Stakeholders Blame Leadership, Economy For Human Trafficking Upsurge

The Recent upsurge in human trafficking resulting in high rate of migration of Nigerians abroad and the resultant deaths have become a source of embarrassment to the country.

Investigations and interactions with stakeholders revealed that the failure of leadership, economic vicissitude, typified by dashed hopes and aspirations, among others, are responsible for the rising ugly trend that is threatening the essence of living by some citizens.

Few weeks ago, the country witnessed death of 26 migrants who were mostly teenagers traveling on the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Also, there were reports of sale of some Nigerians in Libya and other African countries, which serve as routes to the desperate Nigerians, as low as $400 as slaves.

Already the Federal Government has set up a ministerial committee to examine the circumstances surrounding the death of 26 teenage Nigerian migrant girls.

According to a statement from the Presidency, the government committee is “expected to also examine the reports of incidents of the sale of Nigerian citizens through slavery and report to the Federal Executive Council within week.”

Further investigations showed that besides the complicity of local agents, who are involved in the illicit business within the states, traveling agents and some powerful and highly connected individuals and corporate organisations are major accomplices in the business.

This is because, according to them, they use fictitious names and documents to get visas to any of the neighboring countries, from where they take off to Europe by sea.

But Julie Okah–Donli, Director General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), acknowledges the rising trend, but added that the agency is equal to the task.

Speaking on TVC programme, “Your View” of November 13, 2017, Okah-Donli said that some traveling agents are accomplices in the human trafficking business as they assist in the arrangement of the girls, who are mostly teenagers as sex slaves, and encouraging them to indulge in all manner of acts such as sleeping with dogs as well as sleeping with at least 10 men daily in some cases.

She also accused some local agents sourcing for house helps as human traffickers, advising that those enjoying their services to pay directly to them.

But in a response to Sunday INDEPENDENT inquiry, Josiah Emerole, Head, Press and Public Relations of the agency said, “The Agency since its establishment in 2003, has done well within its mandate, which includes creating awareness, arresting and persecuting traffickers, rescuing victims and providing the victims with psychosocial assistance, protection and care in our shelters and rehabilitation; providing training to other law enforcement agencies on human trafficking and conducting researches on the scourge.

“Human trafficking as you also know, has two legs: Internal and external. It is important to note here that internal trafficking, which you termed household is more than the external trafficking, but we deal with all of them. Also know that the crime of human trafficking is a clandestine one, which could be happening around you and you won’t know.

“We are not in charge of the Nigerian borders and have not got approval to be there, so we collaborate with the agencies that man the borders to stop trafficking from those routes. As a result of that, we do a lot of public enlightenment to dissuade people from embarking on dangerous journeys through the desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

“It may interest you to know that we have through the courts secured the conviction of no fewer than 333 human traffickers and many of these convicts were involved in trafficking people outside Nigeria as slaves. Two of such convictions were received last week from Enugu. We have also rescued and assisted not less than 12,000 victims and some of these people are now university graduates. One of such graduated 2 months ago with a 2nd Class Degree Upper Class in Accounting from the Redeemers University.”

On further prompting, Emerole said, “NAPTIP operations are not impotent in anyway as you are insinuating. When I talked about human trafficking as a clandestine crime and NAPTIP not at the borders, I was only trying to educate you on the type of crime that we are dealing with here and it is the same all over the world. We are doing a lot of sensitisation to prevent people from falling victims to traffickers and also prosecuting offenders and we will continue in that.

“On the issue of collaboration with other government agencies, that is exactly what we have been doing as we know that no one agency can stop any type of crime on its own without collaboration with others, as well as non-governmental organizations.

“It is also important to note that there is increased awareness of trafficking issues in Nigeria and that is why the matter has become topical and that has been achieved through our activities in collaboration with NGOs.”

However, some stakeholders who spoke in a telephone interview with Sunday INDEPENDENT insist that the trend is on the rise despite NAPTIP’s efforts to reduce or eliminate the scourge.

Aramide Oikelome, Executive Director, Bestspring Children and Youth Development Foundation/Goshen Home and Orphanage said one of the things responsible for the trend is lack of jobs, economy downturn and hardship in the country, which is making people to look for survival at all cost and it is making people travel out of the country and making them do anything just to get money and get jobs.

She also said greed could also be a factor as a lot of them want to live big without going through the process to become rich and comfortable, as she said there is this ‘get rich quick syndrome’ among the youths.

“A lot of people especially the youths want to live big, they do not want to go through the process to become rich and comfortable, they want to become big, live big, have big cars, spend money but they are not ready to go through the processes.”

Malachy Ugwummadu, National Chairman Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, (CDHR) said the responsibility of NAPTIP as regulated by the law does not confer on them the capacity to police the entire vast borders of Nigeria.

He said even if they have that capacity, the desperation of the Nigerian people escalated by the failure of leadership in Nigeria is such that an agency like NAPTIP cannot control.

According to him,  “The desperation of Nigerian people has gotten to the level where our people chased with the danger of death will elect and plunge themselves into river and take the risk rather than remaining in this country, that is how unfortunate it is.”

On how the country gets to this point, Ugwummadu said it is on the account of the failure of leadership to provide and protect Nigerian people by way of gainful employment, provision of enabling environment to ensure growth.

Waheed Ishola, Director National Orientation Agency (NOA), Lagos State chapter said the agency had advocated severally that youths should desist from running abroad thinking that they are going to get greener pastures there.

He said there are people here that are luring them out of the country to use them as slaves, that there is no country that everything go rosy for.

Ishola said the Federal Government has created a lot of enabling environment for the youths to be productively engaged and that is why there are several vocational institutions out there for them to go and learn a trade to become employers of labour.

“All of these people that travelled to risk their lives through desert passing through the Mediterranean Sea to cross to Europe end up becoming slaves, prostitutes and not been useful to themselves. So we are saying that our youths should look inwards and think of what they can do here on their own to succeed,” he said.

He further stated that unfortunately some parents also are to be blamed that some parents go to the extent of ignorantly selling their properties to pay these traffickers to make their children travel abroad through illegal route.

“Anybody that travels through an illegal route knows that anything can befall him. We are advocating that our youths should find something to do with their hands, those opportunities created by the state government and Federal Government to learn something and be creative must be embraced so that they can become employer of labour,” he added.

However, on the way out, the stakeholders said there is need to orientate and re-orientate the youths on the need for them to stay in their country and engage in productive activities that will give their lives a meaning.

They said some of the youths lack proper information, because some of them are made to believe that they cannot make it in Nigeria except they travel out of the country.

They, therefore, called on government, political leaders and even those in Diaspora to enlighten Nigerian youths on the need to discourage them from traveling abroad through illegal means.


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