A Nigerian returnee from Libya has revealed that 25 of his countrymen, ferried from the West African nation to Libya by a trafficker simply identified as Charles, perished in the Sahara Desert, in the course of the journey.
The returnee, who identified himself as Alex Otoide, from Edo state, said seven members of the group also died inside a Libyan jail.
“We were 55 that travelled from here to Libya, 25 people died in the desert. More than seven people died from hunger and thirst inside the prison,” Otoide said in a report published by TheNation newspaper on Thursday.
Otoide spoke with journalists in a government camp in Benin City.
He said the human trafficking agent, Charles collected the N500,000 from him with a promise of a better life in Europe.
He, however, regretted that instead of Europe, he ended up in a Libyan jail.
Otoide said but for providence, things could have been worse for him as he witnessed the sale of 20 Nigerian girls in the prison where they were all kept.
“They sold about 20 girls in the night. I saw it. It was God that saved me.”
“I left Nigeria with N500,000. I spent six months in Libya jail after the man that took my money ran away.
TheNation reported that many of the returnees look skinny and exhausted while some of the women among them came back to the country with babies, whose fathers are unknown.
Charles, the returnees said, is running a transit camp in Libya for those who want to travel illegally across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
He regularly made a trip back to Nigeria where he persuades desperate young men and women that he is capable of helping them get to Europe from Libya for a fee of about N500,000.
According to the deportees, after collecting the money, Charles usually abandons them in Libya.
The human trafficking kingpin reportedly operates several bank accounts with different names in Nigeria through which he collects money from victims.
They alleged Charles kept Nigerians for days without food in his camp in Libya. Many of the migrants do not even make it to Libya as they die of exhaustion in the Sahara Desert, according to the migrants.
Osas Blessing, one of the returnees said Charles is among those nicknamed ‘burgers’ or ‘connection man’ on the Libyan route.
He said: “I gave Charles N450,000 but when I got to Libya he increased it to N600,000. He is very wicked. He does not care for human life. He is a Bini man. He will say if you die you die. He pushed us into the sea at the wrong time.
“I heard he just left Nigeria with new passengers to Libya. He has frustrated many Nigerians.”
At the 2018 budget presentation to the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Edo State governor Godwin Obaseki said no fewer than 10,000 indigenes of the state were trafficked in the last one year.
He disclosed that more than 3,000 deaths were recorded among the trafficked persons.
Obaseki in a speech on Tuesday said his administration is willing to support any initiative that will curb human trafficking.
The Edo governor, represented by his deputy, Philip Shaibu, stated this when he played host to the executives of the African Youth Commission at Government House, Benin City.
He said the way youths travel out of the country to be used as slaves in their host countries is unacceptable.
Obaseki, who described human trafficking as “modern day slavery,” noted that one of the goals of his administration is to build the capacity of youths to enable them to compete favourable with their counterparts across the world.
“For us as a government, we believe we should reduce unemployment and also help to reduce illegal migration.
“For us, human trafficking is not acceptable, that is why we are trying to gather not only national, but international support to check this menace,” he said.