The stranded Nigerians, who besieged the nation’s embassy in Moscow on July 12, were safely returned to the country following a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Onyeama said after a discussion with the Director General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Ms Julie Okah–Donli, it was clear that there were possible cases of human trafficking among the returnees.
“I have spoken to the DG of NAPTIP and she had also indicated that they had sounded the alarm bells for these young children not to leave the country, that it had all the hallmarks of trafficking and irregular migration,” he said.
The minister insisted that some of them, among whom was a nursing mother, were quite too young to have travelled to Russia by themselves solely for the purpose of the World Cup tournament.
He added that an investigation would also be launched into an allegation that some travel agents cancelled the return tickets of the football fans without informing them, leaving them stranded in the European country.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had revealed the Presidential directive in a statement, following the activities of the travel agents who reportedly cancelled the return tickets of their clients and abandoned them to their fate.
President Buhari had ordered Onyeama and the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to commence the process of repatriating the stranded Nigerians.
Mr Shehu said the Presidential directive was in line with the policy of the Federal Government to ensure the welfare of all Nigerians in every part of the world.
Airlines are set to step up the fight against human trafficking, global industry body IATA said Monday as it released guidelines on how crews can act as “eyes and ears” to identify and report suspected cases.
Human trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing criminal industry and the second-largest after the drug trade, according to the US State Department, and there is an increasing push for the aviation industry to take action.
“Many individual airlines are already involved and have launched anti-human trafficking initiatives,” IATA’s assistant director for external affairs Tim Colehan told reporters at the group’s annual meeting in Sydney.
“But until recently there has been no industry-wide initiative.”
Some 60 percent of human trafficking involves crossing an international border, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The new guidelines will include checklists on how to identify suspected cases and handle victims after landing.
“Cabin crew are in a unique position as they travel with passengers sometimes for many hours and are able to spot even the smallest signals and behaviours,” the IATA said.
The approach also involves coordination with airports and law enforcement agencies such as border and customs agents.
Colehan added that while the extent of human trafficking within the aviation sector was not known, new and emerging legislation around the world required airlines to provide specific training to cabin crew.
The clear link between human traffic and international terrorism, according to recent research, meant that airlines’ efforts to reduce the criminal activity could deter terrorism within the aviation industry, he said.
The International Labour Organisation estimates that almost 25 million people are victims of modern slavery.
Types of trafficking activities that the guidelines identify include prostitution, child soldiers, organ removal, forced labour, debt bondage and forced marriage.
Key transregional flows include from sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East and western and southern Europe, and from South Asia to the Middle East and East Asia and the Pacific, according to UNODC.
Edo State government has identified the church as a critical stakeholder in the fight against human trafficking which it described the trend as alarming.
This was according to the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, who spoke on Thursday during a meeting with religious leaders at the Government House in Benin City, the state capital.
Governor Obaseki said the fight has to be on all fronts, both physical and spiritual, to ensure that those behind the syndicate of trafficking were fished out and properly dealt with.
”As you know, the government of Edo State has taken the fight against trafficking to the next level by involving senior members of the clergy of the Christian faith in our fight against the cartel,” he said.
Some of the religious leaders who briefed reporters after the meeting said the church was prepared to take a lead role in eradicating the scourge of human trafficking in the state.
The Catholic Archbishop of Benin Diocese, Most Reverend Augustine Akubueze, commended the state government for the steps taken so far to tackle the scourge of human trafficking and slavery.
He also assured the governor and the people of the state that the church would play its own part in tackling the scourge.
”We are all gathered here to help the governor tackle the scourge; the church has been doing a lot of work and advocacy in this direction to help the government tackle the scourge to a standstill,” he said.
On his part, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the state, Bishop Oriname Kure, said the entire Christian body was in support of the governor’s resolve to fight the ugly trend which he said was threatening human capital development in Edo.
He said: ”Human trafficking has become a serious problem in the land and as such, all hands must be on deck to ensure that the evil scourge is defeated.
“The church, as well as the state and federal governments, are against it; even the Bible kicks against it.”
The bishop added that the church was already preaching against human trafficking and other forms of crime in the society during church services.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki has called for support to reintegrate victims of human trafficking into the society, saying the state government is spending a lot.
The governor said this on Wednesday in Rome, Italy, where he called for more support to sustain government’s efforts and ensure that youths do not have reasons to embark on perilous journeys in search of greener pastures.
“We are spending a lot to reintegrate these young people into the society and we anticipate that the expenses would be more in the nearest future,” he said.
“We solicit for support from the European Union, the Italian government, as well as other countries affected by this menace to be able to sustain the structures we have set up in the state.”
“All parties affected by the menace of human trafficking both the countries of origin and the destination countries stand to benefit from the system we have set up in Edo State to engage these youths, which would give them no reason to contemplate migrating illegally. So, we want to strengthen these structures in Edo State to make staying back and working gainfully the preferred choice,” he added.
Governor Obaseki, however, said the state government is ready to receive more returnees having received three batches of over 200 returnees from Libya.
According to him, those who returned recently were subsequently enrolled in capacity development programmes and placed on a stipend for three months.
“We acknowledge the fact that they are victims, and in many instances, they are entangled in human trafficking due to no fault of theirs. We are extending an open hand to them, and assuring them of support when they return,” the governor pledged.
He said the state government has built formidable structures and systems to receive and re-integrate victims of human trafficking and illegal migration who are indigenes of the state.
He added that a task-force has been set up to oversee the process of rehabilitating and assimilating returnees, while a bill has been forwarded to the Edo State House of Assembly for the enactment of a law to strengthen the fight against human trafficking in the state.
Obaseki was speaking at the International Conference on Women Empowerment and the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons: Partnership Between Nigeria and Italy, organised by the President of Italian Chamber of Deputies, Ms Laura Boldrini.
The event was also attended by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, as well as Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Honourable Kabiru Adjoto.
An Edo State Magistrate Court has remanded one Lasiru Dolly in prison custody for allegedly trafficking a 19-year-old girl to Italy for prostitution.
The Commander of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Benin Zone, Nduka Nwanwenne, disclosed this to Channels Television.
He said: “She (the suspect) trafficked a young girl to Italy; they reached an agreement brokered by a lawyer between them in which she was expected to pay 62,000 euros in two and half years. We got the suspected trafficker arrested, charged her to court and she has been remanded in prison custody”.
Mr Nwanwenne said Dolly was arrested based on a tip off while visiting Nigeria and that the agency is working towards repatriating the victim.
He added that the suspect had told the girl’s parents that their daughter was travelling to Italy to work in her shop.
“The girl is still there and we are trying what we can do to make sure she is brought back and of course, even the parents of the girl are insisting that they should bring their daughter back”.
The Ekiti State Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) says it has intercepted an 18-passenger bus along Ado-Ekiti-Ikere Road for alleged human trafficking.
The bus said to be conveying 33 passengers – including women and children – was intercepted on Friday by the Counter-Terrorism Unit of the NSCDC.
The suspects were paraded at the Command Headquarters by the state Commandant Donatus Ikemefuna who told reporters that they have commenced an investigation into the matter.
“We shall continue to investigate the suspects and make sure we get to the root of the matter”.
Mr Ikemefuna added that the suspects would be handed over to officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
He, however, called on residents of the state to quickly alert security agencies when they notice any movement of unfamiliar persons in their neighbourhood.
“We are not magicians; communities should be ready to work with us as well as all security agencies by giving us information on any suspicious movement in their neighbourhood”.
A driver who was arrested along with the suspects denied any involvement in the crime, saying he was only transporting them to Ogbomoso in Oyo State.
“I am a driver; they met me at the garage and asked me to take them to Ogbomoso in Oyo State which is outside my route. I don’t know the way from Benue to Ogbomoso but it was one of them that was guiding me,” he said.
41 Nigerian females who were victims of human trafficking have been evacuated from Mail.
They arrived at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport aboard a military transport aircraft at about 7:25 pm on Monday.
Their return was facilitated by the Nigerian Airforce, the Office of Diaspora and Foreign Affairs and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
The Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora and Foreign Affairs, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, also revealed that six members of the trafficking ring have been arrested.
She also commended the Chief Of Air Staff, for facilitating the return of the victims to the country.
“We want to thank the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar, and the Chief of Defence Staff, Maj Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, for making the return of the girls possible, otherwise they would have still be there.
“The girls came back voluntarily. Some of these girls are between 15 and 17 years old who thought they were being taken to Europe for greener pastures but ended up with traumatic experiences in the hands of their traffickers and their madam.
“So they should not be ashamed of themselves because they are victims. We are going to rehabilitate them through skills acquisition programmes.
“I am therefore calling on non-governmental organisations to join us in this regard,” she said.
This is coming in the face of renewed wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
The Nigerian community in South Africa, led by Mr Ikechukwu Anyene, confirmed the attacks and looting of Nigerian-owned businesses in Pretoria West
“As we speak, five buildings with Nigerian businesses, including a church, have been looted and burned by South Africans,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mrs Dabiri-Erewa, who described the attacks as an unnecessary setback, had appealed to the South African Government to take every step necessary to protect Nigerians.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic In Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP), is seeking collaborations with relevant stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration.
The Zonal Commander of NAPTIP in Benin city, the Edo state capital, Mr Odita Ebenezer, made this known while meeting with members of a non-governmental organization, the Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration, Immigration, Development and Re-integration, at his office in Benin city.
The meeting between NAPTIP and the NGO focused on ways of intensifying public awareness on the dangers of human trafficking and its negative impact on the society.
President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the international community not to further delay or downplay the need for humanitarian intervention in Nigeria’s North-East and the Lake Chad Basin.
“It is time for collective global action to invest in the people of Nigeria’s North-East and the Lake Chad Basin region,” the President told the High-Level Event on “The Humanitarian Crisis in the Lake Chad Basin: A Turning Point,” in New York, on the margins of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA71).
“We are renewing the call for re-dedicated international action to end the humanitarian needs of victims and address the root causes of terrorism itself,” he said at the event jointly-sponsored by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the African Union, the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
President Buhari noted that the “complexities and severity of humanitarian crisis across the world have increased in recent times, resulting in devastating repercussions.
“Political and socio-economic structures as well as the growth trajectory of many countries have been negatively affected leaving traumatized populations. The dual impact of Climate Change and terrorism cum insurgency has created deeper implications for peace and security, social harmony and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
While commending the Multi-National Joint Task Force for degrading Boko Haram, he said that the Nigerian government has been fully responsive to the urgency to save innocent lives, protect victims of Boko Haram atrocities, guarantee stability and facilitate the resumption of normal social and economic activities in the North-East of the country.
“The Government of Nigeria is not overwhelmed by the enormity of this humanitarian challenge. Rather, we remain resolute in defeating terrorism in all its forms.
“We have put in place a robust people-driven counter-terrorism strategy built on a combination of revamped security operations and a human rights-based approach to help bring about rehabilitation, reintegration and reconstruction,” the President said.
According to him, “Nigeria has been providing food support, reintegrated healthcare, shelter, psycho-social support and access to water and sanitation amenities for those in need. We are also engaging highly respected community and religious leaders to discourage vulnerable youth from being radicalized.”
President Buhari expressed delight that displaced persons have begun to return to their communities in Konduga, Mafa, Benisheck and Ngala in the North-East.
On the missing Chibok schoolgirls, the President said that the unfortunate incident has remained in “our national consciousness,” adding that the administration “is working hard to ensure the release of all Nigerians held captive by Boko Haram, including the Chibok girls.
“We are ready to ensure their swift rehabilitation, reintegration and the continuation of their studies once returned to their families.”
On the Lake Chad, President Buhari said the shrinking of the Lake has also like Boko Haram, adversely affected the communities around the Basin by increasing their hardship.
Given the enormous challenge posed by the dwindling waters, the President noted that no single State in the region can independently meet the needs of the victims of the depressing occurrence.
“Nigeria thus, reiterates its call for stronger international action and support for the implementation of the Lake Chad Development Resilience Action Plan,” he said, even as he urged “increased global attention and active engagement than it is currently receiving.”
President Buhari, who did not fail to appreciate the critical support the North-East and Lake Chad Basin have been receiving from the United Nations and development partners, pledged Nigeria’s preparedness to collaborate in order to “find a lasting solution to this human disaster.”
Spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, Mr. Leo Dobbs, also warned that families would return to find their homes and farmland destroyed, with basic services wiped out and will live under the persistent threat of attacks by the jihadist group.
He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that healthcare, agriculture, and security services were in ruin after around two years of Boko Haram rule.
He said that nearly half a million children were at risk of ‘severe acute malnutrition’ in the area around Lake Chad.
Since 2009, more than 15,000 people have been killed, 2.3 million displaced due to Boko Haram activities in Nigeria.
A British court prosecutor said that Franca Asemota was found guilty of conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual exploitation, trafficking persons outside of the UK for sexual exploitation and assisting unlawful migration.
Police have arrested 23 suspects for unlawful possession of firearms in Ogun State, southwest Nigeria.
The police also recovered 21 guns of different types from the suspects alleged to be disturbing the peace of the state.
The suspects were paraded by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Hammed Iliyasu, at the Police Headquarters at Eleweran in Abeokuta, the state’s capital.
Mr Iliyasu said they were picked from different parts of the state.
He added that their offences ranged from armed robbery, kidnapping and human trafficking among others.
The Police Commissioner sought for more synergy from other security agencies to ensure effective policing of the state.
He also called for more quality information from the public in the onerous task of protecting lives and property.
While some of the suspects confessed to the crime they were being paraded for to Channels Television, a 46 years old man narrated his ordeal in the hands of his abductors before he was rescued by the police.