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Libyan Envoy Explains Deportation of Nigerians

Panafrican News Agency, 9 October 2000

Lagos, Nigeria—The head of Libyan Mission in Nigeria, Ahmed Eudy, has said that the ongoing mass deportation of Nigerians and other black Africans living in Libya is aimed at ensuring compliance with the country’s residence laws.

Eudy spoke in a media interview in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, at the weekend, against a backdrop of growing discontent among the population about the fate of Nigerians living in the Arab country.

More than 4,000 Nigerians have so far been repatriated from Libya in a massive evacuation ordered by the Nigerian government, following clashes involving the migrant Africans, especially West African citizens and their Libyan hosts.

A media focus on the deportees, who have been narrating harrowing tales of their experience in Libya, has generated widespread anger across the country.

The deportees said at least 500 Nigerians were killed during the attacks, reportedly sparked by differences between Nigerian and Libyan drug gangs in the Gregare area, which is noted for illicit drug dealing and prostitution.

But the Libyan envoy denied any knowledge about any killings, which have even attracted the attention of the sub- regional body, Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS).

I do not know anything about death, I have not been briefed by my home government in that regard, Eudy said.

Official figure from Tripoli, put the toll at five dead and several injured.

Eudy described the repatriated Nigerians as gangsters, saying: You know them better. The people we are sending back have no legal stay. . . These people are smuggled gangsters. We don’t want them to soil your (Nigeria) name and our country. The envoy said Nigerians residing legally in Libya have nothing to fear.

Your countrymen are safe in Libya. . . . I assure you those who have legal papers are safe. We are brothers.

Analysts said the attacks could impact negatively on the spirit of brotherhood between the citizens of both countries, in addition to causing a setback to the much-talked about African Union, whose establishment is being championed by Libyan leader Moammar Kadhafi.

West African security chiefs, who met under the aegis of the 16-member ECOWAS in Abuja last week, directed the constitution of an ECOWAS delegation to discuss the situation with the Libyan authorities.

Expressing concern about the sad development, they said it would have a negative impact on the image of Africa and its efforts towards the establishment of an African Union.

Meanwhile, A Nigerian nationalist group has given the Libyan government a 24-day ultimatum to evacuate its citizens living in Nigeria or face the wrath of the group’s members.

In a dangerous twist to the issue, the militant Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) said it would no longer tolerate the sighting of Libya’s diplomatic vehicles in southwest Nigeria, where the group is based.

OPC general-secretary Kayode Ogundamisi said a letter had already been sent to the Libyan Embassy in Nigeria to intimate the Tripoli government of the group’s decision, which is a reaction to the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians living in Libya.

He said the OPC had equally called for the resignation of Nigerian presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe, for describing the deported Nigerians as criminals.