Following presidential directive, a Federal Government delegation on Sunday repatriated 481 stranded Nigerians from Libya.
The evacuation of more than 4, 511 others is expected to follow immediately.
All the returnees will be temporarily camped at a Reception Centre in Port Harcourt, pending formal transfer to their states.
Amid joy and enthusiasm, the returnees were accompanied by the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the Diaspora Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa and a representative of the National Security Adviser.
A delegation, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama had negotiated the exit of the returnees with the Libyan government.
The returnees landed at the Port Harcourt International Airport at about 5.05pm into the waiting arms of Mr Onyeama and other members of the delegation.
Addressing the returnees in Port Harcourt, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama said: “On behalf of the President, I welcome you back to your country. Mr. President and the good people of Nigeria were concerned about your well-being and sent a delegation. The President put all resources at our disposal to bring you back.
“We came and saw where so many of you were being held in difficult and inhuman condition.
“We had good understanding with Libyan Government and we are happy to bring back these Nigerians home. The Federal Government will do its best to return them safely to their various states.
“This administration will continue to protect every Nigerian at home and abroad.
“Many of you were trafficked, many of you were taken against your judgment. I want to assure you that you will not abandoned.”
Mr Maihaja, who also spoke on Sunday, said: “In line with the mandate from President Muhammadu Buhari, we have started repatriating Nigerians who are trapped in Libya. We are using Max Air and Medview Airlines with a target of completing the process in three weeks.
“The first batch in the inaugural flight included 481 returnees. We have put necessary logistics in place for a hitch-free evacuation.
“The returnees will undergo profiling, medical examination and other processes before reuniting them with their families.
“We are collaborating with relevant state governments to receive these returnees at the Reception Centre.
A member of the delegation, Abike Dabiri-Erewa said: “We will leave no stone unturned to evacuate all Nigerians trapped in Libya.”