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NAPTIP decries rising child trafficking in Ebonyi, rescues 292 victims

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By Ruth Oginyi

The National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), Friday, decried high number of Nigerians dying as rate of trafficking in the country. This is even as the agency said over 292 Ebonyi children were rescued from trafficking last year.

Barr, Julie Okah-Donli, Director General of the agency, made this known in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state capital, during the inauguration of the state task force on human trafficking. The NAPTIP boss said that in 2018 alone over 20,000 Nigerians were victims of trafficking in Mali. Adding that hundreds of the country’s citizens die in the Sahara desert and Mediterranean sea.

She explained that the challenges of human trafficking and irregular migration have become a great concern, especially with the large number of Nigerians trapped in sexual and labour exploitation in various African and European countries.

“Last year reports emerged about the existence of human farms in some parts of Libya, where black African migrants are allegedly kept in cages like animals and their organs like eyes, kidneys and lungs are harvested to service medical sectors of Europe.

“In December, 2018, NAPTIP undertook a fact finding mission to Mali. The report of the mission painted a very gory picture of more than 20,000 young Nigerian girls who are victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation in bush camps around Mali’s mine fields”.

“In the first week of March, 2019, I personally followed up with a visit to Mali and saw girls as young as 14 years held in sexual slavery in very horrendous conditions”, she said.

She noted that from 2004 to July, 2020, a total of 292 indigenes of Ebonyi state were subjected to child abuse child labour, sexual exploitation and sale of babies. have been rescued from Izzi , Ezza, Ikwo, Afikpo North and South, Onicha, Ohaozara, Ishielu, Abakaliki, Ivo, and Ishielu LGAs.

She further revealed that the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) has returned 11 indigenes of the state (9 females and 2 males) from various parts of the world where they were taken to. 

“It is also a crime to employ a child under 18 years to do any work that is exploitative, injurious or hazardous to the development of the child. The above crimes attract between 6 months to 7 years imprisonment”, she said.

She called for the development of new initiatives to ensure adequate rehabilitation of returnee victims of trafficking and irregular migration in other to mitigate the phenomenon of re-traficking.

“Bigger and adequately equipped shelters, vocational training facilities and scholarships must be in place of we are going to provide appropriate rehabilitation for these victims.

She also called for empowerment programs for rural women who are mothers of pure trial victims of trafficking.

The state governor, David Umahi, represented by the deputy governor, Kelechi Igwe, commended the agency for its efforts towards eradicating trafficking in the country. 

“Here domestically it may be difficult for us to assertively say that trafficking of persons exist in the state,  but we will cast our mind to the era where we were quite primitive, and one of the sources of the rural families was in given out their innocent sons and daughters to serve as house help to those who needed house helps.

“Fortunately this kind of gesture that would have been a humanitarian activity turned out to be of personal gains and inhumanity in Nigeria. Some of these children were turned to sexual toys, objets of trade and many more”, he said.

He noted that the era of coming to Ebonyi to pick house help is over. “Any one who must come to take anybody must disclose what the person  is going to do for her.

“While we are not saying that people should not assist our sons and daughters we are mindful and careful not to give them out to go and do inhuman service inform of house help again. The era of coming to Abakaliki, to Ebonyi state to take house help is over,” he added.

The anti trafficking task force team is headed by the state Commissioner for Justice, Barr Cletus Ofoke.

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