A record of 13,235 Nigerians have been deported from at least 10 countries in four years, Daily Trust investigation has revealed, according to Daily Trust.
Investigations uncovered that countries include Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Oman and some countries in Europe.
The deportation of Nigerians was mostly due to immigration-related offences and other criminal activities.
Although, out of the 13,235 Nigerians that were deported between 2017 and 2021, Libya had deported over 80 per cent with 9,759.
According to the statistics given by Daily Trust, Libya deported 3,086 Nigerians in 2017; 3,996 in 2018; 2,085 in 2019; and 267 in 2020. This is large because Libya is the transit route for migrants, especially Nigerians, journeying to Italy and other parts of Europe.
However, these Nigerian men, women and children who decided to gamble with death in an attempt to cross to the West, usually pay the supreme price.
Many of the times, very few of the original number who set out on these dangerous journeys lived to tell their stories. While many regularly drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, others died in the desert, and some were even sold as slaves.
Muhammad Babandede, a former Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), said 5,908 Nigerians had been deported from Libya as of 2018.
Babandede, who was in Libya on a fact-finding mission to secure the release of the stranded Nigerian migrants, said, “In 2017 alone we received 5,608 deportees, specifically from Libya.
“So if you add to the number we received on January 7, which was 485 from Libya, it will give you 6,393 deportees from Libya alone.”
He further said that “between January 2017 and January 2018, 3,498 men, 2,684 women and 211 minors were deported from Libya” Babandede continued.
Second to Libya in the number of Nigerian deportees is Saudi Arabia, at least 1,426 have been deported within five years.
In January 2021, Saudi Arabia had deported 802 stranded Nigerians via Saudi Air flight B773 that landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.
A week before they were deported, a viral video emerged on social media showing some Nigerians wrapped in black polythene bags lying on the floor in a packed room. A male narrator in the video said they had been stranded in the West Asian country for more than seven months.
He said, “We are here for more than three months, six months, seven months, without any action, no better information on transport to Nigeria.
“Most nationals of other countries have been flown back to their countries. Only we Nigerians don’t have any source or way of getting back.
“I’m here on behalf of others to seek your assistance to get us back to our country.”
One of the deportees, Muhammad Yusuf, said, “It’s not that we entered the country illegally, but our visas expired. We faced inhuman treatment in the hands of Saudi Arabian authorities. I wish I had never gone there for whatever reason.”
Abike Dabiri-Orewa, the Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), reacted to the video and ensured that the stranded Nigerians were evacuated on January 28 and 29.
Also, last week, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan had appealed to the government of Saudi Arabia to assist in bringing back over 10,000 Nigerians detained in Saudi Arabia.
Lawan made the appeal when the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, Faisal Eebraheem Alghamdi, paid a visit to the National Assembly, Abuja.
Records showed that 831 Nigerians were deported from Ghana and 13 European countries deported a total of 432.
Mali deported 79; Burkina Faso 27; South Africa 97; Cameroon 517; then Lebanon and Oman, 69 and 1 respectively.
It was discovered that unemployment was what pushed thousands of Nigerians, especially youths, to seek work overseas, but the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced employment opportunities in other countries and travel restrictions have left many Nigerians stranded.
The Ghanaian Minister of Information, Kojo Nkruma, had justified the deportation of 700 Nigerians from Ghana in 2020, saying they were found involved in criminal activities such as fraud, prostitution and armed robbery.
In July, 2020, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), with the support of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Union (EU) through its Regional Direct Assistance Fund (RDAF) returned safely from Mali Nigerian stranded migrants.
According to IOM, since 2017, 629 Nigerians, mostly women between the ages of 18 and 25, have returned voluntarily from Mali with support from DFID and the EU through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.
Nigeria, which is the giant of Africa, has continued to suffer humiliation from within and outside the African continent.
Halima, 29, who is one of those deported from Libya, said she left Nigeria out of frustration.
“I was deceived that I would be taken to Europe but ended up in Libya because the agents did not get the correct papers for us. We were about 30 in number…Some of the men among us are still there; I don’t know what they would do with them,” she said.
Kenneth Joseph said he wanted a better life, hence his decision to travel out of the country.
“I am a graduate but there is no work for me after completing my NYSC over seven years ago. I was teaching in a private school but what I get in a month is so little that I can’t even take care of myself.
“I feel pained looking at my aged parents who needed my support which is not forthcoming. I was left with no option than to travel out. Now that I am back in Nigeria, I would continue to struggle while looking for a green card,” he said.
A psychologist, Malam Faruq Yusuf, said millions of Nigerian youths are frustrated, hence their decision to look for a greener pasture elsewhere.
“Nigeria has everything required to take care of its citizens but the greed of leaders would not allow the country work. The truth is we have hardworking youths but the enabling environment for them to excel is not there.
“Our leaders must change their mind set about materialism and develop the infrastructure in the country. This is the only way to save the situation,” he said.
A source at the Federal Ministry of Youths said they were worried with the way Nigerians were scrambling to travel out.
The source, who does not want to be named, said “It is not a thing of joy to see your active population leaving. But then, you should be fair to the President Muhammadu Buhari administration because we have done a lot in the areas of engaging the youth to become self-reliant.”