By Ikechukwu Odu

Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Centus Nweze, has recommended for total revamping of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, to end illegal migration and neo-slavery in Nigeria.

Justice Nweze, made the remarks while presenting his keynote address during the 2nd edition of  the Grace Uzoma Okonkwo Foundation’s international conference tagged  ‘Migration and Neo-slavery as Significant Features of the 21st Century’ at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN on Wednesday.

The legal luminary who was represented by the chairman of the occasion, Justice  C. A Ogbuabor  during the conference organised by the aforementioned Foundation in collaboration with the Institute of African Studies, and the Department of English and Literary Studies, UNN, also said that the agency seems overwhelmed by the enormity of challenges bedeviling adequate checking of illegal human trafficking in Nigeria.

He also said that the NAPTIP, when revamped, must engage civil society organisations and experts experienced in identifying trafickers in order to nip the menace which  according to him “has smeared the image of Nigeria,” negatively before the comity of nations in the bud.

He also said “There must be a robust engagement with the traditional institutions and community leaders to assist NAPTIP identify traffickers and such torture houses in their communities. Such multi-lateral collaboration is the best way to stem the tide and ultimately eliminate domestic trafficking and slavery in Nigeria.

“Unfortunately, the Nigerian government has not succeeded in policing the over one thousand land borders across the countries. At the time of writing, the government announced the closure of the borders with her neighbours. However, while this is the situation on paper, available information shows that border patrol teams demand certain sums of money to open the door for anybody. The closure of the borders, therefore, has not been able to prohibit or reduce the incidence of human trafficking in Nigeria.

“Furthermore, NAPTIP, the agency responsible for the implementation of the anti-trafficking laws in Nigeria, appears under – staffed or under-funded, yet with growing responsibilities.  This is the only reason that can explain the slow pace of their work across the country. As suggested earlier, therefore, a legislative action to restructure the agency to fulfill its mandate must be initiated as soon as possible.

“The National Orientation Agency, which appears moribund, must wake up to its responsibilities. It should educate Nigerians on the deception of the traffickers and dangers inherent in such adventure. More information dissemination backed by testimonies of repatriated persons would go a long way to dissuade teaming Nigerian youths from offering themselves as persons to be trafficked.

“This Address recommends the adoption of the persuasion and enforcement approach towards halting the increasing level of human trafficking in Nigeria. The National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) should consider instituting a whistle-blowing policy and a reward system for informants who send intelligence reports on the activities of traffickers.

The Agency should also launch aggressive campaigns on the social media, universities and colleges across the country to highlight the dangers of trafficking and enslavement. Such public education would include tips on identifying traffickers and ominous offers. Some other informal arrangements, like constant engagements with religious and youth leaders, should be intensified as they are in the better position to dissuade young Nigerians from offering themselves to be trafficked and eventually enslaved.

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“Thus, there must be concerted efforts to check the modern forms of enslavement and trafficking which this Address has focused one.”

While speaking as a Guest of Honour, the Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, lauded the Convener of the conference, Prof. Florence Orabueze, for pulling the experts together for such all-important discourse.

Dabiri who was represented in the conference by Maureen Udenwa, also said ” The choice of this theme at this time is highly commendable as the irregular migration and neo-slavery/ modern day slavery as it is called is becoming a menace in Nigeria especially amongst our youth. The Government and relevant stakeholders need to implement a very aggressive advocacy on this menace.

” Migration itself is a fundamental human right of every individual however, if Nigerians must travel, they must travel right and legal. Countries like Philippines, even grow their economy as provided by their labour migration policies. With determination and the right laws and policies in place, irregular migration can become regular, so that young people travelling abroad in search of jobs can go legally. There’s need for stakeholders on migration to work hand in hand in the re-orientation of our youths on the issue of migration, push out the right information on regular migration they require to know on all available platforms.

“Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, (NIDCOM) as a Commission is engaging other sister agencies to provide information, communication and educative (ICE) materials at strategic points of contact for travelers. I encourage every participant here to leverage on networks that will help uncover hidden opportunities unveil new innovations and gain valuable knowledge.”

Earlier in her speech, the Convener, Prof. Orabueze, said the conference has become necessary in view of the hazards Nigerian youths go through in their quest to migrate to Europe for greener pastures, adding that education would play a major role in enlightening the minds of young ones while making decisions on critical issues of life.

She equally called on households  to end inhuman treatments of house-helps, describing it as another form of enslavement.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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