not call on me. Some were innocent

and some were actually guilty of the crime they were alleged to have

committed but I was there for them.”

With 19 productive years wasted in Libya and now back to square one in

Nigeria, Williams said his mission was to write a book to expose what

exactly happened to Nigerians in Libya. “I will do that because of that

was my promise to Nigerians that died in Libya. I am planning to visit

families that believe that their sons are still out there, but they

don’t know that they have died a long time ago. Some families go to

different churches with pictures of their children praying for their

safe return but they don’t know that those children had died a long

time ago. I saw a lot and I want to help families locate their dead

ones in Libya. There are a lot of uncovered graves – mass graves of

Nigerians in Libya that I know. I know the places, the areas and even

the people that killed them. I know a lot.

“I want the world community to know the truth about the killings in

Libya. The dead bodies are not about the people trying to cross the

The Mediterranean. The people that die in Libyan territory are much more

than those who die in the sea. The Libyans are just killing Nigerians

for no reason. If there is any reason, I will tell you but in this

the case, there is absolutely no reason; they keep killing Nigerians in

hundreds. They kill people anyhow. I know one Ghanaian called John,

who worked for a Libyan, but was not paid. And just because he went to

the man’s house to ask for his money, he was hacked to death with an

axe. What about the incident that happened shortly before we came

back? A Delta man was shot dead by an Arab who said he was making

noise. Just like that and the man was dead. This one happened in my

presence; I saw him shoot the Delta guy. There are many instances like


“My book will expose many evils so that the world will know the truth.

The Italian and European government would have to share in the blame.

My mission now is to reveal to the world the truth about what actually

happened. IOM does not know what happened; it only came to rescue us.”

“We need a lot of work to stop what is happening in the desert. If EU

and IOM can support me, it will stop. Many of our brothers come down

to Nigeria to organize large numbers of people and deceive them that

they were taking them to Europe. They have made so much money doing

this dirty business and they would bring them to the desert and sell

them off. They will promise them mouth-watering jobs.

Virginity for sale

“The one that shocked me most was the case of a young girl from

Ekiti State, who was about 16 years. As a virgin, she was put in a

house at Agadez to be deflowered by the highest bidder. They started

at $300 and ended in $5000. So, the person that brought the girl

collected $5000 and allowed old men to deflower the little girl, who

kept shouting as she was being penetrated.”

For 30-year-old Naomi Lawrence from Igbokoda in Eti-Osa Local

Government Area of Ondo State, her worry is the fact that some of the

notorious human traffickers were seated among other returnees at the

reintegration seminar. “Right now, I feel okay; I feel alright but

something is bugging my mind. There are some human traffickers who are

here with us in this training. I don’t understand that. What are they

here for?” she queried.

After a year and 10 months in Libya, she came back on December 27,

2017. She said her days in Libya were good because of the family she

worked for were good.

She revealed that the traffickers and those who trade on human beings

are Nigerians and not Libyans. She lamented that Nigerian girls,

mostly from Benin, Edo State and Abeokuta, Ogun State, do all sorts of

things, ranging from stealing to prostitution in Libya. “If you go

there and say you are a virgin, they will tell you not to worry. They

will ask you if you will not give birth and when you say you will give

birth, they will then assure you that the baby, which will pass

through your, Virginia is a much bigger penis. They also steal. Nigerians

steal cars from Libya and bring them down to Nigeria and that is why

the Libyans hate Nigerians so much. In Libya, you will not find ladies

from other African countries; all the girls are Nigerians. Libyans

were even asking us why we betray ourselves and turn around to accuse

them of maltreating us,” she stated.

Naomi’s only regret is that she lost her mother and her 11-year-old

son, while she was away in Libya. “I was into fashion designing and I

had a shop in Surulere, Lagos. I was also into catering and bead

making. My friend convinced me that there was an opportunity for fashion

designers in Dubai. I was just carried away. My major regret is that I

lost my 11-year old son and my mum. I thank IOM for this opportunity

because it would have been more terrible without this assistance,” she



Illegal immigration can never be completely stopped, no matter how

high the wall or how many patrol agents you have watched it – Gail


Our Libya story, by returnees


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