Worried by the menace of human trafficking, which has become a profitable venture for criminals who exploit people by kidnapping them and selling them into forced prostitution, forced labour and modern day slavery, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Tuesday inaugurated a Task Force on Human Trafficking to curb the scourge in the state.
The governor also charged members of Lagos State Task Force on Human Trafficking to come up with brilliant ideas, innovations and policies that would assist the state government in curbing the menace.
Speaking during the inauguration of the task force at Lagos House in Ikeja, Sanwo-Olu urged all members of the task force to see their appointment as a call to service.
According to him, “The novel Coronavirus (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 Lagos State Task Force 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.
“The government and people of Lagos State understand the value of partnership as an inestimable tool in combating the transnational organised crime of human trafficking and as a result, we use this opportunity to assure you of our unwavering support, collaboration and strong partnership in providing all that is needed to ensure we bring an end to the menace of human trafficking in our society.
“Everyday, in every country of the world, at least a person is reported as a victim of human trafficking while several other cases go either unnoticed or unreported. The menace of human trafficking has not only become a sad reality, it has also sadly become a profitable venture for criminals who exploit people by kidnapping them, selling them into forced prostitution, forced labour and also until very recently into modern day slavery.
“Unfortunately, human trafficking has now become that bitter bile that is not felt by the victims alone, but rather affects humanity in general as it encroaches on our right and dignity as a people.
“For years, local and international media have been awash with horrifying stories of people especially Nigerian women and girls who have been trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation, and also of migrants trapped in Libya in slavery-like conditions or dying as they crossed the Mediterranean Sea.
“These stories however, sadly reflect the large and increasing problem of human trafficking within and from Nigeria in recent years and also gives certain credibility to the recent statistics by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that there has been a 600 per cent increase in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving Europe by sea, with most of them arriving from Nigeria.”
Sanwo-Olu, who noted that the situation of human trafficking has become a nightmare, commended the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) for their relentless efforts in the fight against human trafficking and irregular migration.
He also appreciated NAPTIP for the ways they have been rendering assistance to human trafficking victims that are being rehabilitated.
“I must applaud you for this brilliant idea of re-constituting Lagos State Working Groups on Human Trafficking into State Task Forces that will be equipped with the requisite skills and technical support to provide a platform to articulate and consolidate our government’s policies and programmes aimed at countering the terrible scourge of human trafficking,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, NAPTIP Director-General, Julie Okah-Donli, said the problem of human trafficking and irregular migration have become a great national concern, especially with the large number of Nigerians trapped in sexual and labour exploitation in various African and European countries, apart from the hundreds that continue to die in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea.
“Lagos State Task Force on Human Trafficking has a pivotal role to play in ensuring adequate sensitisation 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 enforcements.
“This requires strong political will and budgetary provisions on the part of the srate government, in addition to the commitment of traditional institutions, religious and community leaders,” she said.
Okah-Donli also commended Sanwo-Olu and members of his cabinet for partnering with NAPTIP to stem the tide of the twin evils of human trafficking and irregular migration in Lagos State and Nigeria.
She said: “Lagos State has in the past supported the operations of Lagos Zonal Command of NAPTIP and I would like to appeal for stronger collaborations and support to enable the agency achieve its mandate in Lagos, which unarguably is the commercial business capital of Nigeria.”
In her remarks, the Counter Trafficking Officer of International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Bertha Kaluocha Ngurulu, described migration as not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be managed and therefore promised continued partnership with federal and state governments in facilitating humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all.
She disclosed that IOM since 2011 has been providing support to Nigerian government in areas of migration and development as well as facilitating migration, regulating migration and forced migration, assisted voluntary return of both irregular and regular migrants in need of protection.
Responding,Lagos State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), who is also the Chairman of Lagos State Task Force on Human Trafficking, assured Sanwo-Olu and NAPTIP that his team would work tirelessly to fight the pandemic and ensure that people feel the impact of the task force in the state.
The inauguration of Lagos State Task Force on Human Trafficking was attended by the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, and Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Titilayo Shitta-Bey, among other government officials.
Among the member of the task force, which is made up of officials from security agencies, government agencies and civil society and community-based groups are: Co-chairman, Daniel Atokolo (NAPTIP); Olufusayo Adejoke Alabi (Ministry of Women and Poverty Alleviation); Oladotun Odubona and Ighodalo Margaret (Police); Toyin Odusanya (Citizens Right); Patricia Ebegbulem (Bakhita Safe House); Adegboyega Bajulaiye (Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps, LSNC); Iyabo Ogundiran (Legal Hub on Anti-Trafficking); John Deborah Chigozie (Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC); and Ogunluyi Titilope (National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA).