Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, has taken sensitisation campaign to villages and communities in Edo State, warning parents to stop mounting undue pressure on their children to embark on an irregular migration for the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation.
Okah-Donli, in a statement by Adekoye Vincent, press and public relations unit at NAPTIP, cautioned vehemently that henceforth those aiding their wards against their wishes on this dangerous journey would no longer be spared by the law.
She lamented that Nigeria is losing millions of its promising and brilliant workforce to irregular migration induced carnage with the attendant consequences on the economy of the nation.
Okah-Donli stated this at Ekpoma, Esan West Local government Council while addressing cross section of Stakeholders and other partners as part of activities lined up to herald the commencement of the grassroots sensitization against human trafficking embarked upon by the Agency. With the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
It would be recalled that the Edo Central Senatorial District comprising of Esan Speaking Councils, has featured prominently among serious endemic regions in Edo State thereby attracting the attention of the Agency.
The NAPTIP boss who personally led other Directors, Officers of the Agency and UNODC Officials to University town of Ekpoma and other villages within the Senatorial District, expressed sadness over the attitude of some parents who she said has continued to mount pressure on their children thereby forcing them to embark on the irregular journey abroad.
“I am pained in my heart as a mother each time I recall the plight of our youths on the scotching unfriendly Sahara desert and on the dangerous Mediterranean Sea in their bid to get to Europe for the so – called greener pasture. Of more serious concern are those that have been sold off like slaves and are trapped in some of the African Countries.
“Due to series of Save – Our – Soul (SOS) messages from these victims, I personally visited Mali early this year. What I saw there ruptured my emotion. These promising youths most of whom their parents had thought that they were in Europe, are been mindlessly exploited sexually by some heartless traffickers who held them against their will. While thousands of them are held by traffickers in the mining regions of the Country, other who fell into the hands of gun totting group in the rebel controlled region stand the risk of being radicalized to the detriment of Nigeria.
“Most of them got there due to pressure mounted on them by their parents who wanted them to travel out and fetch money for the upkeep of their family. This is bad. Henceforth, NAPTIP will no longer spare any parent caught to have aided trafficking of their children.
“The present economic situation is a global phenomenon and as such, Nigeria is even greener than some of the European countries now. Let us advice our youths to look inward and make the best of some of the potentials around them. They should key into the various social intervention programmes of the present administration and better their lives.
“We cannot afford to continue to loose greater number of our youths in tragedies associated with irregular migration, this just has to stop” she said.
Speaking on the roles of Commercial transporters in the prevention of human trafficking in Nigeria, the NAPTIP Director General said “It is instructive to state here that the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 clearly spells out the consequences of aiding and abetting trafficking of persons in any form by transport owners/ companies.
“As harmless as your actions and activities may be in the course of your daily routine of moving people from one place to the other, it is important to let you know that many people especially our promising young boys and girls have been unintentionally transported into the land of no return, by your members.
“I therefore seize this occasion to appeal earnestly to your consciences to understand that most of the girls you transport across or on their way across state and communities are being transported into physical and mental trauma, disease, or death, and you bear responsibility for whatever happens to any girl or human being transported in your vehicle into one form of slavery or the other.
“While a few of them are lucky to escape, or rescued, others may not be so lucky to tell the story. Painfully, some of them at the moment, are permanently incapacitated having contracted some strange diseases. This is why efforts must be made to ensure that we observe, ask question and do something to save the lives of these youths.
In their reaction, cross section of participants at the town hall meeting that preceded the sensitization expressed appreciation for the visit of the NAPTIP team and promised to join hands to eradicate human trafficking in their communities.
Those in attendance included representatives of Onojie of Ekpoma, Officials of the Local government Council, markets women, members of the National union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), members of the Civil Society Organizations, representatives of youths, religious leaders, representatives of other sister Law Enforcement Agencies and other stakeholders.