The fight against human trafficking and irregular migration in Nigeria deserves equal attention with the fight against corruption and insurgency as human trafficking has become a great threat to national security and undermines the sovereignty of the Nigerian nation.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign and Local Debt, Senator Shehu Sani, stated this in Abuja at the weekend during a courtesy visit on the Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli.
He explained that human trafficking undermines the sovereignty of the country and has become a source of instability to the nation and must be well handled by the government and other international bodies.
‘’Nigerian youth are being trafficked to Italy enroute Niger Republic, Libya to Europe and soon. Some of them stopover in Libya where they are engaged in terrorist activities while those trafficked to Italy are involved in sex slavery. Each time tragedy occurs from human trafficking, it affects everyone of us because if an individual that is trafficked to Libya joinsISIS or Al-Qaida, after the training, such may come back to the country to perpetuate evil which is dangerous’’, he said.
Shehu Sani who is also the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs expressed disgust over the rate of deaths including Nigerians in the Mediterranean Sea in recent times as a result of failed and dangerous journeys to Europe by desperate individuals in search of greener pastures abroad.
“It is shameful that after 300 years of the abolition of slavery in the world, Africans are still dying in the sea in the name of human trafficking. It is also worrisome to note that unlike the days of old when Africans were forced to get on the boat, now, nobody forces us to get on the ship. It is also a shame that almost six decades of our political independence, we are still talking about this “, he lamented.
The Lawmaker who is the founder of the ‘Pan African Initiative Against Irregular Migration’ an organisation that aims at raising awareness on the risks involved in irregular migration explained that combating human trafficking in Nigeria was as important as the issue of national security.
While stating that human trafficking was a regional, continental and global problem that must be addressed with all seriousness, the Senator frowned at the low funding of the activities of NAPTIP by Government.
‘’The stipend through the envelop system of funding NAPTIP; an agency saddled with the responsibility of fighting human trafficking is unacceptable. An agency with this kind of enormous task should be well funded to carry out its activities of awareness creation and prosecution’’, he said.
He therefore, called on the Executive arm of Government to provide the Agency withimproved budgetary provisions and prompt releases of allocated funds to enable it discharge its duties more effectively. He also called on International organisations to extend the type of assistance they give to other Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria in the fight against corruption and insurgency to NAPTIP to tackle human trafficking, a crime with far reaching implications on national development.
He however, pledged to get the support of the National Assembly to attract attention for NAPTIP. “I will work with relevant committees in the Assembly and all the countries in European Union to come to your aid in order to fight human trafficking” he said.
In her response, the Director-General expressed appreciation to the Lawmaker for the visit and his deep understanding of the enormity of the problems of human trafficking and the funding challenges of the Agency in tackling the menace.
She decried insufficient funds allocated to the Agency, pointing out that what was being given to NAPTIP was not commensurate to its huge tasks. She noted that the job of preventing human trafficking through awareness creation and prosecution required a lot of resources.
“The envelop system of funding for NAPTIP as you rightly said will never be enough because the Agency deals with a crime with international dimension and huge implications to the country which needs a lot of funds. What we are receiving as funding here is appalling and disgraceful. I am appealing to you as a Senator who has been a voice of the voiceless to help us. The situation is so bad that my officers and men sometimes contribute money to take care of the victims of trafficking in our shelters…”, she said.
She admitted that victims of irregular migration often end up as victims of human trafficking as lack of requisite legal documents make it impossible for them to gain meaningful employment in their destination countries.