The Federal Government of Nigeria has promised to do all within its power to end trafficking of young vulnerable Nigerians by criminal elements to Europe for sex slavery and other illicit activities.
This is even as the British Government and the International Organisation for Migration, IOM, pledged to continue to lend their support to Nigeria in combating the menace.
Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola made this known at an event held at the British High Commission to commemorate the 2021 International Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Mr Aregbesola, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr Shuaib Belgore described trafficking in persons as modern day slavery which the government will strive to root out.
He commended the British Government and the IOM for the support and collaborations which they have rendered in such regard over the years.
The minister said: “Today being the International Day Against Trafficking in Persons, we do appreciate the deep relationship we have both historically and culturally as well as familiar ties between the UK and Nigeria and the collaboration we are having in other fields including the field that seeks to fight trafficking in persons.
“Trafficking in Person is a scourge; it is a compendium of denied opportunities going up to as far as modern day slavery.
“It is a challenge and a scourge that has to be fought and brought to a standstill.
“The government of Nigeria is determined in this effort and all our agencies and partners will continue to work hand in hand to find how to conquer this scourge,” he said.
The theme for the 2021 Commemoration is: “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way” – a theme coined to highlight the importance of victims’ experiences in combating trafficking.
Speaking on the theme of the Trafficking Day, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing said that giving voice to victims can help prevent others from suffering what they suffered.
She said that there is nothing as powerful as the testimonies of people who have been victims and those who have survived trafficking.
Ms Laing however pointed out that part of efforts that must be put in place to ensure that the menace was curbed was to secure convictions against the individuals and brains responsible.
The envoy said that it was also imperative victims and survivors to be treated with empathy and also to better understand the real challenges they have gone through and working with them.
She said: “Many victims and survivors may have experienced a lot of ignorance, misunderstanding and misbelief when they are trying to get help from the authorities and people who feel that they are to blame will not come forward to support them.
“It is crucial that we have proper legal and investigative processes because this could be extremely traumatic for people recounting their experiences so we need to design legal processes with empathy for the victim at the heart of it.
“The other thing we need to think about is how to re integrate people into their communities.
“The UK is very proud of its work here in Nigerian with IOM, with Edo with NAPTIP and others, we have a very strong partnership and I think we have achieved a huge amount,” she said.
For the Chief of Mission of IOM, Frantz Celestin, a major feat in the quest to counter trafficking was the collaboration with the UK government and governments of Nigeria and Niger.
He said that the cooperation which gave birth to the Collaboration Against Trafficking and Smuggling, CATS, project, has greatly enhanced migration governance.
He said that the CATS project helps to improve the capability of Nigerian and Nigerien officials to effectively manage borders and prevent smuggling.
“Our ultimate goal is to strengthen Nigeria and Niger’s response to smuggling of migrants, prevention of trafficking in persons and the management of borders in an integrated and secure manner,” he said.
“As we stand here on the eve of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, nothing better civilizes IOM’s commitment to fighting this horrendous crime than supporting the implementation of Phase II of the CATS project.
“Phase 2 looks to strengthen the partnership between national authorities in Niger and Nigeria, both across borders and between border communities,” he said.
In his remarks, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo said that the state had in the last four years, shifted focus to re-humanising and reintegrating returnees from the state.
He said that his state which accounts for the highest number of trafficked victims had set up a task force working with partners like IOM within the years under review.
“Edo unfortunately is a source for victims and by setting upo the task force, working with partners like IOM, we have been able to resettle about 6,500 trafficked victims in Edo state.
“In the period, we have also tried to re-humanise them and resettle them to their communities.
“It has been quite an experience that we would like to share with other states that unfortunately have to go through this same set of challenges as we have gone through.
“We in the last years have learnt certain useful lessons about how to deal with victims when they come back,” he said.
The governor said that a good success story for the state is a group of returnees who no longer call themselves returnees or trafficked victims but goal getters.
He pointed out that they are rebuilding their confidence, rebuilding their dignity and rebuilding their humanity.
He commended IOM for the work it was doing at the borders, urging the UN agency to extend such collaborations with the federal government to state governments as well.
“I want to use the opportunity of being here this evening to thank our partners, the IOM in particular for the amazing work they have done – collaborating with us in the last three years.
“We need to work with you and other partners on opening the channels for regular migration. Ultimately, migration is a phenomenon globally that we need to live with.
“What we need to do is to be smart about it,” he said.
According to reports, as at May 2021, data from the IOM showed that 29,000 people from Africa had crossed irregularly to the shores of Europe.
The data also states that 13,000 others were pushed back by the Libyan Coast Guard, over 700 died in the attempt to cross and thousands of others languishing in jails.