No fewer than 171 Nigerians voluntarily returned from Libya on Tuesday aboard a chartered Nouvelair aircraft with registration number TS-1NB.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the aircraft landed at about 4.18 p.m. at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
NAN reports that another batch comprising 161 Nigerians, had earlier on February 14 also voluntarily returned from the North African country where they had been stranded enroute Europe.
The new set of returnees were brought back by the International Organisation for Migration, IOM, and the Nigerian Embassy in Libya.
They were received at the Hajj Camp area of the airport by officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, the National Agency for the Protection of Trafficking in Person, NAPTIP, and the Police.
Also on ground to receive them were officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
The Director, Search and Rescue, NEMA, Salisu Mohammed, who gave a breakdown of the returnees, said they were made up of 49 males, 109 females, seven children and six infants.
Addressing journalists, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, commended the IOM for facilitating the return of the Nigerians.
She said : “Like I told them, they are not criminals. These are people that have gone in search for greener pastures. However, it turned out to be a terrible experience for them.
“They shouldn’t be ashamed of themselves. Now they are back home and Mr President has personally conveyed his greetings to them and to let them know that they are back in Nigeria and there is no better time than now.
“Times are tough, things are difficult but your country is the best place to be.”
According to her, the Federal Government, IOM and some states have put up programmes in place to rehabilitate Nigerians who volunteered to return from Libya in order to reintegrate them into the society.
“The question is, how long are we going to keep evacuating them? So there is going to be another evacuation and a final one when we will tell Nigerians who are stranded in Libya to come back home.
“After that it will be difficult getting IOM to do the evacuation.
“A lot of them don’t know where they are going to. There is a lot of ignorance here. Some of them are trafficked and they get there with nothing.
“The message here is that illegal migration is not worth it because as tough as the country is today, you are better off here than being in those places,” Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa said .
She reiterated the government’s commitment to the welfare of Nigerians all over the world, stressing that it was currently addressing the issue of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa.
The presidential aide described the attacks as shameful, noting that it was wrong to generalise Nigerians in the country as criminals.
One of the returnees, Gift Peters, said she got to Libya 11 months ago after being deceived that she was being taken to Germany.
“When I got to Libya, it was not in my mind to continue with the journey. So I asked the person that took me to return me to Nigeria but he started maltreating me and sold me to someone who has a connection house in Libya where we were maltreated daily.
“If we don’t want to work, they will start maltreating us. They will do you something that you will wish to die.
“Those who they sold us to, sometimes, use iron and start burning us. At times, they will instruct our fellow ladies to urinate for us to drink,” the Delta State indigene said amidst tears.
According to her, she managed to eventually contact her family in Nigeria and was fortunate to make it back alive unlike many of her peers who joined her on the ill-fated journey.