The time was 9.10pm. A Buraq Air’s Boeing 737 with tail number 5A-DMG landed on the tarmac of the cargo terminal of the Murtala International Airport and out came 20-year-old Clement Chibuzor, along with 149 other Nigerians whose ghoulish appearances told of the horrific experiences they must have experienced in Libya.
Over the past two weeks, Nigerians have added their voices to the global uproar over the exposed tales of slave trade, torture and killings of migrants in Libya.
Over 5,000 Nigerians have been repatriated from Libya by the International Organisation for Migration since the beginning of 2017.
Each time a new batch of returnees arrive, they bring with them tales of horror from the transit country, where they hoped to take the treacherous journey through the Mediterranean Sea.
Saturday PUNCH spoke with many of the returnees as they touched down on Thursday night. They told the tales of man’s inhumanity to man.
Chibuzor, a Delta State indigene, was just a teenager working as a Plaster of Paris artisan when his father met a trafficker, who told him he could get his son to Europe.
The young lad had worked as a POP artisan for eight months with little money in his pocket, his father told him not to worry about the money.
“I never thought about going to Europe. My father was the one who brought the idea. He sold his land and raised N450,000 which he gave to my ‘burger’ (trafficker). He did not tell my mother until I was already in Libya,” Chibuzor said.
The young man spent 18 months in Libya. He left the country, a hopeful man. On Thursday, he returned like a mere cargo, thankful to be back to safety.
As he stepped off the plane, Chibuzor looked nothing like a 20-year-old.
His hollow cheeks told of starvation while his skin told of suffering in disease-ridden cells.
“After many of my co-travellers died in the desert, I was kidnapped as soon as I got to Libya. I was in prison for four months until my father sent N300,000 for my release.
“In the prison, our food was a piece of bread every day. When I got out of the prison. I was on the street one day when I met a Nigerian who promised to help me. I worked in his house for some weeks until he sold me to a gang. They kept me in a cell. I was there for a very long time. I cannot count the number of people who died in the cell.
“The police were raiding different places where black people were kept and I willingly surrendered to the police. That was how I got an opportunity to come back to Nigeria.
“While working on the streets of Libya, if the gangs saw you, they would grab you and put you in a cell. They put you in a cell with many others where you would either be sold or made to call your people to pay for your freedom.
“While I was trying to get money the to free myself from the prison, I spoke with my father two months ago. He then told me that if I had the chance, I should return home. I told him that I might die before I had the opportunity to return home because I saw people die every day.”