By Friday Nwosu
|The Libyan returnees|
No fewer than 150 angry Nigerian evacuees from war torn Libya yesterday disrupted activities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), following the continued non-arrival of their luggage three weeks after they arrived from Libya.
The Libyan returnees, who were visibly disenchanted over what they described as insensitivity of the Federal Government to their plight, vowed to halt air operations if nothing was done to bring home their luggage.
The placard carrying protesters, who marched about 2 kilometres from the hajj camp where they have been taking refuge, blocked the road leading to the departure hall of the airport terminal building, thereby preventing vehicles from coming into the terminal.
Chanting solidarity songs, the group appealed to the Federal Government to come to their aid, demanding for the transportation of their luggage from their transit camp in Tunis to Nigeria, adding that the luggage was all they could hold on to from their sojourn.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: ‘Please help us Nigerian Government, our luggage is our life,’ ‘We need our luggage FG’, ‘We are now refugees in our own country’.
A combined team of security personnel at the airport were seen battling to put the situation under control but the protesters maintained resistance.
“We are Nigerians now turned refugees in our own country. We want our luggage back or you fly us back to Libya to die,’’ the group said as they continue to chant solidarity songs.
One of the evacuees, John Agbi condemned the ill-treatment meted out on them by officials of the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) over their plight.
He said the officials of NEMA were not telling them the true position of things, noting that the NEMA officials were shying away from their responsibility.
Agbi stated that the two weeks they had spent at the camp, NEMA officials only supplied them with food occasionally for the first week, while nothing had been given to them since then.
Another returnee, who identified herself as Sophia David, said, “ It is a pity coming home. All I have worked for in Libya is inside my luggage.’’
“Many of us are crying to go back instead of this treatment we are getting in our country. What a shame.
The Commissioner of Police in charge of the Airport Command, Mr Moses Onireti, while addressing the group, advised the evacuees to direct their protest to NEMA’s office and not at the airport.
“Government is doing everything possible to bring back your luggage. Please be patient,’’ Onireti appealed to the group.
Meanwhile, the Federal government said it would soon deploy a cargo aircraft to airlift luggage and baggage of returnees from Libya who were evacuated from Tunisia to Lagos International Airport through the assistance of International Organisation for Migration (IOM)/ United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The cargo flight, according to a statement issued yesterday by NEMA Head of Public Relations, Yushau A. Shuaib as an intervention measure by the government, would be tenable after securing all necessary cooperation and diplomatic clearances from those countries involved and the international bodies responsible for the recent evacuation.
“While the international bodies responsible for the evacuation deserved commendations for their efforts in bringing back our citizens, it should be noted that the National Emergency Management Agency is only responsible for the documentations and transportation of the returnees on arrival in the country,” the statement read in part.