Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra has expressed concern over the growing number of indigenes falling victim of human trafficking in the state.
He spoke on Tuesday in Awka during the inauguration of an 18-member task force to curb human trafficking and irregular migration in the state.
Obiano, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Solomon Chukwulobelu, described the development as “a serious subject matter in the state which we are already aware of.
“The trend seems to be growing that occasionally, the matter comes up at the state Security Council meeting,” he said.
He recalled that efforts were made in the past to receive evacuated indigenes of the state in Lagos and Port-Harcourt, who were rescued and repatriated back to Nigeria from different countries.
According to him, they were later rehabilitated and reintegrated successfully into society.
Obiano lauded the efforts of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and pledged to donate a property to serve as the state command of the agency.
In a remark, the Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, described human trafficking and irregular migration as a national concern with a large number of Nigerians trapped in other African and European countries.
“This is apart from hundreds that continue to die in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea,” Okah-Donli said.
She said that more worrisome was the case of young girls, being trafficked from the South-East and neighbouring states to Mali,
Burkina Faso and other countries in the West African sub-region.
She said that 528 indigenes of Anambra were rescued by NAPTIP between 2004 and July 2020, consisting of 426 females and 102 males.
Okah-Donli said the victims were mostly from Onitsha North and South, Anambra East, Anaocha, Awka North and South, Idemili North and South Local Government Areas.
“These victims were subjected to child labour, domestic servitude, recruitment for foreign travels, sexual exploitation and sales of babies.
“Between 2017 and 2020, the International Orgaisation for Migration (IOM) returned 34 indigenes of the state from various parts of the world, comprising 29 females and five males,” she said.
The NAPTIP boss, therefore, said the task force had a pivotal role to play in ensuring adequate sensitisation at the grassroots and among vulnerable groups providing services and support to victims.
She, however, called for strong political will and budgetary provisions by the state government, in addition to the commitment of traditional institutions, religious and community leaders to deal with the phenomenon.
Also, Mrs Ruth Mbugua, the Protection Officer of IOM, said coordination and operationalisation of the task force was key to tackling human trafficking.
Mbugua said her office had supported the establishment of six task forces in Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states since January.
“Task forces create a strategic, coordinated and collaborative framework for a more effective response to trafficking in persons,” she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that members of the task force were drawn from the Police, Civil Society Organisatiosn, Immigration, Federal Road Safety Commission, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and youth groups.
Others were individuals from rights groups, Ministries of Women Affairs and Justice as well as offices of the SSG and Government House.
Responding, Dr Obianuju Nwogu, the Attorney-General of the state and Chairman of the task force, pledged the commitment of the state judiciary to the fight.
“We have able lawyers and we are expanding the number for the purposes of this job.
“We have all the apparatuses it will take, including regular courts, the Child’s Right Courts and the Administration of Criminal Justice Law to carry out the task,” she said.
Nwogu, who is also the state Commissioner for Justice, was represented by Mrs Ngozi Iwouno, the Director, Civil Litigation.
Earlier, NAPTIP was received by Mr Benjamin Okoye, the Traditional Prime Minister of Awka, when the group paid a courtesy visit to Obi Gibson Nwosu, the Traditional Ruler of Awka Kingdom. (NAN)