By Peter Okutu
The National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Friday said it has rescued a total of 292 Indigenes of the state that were subjected to Child abuse, Child labour, Sexual exploitation and sale of babies.
The Director-General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli who stated this in Abakaliki during the inauguration of the State Task Force on human trafficking noted that the period of their rescue was from 2004 to July 2020.
According to her, the affected indigenes hailed from Izzi, Ezza, Ikwo, Afikpo North and South, Onicha, Ohaozara, Ishielu, Abakaliki, Ivo, and Ishielu LGAs of the State.
She further revealed that the International Organization of Migration (IOM) has returned 11 indigenes of the state (9 females and 2 males) from various parts of the world.
The Agency said that in 2018 alone over 20,000 Nigerians were victims of trafficking in Mali alone.
Director-General of the Agency observed that the problem of human trafficking and irregular migration has become a great concern especially with a large number of Nigerians trapped in sexual and labour exploitation in various African and European countries.
She noted that hundreds of the country’s citizens die in the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea.
“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 poor picture of more than 20,000 young Nigerian girls who are victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation in bush camps around Mali’s minefields.”
“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.
The DG further warned that employing a child under 12 years have been outlawed by the constitution.
“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.
Mrs Okah-Donli 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-trafficking.
“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 potential victims of trafficking.
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, objects of trade and many more”, he said..
He noted that the state government is determined to end exploitation and trafficking in the state.
“Anyone who must come to take anybody must disclose what the person is going to do for him/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.