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Forget the past, focus on the future , Mrs Osinbanjo admonishes repatriated Nigerian girls

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* NAPTIP shelter for repatriated girls in dilapidated state

By Evelyn Usman

Wife of the Vice President, Mrs Oludolapo Osinbajo, weekend, visited the Lagos shelter of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons , NAPTIP with a charge to the girls that were repatriated from various countries including Libya, to forget about the past and look forward to a better tomorrow.

Visit: from left- Special Assistant to the President on Nigerians in diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa; wife of the Vice President, Mrs Oludolapo Osinbajo; Director-General , National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons , NAPTIP Dame Julie Okah-Donli and NAPTIP ‘s Zonal Coordinator, Lagos, Alani Famakin, during the VP wife’s visit to the agency’s shelter in Lagos, weekend . Pix by Evelyn Usman

Addressing the girls , some of whom were nursing mothers and underage, Mrs Osinbanjo expressed worry over their experiences in the course of their journey but was quick to remind them that it was possible for them to become what they were created to be while in Nigeria .

She explained that her visit was to have a first hand information on how they were faring at the shelter as well as to know their reasons for leaving their parents homes and to know their plans for the future. However doing her interaction with the girls, it was discovered that some of them were not Nigerians .

While addressing them , she said : “ I am here to see you because you are very important and you are all our children. As a mother, I am not happy with what you are going through. I am here to know what you want me to do for you. Many of you came from different states and Benin Republic. So, why did you leave home to another place. I want to also know the people that took you away to another land.

“Now that you are here, forget about the past, we are here to discuss about your tomorrow. Yes, you have suffered yesterday, but I don’t want you to complain again because yesterday is gone, no more suffering tomorrow because you all are Princesses. Those who intend to go to school must go and those who want to learn any skill will also be given an opportunity to do so”, she said, even as she commended NAPTIP over what she described as the good work it was doing.

Meanwhile , Vanguard observed that the shelter was in a dilapidated state , with no modern facility that will make the repatriated girls stay conducive.

For instance, during the visit, there was no electricity and the power generating set that would power the fans were not on. All the girls, including the visitors and journalists sweat profusely while the interaction lasted.

Special Assistant to the President on Nigerians in diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who was also present , noted that most of the girls in the shelter were minors, wondering why the focus was mainly on girls when a good number of boys were also being trafficked.

Calling on the need for more awareness , Dabiri-Erewa stated that human trafficking was on the increase when compared to drug trafficking, adding that the girls at the shelter needed every support , love and care , now than ever. She also stated that the presence of Mrs Osinbanjo would not only give the girls a sense of belonging but would create a lasting impact in their memories .

Earlier in her welcome address, the Director-General , NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli explained that some of the girls were repatriated from Libya , Europe and other countries of the world while others were intercepted at the verge of being trafficked.

She lamented that they had underdone untold trauma, as some of them were brutalised and raped in the process.

She explained that the rehabilitation process would take between six weeks and six months depending on the peculiarity of each case.

According to the DG : “ They will be here between six weeks and and six months, depending on the case by case basis because they need to be counseled. For instance , It may take six weeks for one to be counseled while it may take six months for another to be counseled because these girls have gone through so much trauma in their lives.

“ We have 64 of them here at the moment. Last week , NAPTIP rehabilitaed 30 girls in Lagos and another set of 30 girls in Edo state . We gave the sewing machines, hair driers and photographic equipment . In fact, those who were going for catering were giving catering equipment.”

she highlighted funding as one of the challenges faced by the agency . She said “ We need to prosecute these criminals who are into human trafficking, follow up in courts, make sure they are convicted and to ensure the girls are reunited back to their families, and that will take a lot of money .

We also need to carry out massive awareness campaign all over Nigeria plus the FCT, so you can imagine what our challenges are. So, if we have all of these , of course human trafficking will come to an end.”.


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