By; RAYMOND TEDUNJAYE, Lagos
No fewer than 1,535 indigenes of Lagos State who are victims of human trafficking and irregular migration have been rescued and reunited with their families by the Federal Government as part of its commitment towards stemming the menace in the country.
The victims’ rescue was said to be imperative after the apex government was alerted of a large number of Nigerians trapped in sexual and labour exploitation in various African and European countries, without means of reaching their families back home.
As stated, the menace of traffickers and that of irregular migration had become a source of concern to the central government, hence its emergency response efforts which birthed the inauguration of victim support and prevention taskforce across the country to mitigate activities of human traffickers in the country.
The taskforces, the government said, were keyed under each state’s governments to share information, carry out sensitization programmes and put in place strategy strategies for combating human trafficking within their respective states.
Confirming the rescued efforts for Lagos indigenes, the Director-General, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donali, said that the 1,535 rescued Lagosians were trafficked between 2004 and 2020.
Giving the breakdown during the inauguration of the state’s task force at the Lagos House, Ikeja, on Tuesday, Okah-Donali revealed that the Lagos indigenes rescued by the agency’s and it’s partners, consist 1324 females and 211 males.
According to her, the victims were mostly from Ikorodu, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Agege, Alimosho, Eti-Osa, Epe, and Badagry Local Government Areas, and that despite outbreak of coronavirus, the agency had also rescued 18 indigenes in 2020.
“These victims were mostly subjected to child labor, domestic servitude, and sexual exploitation. In the year 2020 alone, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, NAPTIP rescued a total number of 18 indigenes of Lagos State from traffickers. This comprised of 16 females and 2 males,” she said.
While thanking the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led state government, the NAPTIP boss assured that the newly inaugurated taskforce would strengthen efforts to stem the tide of human trafficking and irregular migration in Lagos State and Nigeria.
“Human trafficking represents a clear and present danger to human and national security which must be addressed boldly and frontally. The state task forces on human trafficking have a pivotal role to play in ensuring adequate sensitization at the grassroots and among vulnerable groups, providing services and support to victims who have been rescued and returned, as well as information sharing and law enforcement.
“This requires strong political will and budgetary provisions on the part of the state governments, in addition to the commitment of traditional institutions, religious and community leaders. The challenges ahead of us are quite enormous, and new initiatives must be developed for ensuring adequate resources for the rehabilitation of returnee victims of human trafficking and irregular migration in order to mitigate the phenomenon of re-trafficking,” she said.
On his part, Sanwo-Olu, who regretted actions of the traffickers, said that menace had become a profitable venture for criminals who exploit people by kidnapping them and selling them into forced prostitution, labour and modern-day slavery.
While urging members of the state task force to see their appointment as a call to service, enjoined them to come up with brilliant ideas, innovations, and policies that would assist in curbing the menace.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated many global inequalities and plunged many economies like ours into recession, leaving millions of people at greater risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriages and other crimes. What this implies is that the pandemic has created more economic difficulties for many especially women, young ladies, and children who are the most vulnerable and might become exposed to the perils of human trafficking in a bid to seek better lives.
“In view of this, I strongly believe that this initiative of constituting State Task Forces on Human Trafficking could not have come at a better time than now when it is needed more than ever that we put human dignity and human rights at the forefront and governments across all levels need to join hands and make collaborative efforts to put an end to the scourge of human trafficking,” Sanwo-Olu said.