Tales of anger from Libya
?Nigerians must realise that there is no greener pasture anywhere except your country?, 25 on death row ?Envoy
From JULIANA TAIWO, Tripoli
Monday, December 20, 2010
That Nigeria?s image is battered in Libya is an understatement, no thanks to the desperation of people who want to flee to Europe at all costs, using Libya as a gateway.
Though there was no time to meet with the Nigerian community and get first hand information during the just-concluded 3rd AU-EU Summit held in that North African country, the Charge de Affairs of Nigerian Embassy in Tripoli, Alhaji Abubakar Lemu, cut a picture of a frustrated diplomat while lamenting on how the activities of the criminal few had affected on genuine travelers in the country.
Lemu said the illegal immigrants into Libya have contributed to the strained relations between the two countries. ?You must have seen and read repeatedly in the Nigerian media both electronic and print of stories of execution of Nigerians in Libya, it is a big problem. Both countries are now talking of exchange of prisoners and peaceful way of resolving this problem because it is one that federal government alone cannot solve,? the charge de affairs said.
He said the Minister of Foreign Affairs had opened an avenue of talks with relevant state governors whose indigenes are the main culprits.
?So you can understand from that point of view where the average Libyan has that negative image about Nigerians; it?s because of the type of Nigerians they come in contact with, who unfortunately are in the minority but are criminals, engaged in prostitution, brewing of alcohol which is forbidden here, drug running and things like that. They are the ones the average Libyan comes in contact with,? said he.
According to Lemu, there are 25 Nigerians on death row in Libyan prisons and a lot more on the awaiting trail list. However, the Nigerian government in consultation with the relevant state governors are doing everything possible to have them (those awaiting trail) returned through the prisoners exchange programme?
While regretting that the illegal entrance through porous borders to Libya has continued to give Nigeria a bad name, Lamu pleaded with the Nigerian government to stop Nigerians from leaving their more lucrative jobs to become labourers and criminals in Libya.
He said: ?Thankfully, there is a programme by the Federal Ministry of Information - rebranding, we hope Nigerians will listen and take to heart the messages embedded therein, Nigerians must realise that there is no greener pasture anywhere except your country. Some of these countries they risk their lives to travel to do not have anything spectacular about them but because of lack of information and education, you find a lot of Nigerians leaving their very lucrative businesses or resigning from their jobs with comfortable salaries in Nigeria to become labourers in Tripoli. The Libyans throw things at them and treat them in a very inhuman way but you cannot complain because you must survive.
?Figures of condemned Nigerians on death row in Libyan prison are 25, our Nigerian government is aware and most of them we have interviewed, have given the addresses of their next of kin in Nigeria, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has directed after consultation with some of the governors where the condemned prisoners come from -Abia, Delta, Edo and Lagos, that we make plans to exchange them through the prisoners exchange programme.
?Some of those interviewed are hiding their identity because they are ashamed of what they have done and do not want their families to find out. Those awaiting trail we have at this point get a legal representation for them, the legal firm is advising on how we can go about prisoners exchange?.
Lemu explained that the only way these prisoners can be exchanged is when they get the families they have committed crime against to forgive them.
?For instance, there is a law in Libya, if a person commits murder, the family of the person murdered must forgive the murderer or demand for blood money for compensation. Once this is done and a written agreement obtained, the murderer is free to go else he will face the consequences,? he said.
The Charge de Affairs also assured that the diplomatic rift between the two countries has been settled and normal diplomatic ties will soon resume at the highest level with the Libyan government beginning consular activities in Abuja to ease visa application processes.
It was the second time this reporter was visiting Libya. The first experience was not so palatable. The Libyans were more friendly and professional this time around (may be because we were on government delegation). Unlike the Afriqiyah Airways of 2006 on our way to Geneva for the ILO conference with rude and hostile air hostesses, noisy and uncomfortable aircraft with no in-flight entertainment and blankets.
This time, the aircraft was a Boeing 737 with in-flight entertainment; the air hostesses were better in their manners though they had a clash with a passenger who insisted on seeing how his children were doing at intervals because they had given them different seats. Still no blankets were provided but it was a better service compared to my the experience.
Lamentation of Nigerians living abroad
For the four hours, not once did the three passengers sitting across the aisle from me (one of them obviously from Edo State because of her accent) stop lamenting about what they have been going through in the hands of their relatives who see them as cows that must be milked mercilessly. The three of them disclosed the pain, torture, frustrations they have endured to make ends meet for them and their families, without receiving any word of appreciation.
?I have decided I have had enough of the demands from my family, else I will die not enjoying the fruit of my labour. I have had to pay school fees of my siblings, I have had to bear the burden of paying for the house rent, I have had to send money down to treat one family member or the other. When I was single I didn?t mind doing it though it was tough but now I am married and my husband is an Italian, I have to be prudent with spending.
?Unlike in Nigeria where the man is the head of the house, abroad responsibilities are shared and I don?t intend to loose my marriage for the sake of pleasing ungrateful and lazy family members who have refused to work to augment whatever you send down. The moment I told my parents and siblings that I will no longer shoulder all those responsibilities I have become a witch.
But none of them is there helping me scrub the floor to make ends meet, none of them is there to see me do two to three jobs to keep the family going as well as find time for my family including my little girl.
?Instead of them to improve on what I have sent to them, they want me to continue to send down free money and you don?t even get a thank you for the previous ones you sent. They can tagged me Jezebel for all I care but I have had enough of them, this home coming this time around is to sort things out for myself so I have something to fall back on, they are clearly not in the picture,? she said.
The AU-EU Summit
The 3rd Africa Union- European Union Summit opened in Tripoli, Libya on Monday November 29, 2010 with a call on African leaders to get rid of World Trade Organizations (WTO) and World Bank on the continent and embark on meaningful engagements that would develop the continent and its people. The two-day meeting with over 1,000 delegates, had the theme: ?Investment, Economic Growth and Job Creation.?
During the plenary sessions, the leaders deliberated on regional integration, infrastructure, ICT, science and the private sector. Also on the table were issues on climate change, space, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agriculture and food production.
The summit participants also discussed peace and security, governance and human rights as well as illegal migration, mobility and job creation, and their discussions were followed by the adoption of their action plan and the summit?s declaration November 30th.
Libyan President, Muammar Gaddafi, in his trademark combative manner at the opening session brought to the notice of the over 80 leaders from African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) the fact that since WTO started its partnership with Africa, it has not built a single factory to prove that it has interest in the growth and development of the continent, while at the same time, poor countries in Africa have not benefited from the World Bank.
The Libyan leader pointed out that African leaders needed to focus on development and the well being of their people, by creating more jobs to prevent the future generation from going to the western world in search of asylum. He added that WTO has broken Africa down because of its international influence.
Not yet done, the Libyan leader pointed out that the United Nations needs to be reformed because it has become a corrupt organization, since it now has interest in certain countries instead of focusing on every country in the world. He maintained that if the UN, WTO and World Bank want to assist Africa, they should assist the continent as one and not to select countries that they have interest in.
Libyan President also demanded 5 billion Euros from the EU to control illegal migration into Europe. He warned Europe that Africa was capable of standing on its own, insisting that Europe was more in need of Africa than Africa was in need of it.
Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who also chaired proceedings on the second day of the Summit, while speaking on ?Governance and Human Rights? recalled that the African Economic Outlook of the African Development Bank in the three years before 2009 global recession showed that Africa achieved average annual growth of around 6 percent. She added that in 2009, the growth rate declined to 2.3 percent but was expected to rebound to 4.5 percent in 2010 and 5.2 percent in 2011.
The Liberian leader pointed out that while the record seems to be clear that good governance fosters good economic policies, resulting in good economic performance, there were strong dissenting views. ?Thus as we celebrate these 50 years of the independence of many African countries, and Europe?s 53rd year of regional integration, we take note that Europe is today largely integrated while Africa remains balkanized with reliance on historical trading relations. This is where the European and African partnerships make a difference,? she said.
President Johnson-Sirleaf told the summit that it was time for them to move away from the continued North-South colonial trading patterns and bilateral relationship based on commercial and political objectives; to supporting regional industrial activities that will produce the economies of scales required for private sector growth. According to her, underdevelopment of infrastructure, a current priority for Africa, continues to constrain the potential expansion in investment and the positive effect which this would have on regional integration and employment, particularly among the youths, which represent two-thirds or about 66 percent of the African population.
The President of the European Union Council, Van Rompuy in his opening remarks said Africa has the world?s greatest potential and it is about to tackle the issue of poverty on the continent. He said the EU will continue with its responsibility in assisting the continent and its people. He stressed the need for the two continents to work together and use these opportunities in strengthening their partnership and bring about greater developments.
The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Jean Ping called on the participants to remain focused and continue the partnership since there can be no peace without development.
The second summit, held 2007, in Lisbon, had advocated the setting up of the Africa-Europe ties on new equality basis and called on both sides to move from aid to partnership, which was symbolized by the adoption of the first common strategy to take up new challenges and opportunities on the international scale.
In the closing statement, read by the Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf, heads of state and government officials from 80 African and European nations agreed that ?the partnership between Africa and the European Union is one of the most enduring global relationships?.
Africa ?is more than ever on the eve of a fundamental evolution offering new opportunities and perspectives towards enhanced integration and improved sustainable development?, the statement said. Participants will work on the co-operation strategy before the 2013 summit in Brussels.