#LibyaSlavery: A One-on-One Encounter With A People-Smuggler [REPEAT]
Some young Nigerians are not afraid of the desert's heat neither are they moved by the Mediterranean's waves. All they see are 'greener' pastures. They are willing to take their chances 50/50.
Sadly, many of them end up as slaves in Libya being sold and bought for a few hundred dollars.
In our pursuit of truth, we met Pa Benson (not real name), a people smuggler who has been in the business for 20 years.
He has 'successfully' ferried more than 100 people across the Sahara to Europe and he is proud of it.
He spoke exclusively to Bounce News.
Tell us about the journey from Nigeria to Europe
Let me tell you about
the distance, first. It is a very far journey. When you leave Nigeria, you will
first get to a place called Agadez in Niger. And then to the last border town
in Niger which is Duruku. After Duruku, you get to the first village in Libya.
It is from there that you proceed to a town called Sabha from where you get to
Tripoli. It is from Italy that you proceed to other parts of Europe.
How did you find that route to start leading people?
The route has been
there before Jesus Christ. Someone taught me the route and then I wrote it
down. That was in 1997. After I wrote the route on paper, I made the trip
myself in November 1997 to Libya. From Libya, I started smuggling people from
Libya to Morocco and then eventually from Nigeria to Libya to Morocco and then
What are your criteria for taking in clients?
If you are up to 20
years, I will take you to Europe. But if you are below 20, I will not take you,
both men and women. This is because the Libyan government is strict on underage
immigrants. If you are caught, you will face a very serious problem.
Are there any security measures you put in place for people you take on
Yes, we do take some safety measures. I protect my clients very well. If we are leaving during winter time, I need to buy them winter jackets – that is very thick jacket that can resist cold. Then I will also make sure that they are very healthy before I take them to the desert.
Where does your responsibility begin and end with your clients?
It depends on the
contract I have entered with them. There are some people that say they want to
cross to Libya and that they don’t want to go to Europe. If I take somebody
like that to Libya, if it is the first city in that Libya, I may tell him, my
contract has ended since we are in Libya. But if the person begs me and says, I
am heading to Tripoli, please help me, I may consider but once I drop him off
at Tripoli, my contract has ended.
There are some that
say, na Europe we de go, we de go Italy, then I would say alright, I will tell
them how much that will take them to Italy.
There are some that their brothers are already in Europe, those ones usually call me and tell me, “this is my brother’s number in Benin, locate him and bring him to Libya for me.”
In that case, I will
take them and once we get to Libya, that their brother or uncle that live in
Europe will send money down to Libya and we will use the money and make sure
they enter a safe boat to Europe. Once they enter, they call me and then I will
call their brothers and that ends my contract.
How many people have made the journey with you successfully since you
started your business?
My brother, they are
uncountable. There are more than 60 people that I have taken to Europe and more
than 45 that I took to Libya. Before now, I don't come to Nigeria every year.
Sometimes I spend 4 years, I come back home and then I go back, spend two years
and come back home. It is since 2008 that I started this ‘em shiji’. That is an
Arabic for go and come. I will go there and the I will come back.
You are trying to make a trip by September, how many people are you
expecting to take on that trip?
It is difficult to
predict exactly how many people I will be taking on that journey. At times, I
may get up to 10 people but before I move, about 3 or 4 people may have changed
their minds and won’t be going again. In
that case, I will take the remaining ones and go.
How much does it cost a client to make the trip?
From Nigeria to Tripoli, I charge 200,000 naira from each passenger. But from Tripoli, we collect 1,200 dollars to cross a passenger to Europe.
How do your clients find you?
You know how they find
me? I have been in this business for a long time, so I have made a name. Also,
people from my own area in Benin, all of them succeeded. Those of them that
wanted to get to Europe, they got there successfully. Some of them that wanted
to end in Libya, they got there and were quite successful at what they did.
You May Also Like: Meet Adaora, The Nigerian Woman That Survived 10
days In Sahara Desert
Have you ever recorded any casualty while making your trips?
Hmmmm! I have never
recorded any casualty but there was one occasion I met a trip that their truck
broke down in the Sahara desert and all of them perished.
Did they include your clients?
No! No! No! That can
never happen to me.
Why do you think it can never happen to you?
Do I not know the God I
serve? You know, this desert that we are talking about, Jesus Christ also
followed it. And the route has been there before Jesus Christ. So, nobody can
stop that route.
So, you don’t think this illegal migration will ever stop?
It cannot stop. No
government on earth can stop it.
Why do you think so?
You know, Jesus was
once an illegal immigrant. I know that the whole world is fighting to stop it
but it can never stop.
How lucrative is this as a business?
That is not the point.
I am also a farmer here in Nigeria and even there in Libya where I live, I have
a very good job.
do you still cross people illegally into Europe?
This trip will be my
last. Because I am old enough to stop it.
But why did you do it and why do you still want to do one more?
My brother, if you see
the suffering in this Nigeria and the crime that happened here especially in
this Benin, if not because of this travel by road of a thing, everybody would
have been living in the bush.
To a point, people will
just hate themselves so much that they will jump into the river and die because
But when people started using legs to enter Europe, ‘everything come cool’, 'we come de sleep fine for night.
Right now, there is no more gunshots, no more house burning, armed robbery, and no more fighting. More than 75% of criminals in Benin have moved away. All of them are in Europe but they cannot try that nonsense there.
Those are some of the
benefits of this road travel to Europe.
More so, where is the job here in Benin or in this Nigeria? Or is it because you have opportunity to get this little job (referring to this reporter). This is the end of our interview. Please off that camera.
*This story was first published in August this year.
Also Watch Full Documentary: #BeninToEurope5050: How Nigerians Travel To Europe By Land