I shed tears when I visited camp where Nigerians are kept in Libya – Geoffrey Onyeama opens up

The minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has lamented the state of some Nigerians who travel outside.

He says he regrets the disdain with which Nigerians are treated outside the shores of the country.

The minister spoke on Thursday in Abuja at the 22nd edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration scorecard series.

Onyeama was responding to a comment by a journalist who expressed displeasure about how Nigerians travelling abroad are being subjected to harassment when their passports are seen.

The minister agreed with the position of the journalist and attributed the challenge to the desperation of many Nigerians who took illegal measures to travel out of the country.

“If there is one thing that I look back to with the greatest regrets in my seven and half years in the ministry of foreign affairs, it is the situation of Nigerians in foreign countries,” he said.

The minister cited incidents he witnessed and intervention efforts he undertook to rescue trapped Nigerians in other countries.

Onyeama said he shed tears when he saw the camp where Nigerians were kept in Libya.

“I went to Libya and I actually shed tears when we went to this camp where they were holding Nigerians,” he said.

“There is that whole issue of slavery and of course, all the exploitations that go with it and they told us that there were only a hundred or two hundred Nigerians there.

“So, we went to the yard and it was one of the most touching things I ever experienced. We have all these young boys –13, 14, 15 years old and they all came out, over a hundred of them and they all stood up to attention.

“As soon as they saw us, they started reciting the Nigerian national anthem and tears came to my eyes. We were told that the girls were used as prostitutes at night.

“When we saw them, the girls told us there were more Nigerians and we insisted they should bring them out. Lo and behold, twenty minutes after, they brought out another set which was about 200 Nigerians.

“The president gave directives, that we should charter planes in order to get them out and we did. Those of us in government have to blame ourselves, particularly in the immigration and even in foreign affairs.”

Onyema narrated another incident where the US ambassador to Nigeria showed him the list of Nigerians that were issued visas through Note Verbal to travel but absconded and never attended the events they were scheduled for.

He said he was also shown the list of those who were not respecting their visa deadlines and requirements.

The minister said all the illegal acts and sharp practices contributed to the way Nigerians are treated abroad.

“In order to reverse the situation and ensure Nigerian passport is given the due respect it deserves, we all have to work hard and behave ourselves,” he said.

“We are all suffering from this because we have people with genuine missions seeking to travel abroad looking for visas and they are denied.

“It is a challenge for each and every single one of us and it is impacting negatively on our country.

“We all have the responsibility to salvage the situation.”

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