By SIMON EBEGBULEM
•Dania of Auchi Kingdom, Edo govt vow to tackle human trafficking menace
BENIN CITY – The recent CNN report on human trafficking in Edo state, indicated that despite the efforts by the state government to stop traffickers in the state, the trade is still booming. What is even more shocking is the fact that the illicit trade is being carried out publicly without security operatives nabbing the perpetrators, as witnessed in Auchi from the CNN report.
Though Governor Godwin Obaseki has vowed to eradicate the scourge in the state, he needs to do more in order to achieve his dreams. Incidentally, the report was aired the same day that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau and the European Union were all in Benin City to attend a Round-Table on Migration and Human Trafficking. However, there was outrage in Auchi Kingdom after the report, as the Dania of Auchi Kingdom, Alhaji Usman Abuda vowed that the traditional institution would not allow such trade thrive in its domain.
But the Edo state government, through the Special Assistant to the governor on Anti Human Trafficking, Comrade Solomon Okoduwa, said that “ Edo state government has put in measures to eradicate trafficking and support victims. That is why we have returnees reintegration programmes, waze have skill acquisition programmes and farms for them. As it is today, the state government is dealing with traffickers seriously.
We have been making arrests and there is no hiding place for traffickers right now in Edo state. We are breaking into their den, disconnecting them from their madams over there and we are trying to bring them to justice”. True, but the Auchi syndicate has beaten them. The CNN report captured a guest house where the girls are kept before being conveyed in a public transport to Kano from where they begin the journey to Libya.
The CNN reporter spoke with the traffickers and saw them give the girls packets of condom in case of abuse in their journey. The report showed the girls take off in the bus to Kano. Absolutely authentic report with incredible visuals showing how openly the illicit trade begins from Edo, the state most hit by the scourge.
Said Okoduwa: “Yes, there is a route from Auchi to Kano but that does not mean that there is a special bus stop in Auchi which the traffickers use. Traffickers don’t have a sign post, they don’t have motor parks. It takes intelligence to apprehend them”
Disclosing efforts being made to check the excesses of human traffickers in the state, Okoduwa said “We have arrested seventeen traffickers this year and next week we are going to take them to court. They were arrested in different parts of the state. Because of the sensitive nature of the arrests, we don’t tell the media and that is why it looks like we are not working. The only thing we need now is for the House of Assembly to pass the anti-trafficking bill before them.
The law we have now is that of NAPTIP. And we cannot just keep the suspects in prison and the next thing they are granted bail. The situation is not encouraging at all, it is slowing us down. That bill, if passed into law, will provide stringent penalties for traffickers in the state. We have seen situations were these traffickers are arrested and we see the victims crying but no law to prosecute them apart from that NAPTIP law. So the Edo state House of Assembly needs to expedite action if they don’t want to sabotage the effort of the governor”.
Reacting also, the Dania of Auchi Kingdom, Alhaji Abuda said the people of the kingdom were shocked by the CNN report, disclosing however that they have been able to identify the guest house being used to camp the victims by the perpetrators. His words, “ We cannot tell people how to live their lives but this is an evil business. For CNN to focus on Auchi for the wrong thing is not good for us. Auchi is a metropolitan community and it is developing. Fundamentally, the palace does not have the right to tell people how to live their lives but it is the image of the nation and the community that we are talking about. I have been able to trace the location. We have seen the guest house. What we intend to do is to find out the perpetrators and do the needful thing. They cannot do that in Auchi.
At the round table meeting on Migration and Human Trafficking which held in Benin last Monday, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and others threw their weight behind the Edo State government’s efforts at combating the scourge. Dr Saraki noted that the effort by the State Government was the beginning of many steps to be taken in halting illegal migration, describing as regrettable that youths save funds to leave the country and, in the process, fall prey to predators that sell them as slaves.
According to him, “the government has been doing its best to liberate Nigerians from slave trade in Libya, as many lives have been lost in the cause of irregular migration. The time is apt to end the scourge.” In his address, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, said human trafficking has become critical, noting that its magnitude wasn’t fully grasped before now.
Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, expressed concern over the trend, noting that it was unpalatable for youths to risk their lives across difficult terrains to Europe. The European Union (EU), Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ketil Karlsen, said it has recorded no fewer than 10,000 cases of irregular migration within the last two months, disclosing that EU’s illegal migration registration of the 10,000 took place in 2018, as the records were taken between January and February.
According to him, “in 2017, EU registered about 187,000 cases, while number of deaths registered so far was 411, as against 116 reordered in 2017. Of that figure, Nigeria accounts for about 60 percent and that is why we need to correct the worrisome menace urgently.