Sunday, September 11, 2011

200 Nigerians held in Ghaddafi’s cells

• Demand evacuation from troubled nation

As the search for former Libyan leader, Muammar Ghaddafi continues, over 200 Nigerians arrested by the Transitional National Council  ( TNC)  are reportedly being kept in some underground cells in the country.
The cells were allegedly built by Gaddafi to cage his opponents. 
Following continuous clampdown by the rebels, Nigerians in Libya have pleaded with the Federal Government to evacuate them. They also asked the Federal Government to prevail on the United Nations (UN) for air travel waiver to make their evacuation possible. 
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that more Nigerians were arrested on Friday as part of the crackdown on black migrant workers by the TNC. The TNC had accused the black migrant workers of being behind the difficulty in arresting Gaddafi. 
A Nigerian in Libya, Mr. Daramola Siji, who was mandated by the government to liaise with the TNC, said: “More Nigerians were arrested on Friday by the rebels but we were not allowed access to them. These Nigerians, who were almost dying, had ventured to go out to look for what to eat. But they ended up in the hands of the rebels. So far, we got reports that over 200 Nigerians with the rebels are being kept in Gaddafi’s underground cells in Sigile. We have no access to them at all.” 
He further stated: “The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru and Nigeria’s Ambassador have made our contacts available to the TNC leaders for dialogue on the fate of Nigerians. But the TNC leaders have refused to call us for any session on reprieve for Nigerians.                                               
“The only option now is for the Federal Government to ensure the immediate evacuation of Nigerians in Libya. We want the government to prevail on the UN and NATO to grant Nigeria air travel waiver to make the evacuation possible. We have run out of stock, we can’t get food to eat. We are in God’s hands.”                                                   Responding to a question, Siji added: “TNC leaders are killing and persecuting the blacks because they believe that the blacks are the staying power of Gaddafi.                                                   They claimed that the collaboration between Gaddafi has made the arrest of the Libyan strong man difficult. The general impression is that the blacks can locate the whereabouts of Gaddafi if they wanted.”
At about the time the rebels were clamping down on Nigerians in Tripoli on Friday, heavy fighting broke out between Gaddafi forces and NATO-backed TNC forces near Bani Walid  and Sirte territorial borders.                          
A top source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “The Minister, who came back from a Nordic conference in Sweden on Friday, has opened further discussions with the TNC, Britain, French and NATO partners on the fate of Nigerians.”                                                  
“We will not only secure freedom for those arrested, we will protect all Nigerians in Libya and allow them access to basic needs,” the official said.