The Oyo State Government has frowned at the rising rate of human trafficking in the country, calling it ‘modern day slavery’.
Speaking at a sensitisation programme orgainsied by a non-governmental organisation, the Live Abundantly Empowerment Initiative (LAEI), in collaboration with the Oyo State government, to educate Nigerians on the inhuman treatment victims of human trafficking encounters, in Ibadan, Commissioner for Women Affairs, Community Development, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation, Atinuke Osunkoya, said the state government is worried about rising rate of human trafficking in the country in spite of violence and inhuman treatment meted out to victims along the way.
She listed sexual harassment, violence and hard labour as some of the vices experienced by victims.
Osunkoya said: “It is no longer news that victims of trafficking are forced into these situations with no reward or support, as well as little chance of escape.
“Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to raise public awareness and offer adequate aid to victims.”
She said Governor Abiola Ajimobi, is committed to fighting human trafficking and has been working intensely to ensure the menace is resisted and reduced.
The commissioner said the state is dedicated to tracking down the perpetrators of human trafficking as well as sponsoring various advocacy programmes at the grassroots and the urban centres.
“All these are achieved through the state’s Emergency Management Agency and the Ministry of Women Affairs, where the victims are counselled and re-united to their families,” she said.
Osunkoya cited the instance of recent mass deportation of Nigerians from Libya, of which a few of them had been successfully empowered by the government.
She also commended the Convener of Live Abundantly Empowerment Initiative (LAEI), Dr. Ama Onyerinma, for embracing the cause, stating that the event would effect a positive change in the lives of women, children and youths who would have been exposed to dangers.
Also, Oyo State governor’s wife, Florence Ajimobi, who was represented by the coordinator of Access to Basic Medical Care Foundation, Dolapo Oyedipe, at the event, said the issue with human trafficking needed a concerted effort to handle because of the means devised by trafficker to recruit victims.
Oyedipe said the treatment victims face serves as a major reason for the advocacy, while commending the governor’s wife for her passion about the welfare of women, their health, social, physical, emotional and psychological state.
Commenting on Mrs. Ajimobi’s acquisition of a Cobas 4,800 machine for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) screening for cervical cancer, she advised sexually active women to go for screening regularly.
Oyedipe said early detection of any life-threatening disease could be treated and cured like any other health condition.
Onyerinma, on her part, said children were being sold and used for domestic sex trafficking industry, and that the practice has been thriving as an enterprise with the victims being exploited.
She said: “The psychological implication is lifelong. While the stigma stings like a bee and the wound is raw. The stigma re-opens the wound because the cut of human trafficking can never be fully healed.”
She stated that the traffickers come in various robes, brandishing stories of grand lives for their victims without them having a clue to what they would experience.
According to her, “some traffickers are family members, while others are supposed to be honourable members of the community, who exploited victims seeking income from the sale of a precious being.
“The victims are generally women, children, disenfranchised youths and the physiologically challenged who are relegated to marginalised lives in society.”
Onyerinma pointed out that laws alone cannot stop human trafficking as “the network is intricate and the spoils of the toxic trade is intoxicating for those cold-hearted traffickers who can only think of their financial gains without having the feeling of the effect it has on victims and the society at large.”
She called for more collaborations and the creation of awareness, public enlightenment advocacy and education to tackle the issue, while recommending enactment of stiffer laws as “enforced internationally were perpetrators are brought to book.”
Coordinator of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person (NAPTIP), Kehinde Komolafe, who was represented by Rosemary Elude, said human trafficking had become a multi-billion dollar enterprise and that perpetrators do not want to stop this social havoc.