After their abrupt return to the country, Libya returnees in Edo State were confronted by the challenge of what to do for a living.
Some of them recounted how the state government, through the Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking headed by the state’s Attorney General, Prof Yinka Omoregbe, intervened and gave them succour.
Had the government not taken the initiative to empower them, some of the returnees said, they would have unleashed terror on the state.
Fatai Yussuf returned to the country after spending over 10 years in Libya. He spent about four years of the more than a decade he spent in the North African country in an underground prison, after which he was forced by circumstances to join the dreaded ISIS group. As an ISIS member, he led a team that specialised in kidnapping his fellow citizens.
How was Fatai, who had a deep affection for his fellow nationals, conscripted into the deadly group?
Hear him: “I worked as an illegal soldier in Libya. We were rebels there as I was one of the people trained by ISIS. I didn’t join the group because I wanted to. They kidnapped 22 of us, and anyone who refused to join their group was instantly shot dead.
“Only five of us agreed to do the job because we were not willing to die after losing all we had. I was well trained by ISIS and I used sophisticated weapons. I didn’t use all those Nigerian weapons. I was well tested here too at the state CID when I came back. I can pieces any riffle in this world and couple it.
“We were kidnapping Nigerians because we were instructed to do so. If you failed to do it, they would shoot you dead. We were kidnapping them from their houses, hideouts and everywhere we could find them, and at the same time fighting the Arabs. We kidnapped Nigerians but killed Arabs.
“I loved killing Arabs because it was my hobby. If you see what Arabs were doing to Nigerians, if you lay your hands on a riffle, you will kill them.
“There were many girls we kidnapped in the prison. Many Nigerian girls were raped on a daily basis and impregnated there in the prisons. A good number of the ladies cannot tell who the father of their babies are. When the time comes for many of them to deliver their babies and they are crying for help, nobody would go close to them.
“Fear would not allow their fellow inmates to move closer to them because they had been warned not to get closer to any of their colleagues in labour. When any of them eventually delivers, there would be nobody to assist. The mother and the baby would scream and die in the process. My brother, I shed tears for many years.”
“As ISIS members, we were fighting inside Tripoli. I was getting money but they were still the ones collecting the money from me. Every day, death came my way. But instead of me to die like a rat, I would rather die like a hero.”
Distressed by the sight of the horrible experiences of his fellow Nigerians, Fatai at a point in time decided to take the risk of liberating his people and putting an end to their misery.
He said: “I made up my mind never to watch my fellow citizens’ lives wasted in the prisons because I had the power to help. I had more than 22 soldiers working under me. I was working with a Ghanaian who was my bosom friend in the barracks. The guy had access to luxury buses which we used each time we wanted to kidnap people.
“I rescued 165 Nigerians from an underground prison all alone. When we came back to Nigeria, the people who I rescued were very appreciative. If you saw me then, my body was riddled with bullets. I have been treated. We met with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja and he was told what I did to save the lives of many Nigerians in Libya, but he didn’t do anything to appreciate my effort and sacrifice.
“We have an ambassador in Libya and have soldiers here. Did they do anything to save the lives of the citizens over there? If I were a Togolese, Ghanaian, or Senegalese, I would have been a hero because of what I did in Libya for Nigerians. I would have been better empowered and not just in this manner they empowered me.” `
Although he has not got the expected recognition from the federal government, Fatai said the Edo State government came to his aid by treating his bullet ridden body and also empowering him financially.
He said: “They gave me close to N1 million to empower me. The estimate I gave them was N1.4 million but they slashed it to above N800,000. My parents are late and I have siblings to take care of. I returned home after taking the risk to rescue my fellow citizens.
“I would have been making good money if I had remained in Libya. I could have chosen money, I mean hard currencies, above the lives of the people, but I decided to save the lives of the people. I was given a cheque, signed by the Attorney General of Edo State, Professor Yinka Omoregbe. She was the only one fighting for me to get the money. That woman is a mother to me.
“I used part of the money to mobilise Hausa people in Benin. I organised the group as Arewa and sent the letter to all the offices in the government house. After the whole efforts, they wanted to push me aside. I will not pick their calls again and I will deal with them. The only person who can call me and I would answer is Professor Yinka Omoregbe.”
Despite this, the ex-ISIS soldier still nurses a grudge against some of the state’s government officials who he accused of failing to fulfil the promise they made to him.
He said: “I will tell you something now, and you must deliver my message to those who linked you to me. I have been trying to go and deliver the message by myself to them at the Edo State Government House, but my work does not give me time to do so.
“I am just waiting for Godwin Obaseki’s rally. He has already started the rally at Ramat Park, Benin. I was invited to the rally by the SSG. He invited four of us who are returnees, and he promised that if we would leave our work and attend the rally, he would compensate us. There at the rally, the SSG selected one person to speak. At the end, the other three were given money in my absence.
“I have been calling him and he has not been answering my call because he does not want to fulfil his promise to me. I don’t need his fucking compensation anymore. I am for the day of the general rally. My brother, they will cry… I will send them a pin. To send (import) ammunition into this country is just within a space of time. I have contacts too with Al-Hilada. Al Hilada can fly from any country to another to assist me.”
I would have resorted to kidnapping if I was not empowered – Female returnee
A female returnee, Ngozi Nwachukwu, said she would have resorted to kidnapping if she had not received any support from the government.
She said: “When I came back from Libya, I said I wanted to take up arms if I was not empowered. It was frustration that led to that. Do you know how much I spent on the Libya journey?
“It was when I thought about it that nobody sent me on the journey that I calmed down. If I was not empowered, I would have done something worse than taking up arms. We would have been kidnapping government officials one after the other.”
On the empowerment she received from the state government, Ngozi said: “They gave me N120,000 to rent a shop. The late Idahosa’s daughter also gave me money to buy the foodstuffs that I am selling.”
Another female returnee, Blessing Gabriel, said she had been empowered twice. She said she used the first money given to her to foot the bill of her late brother’s burial.
“The state government gave me N60,000 to rent a shop, but I used it for my brother’s burial,” she said. “After that, they gave me another N55,000. It is soap and chin chin that I sell.
“Please, if you have anything for me, let me know. I can’t tell if I would go back to Libya or not. If everything settles, I won’t go back. But if things don’t settle, hmm! I never know.
“Many of my friends have gone back. I am single but I have a little baby in my hand. I had the baby in Libya. The state government has tried for me since I came back.”
For Loveth, returning to the country has come with a lot of blessings. Through the assistance of the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, she has attended three trainings including the ones by IOM and Junior’s Hub and received financial assistance.
“IOM gave me over N600,000 after their training while a group of reverend sisters after their training gave me N500,000. The Edo State government has also been there for me.
“Before the support from IOM, the Edo State Government gave me a monthly allowance and accommodated me. They have been giving me monthly allowance since March last year.
“I am into sales of foodstuffs. I will not go back to Libya if such opportunity comes,” she said. – Culled from The Nation.