The police also seized vehicles, cash, mobile phones and computers in the course of the operation.
The minors were aged between 11 and 16, with the youngest rescued at the land border between Nigeria and Benin Republic.
In his reaction, INTERPOL Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, described human trafficking as a transnational crime from which the vulnerable, especially children, simply cannot walk away.
“This operation underlines the need for cross-border collaboration between law enforcement and all stakeholders to ensure that together we can enhance our prevention, protection and prosecution efforts,” the INTERPOL chief stated.
During the operation, the police found a boy who had been forced to carry clandestinely between the two countries heavy goods, including bags of rice weighing up to 40 kg.
According to INTERPOL, all the victims originated from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Togo.
It explained that the victims were recruited and trafficked by means of deception and coercion, after which they were held in bondage in various labour intensive activities.
The organisation added that before regaining freedom, many of the minors were moved around as ‘merchandise’ themselves, across the border.
The victims were also forced to work in markets all day, peddling goods, fetching water, cooking, and carrying heavy loads.
In other cases, some were made to work as housemaids and others were victims of sexual exploitation.
INTERPOL said most of the minors endured beatings and psychological abuse, as well as death threats and warnings that they would never see their parents again.
It, however, highlighted some of the steps taken to ensure the rescued victims receive the necessary care following their rescue.
These include social services while some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) undertook post-operation interviews and provided support services to the victims.
In Nigeria, the organisation revealed that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) took charge of the minors.
The Comptroller of the Nigeria Immigration Service at Seme border region, Do Asogwa, called for a collective effort to tackle the menace of trafficking.
He said, “We have to cooperate with one another to combat the crime networks behind the trafficking and smuggling of human beings.
“These crimes can only be tackled collectively and through interagency cooperation.”
In Benin Republic, some of the minors were transferred to shelters, returned to their parents, while others were taken into care by national social affairs authorities and NGOs.
The Police Divisional Commissioner of the country’s Central Bureau for the Protection of Minors and Families and the Prevention of Human Trafficking (OCPM), Hounde Seidou, said: “Nobody belongs in the markets or on the streets as slave labourers.
He added, “As law enforcement officers, it is our duty to combat human trafficking, especially when children are involved.”
INTERPOL said building a sustainable law enforcement capacity to investigate and handle cases of human trafficking and migrant smuggling dominated its strategy on vulnerable communities.
To this end, it explained that ‘Operation Epervier II’ was preceded in Benin Republic and Nigeria by specialised training exercises to help officers enhance their investigative techniques along with victim and offender interview skills.
The organisation said its secure communications system I-24/7 was also deployed to operational hotspots, providing police with real-time access to criminal global databases containing millions of records, including on stolen and lost travel documents and biometrics.
It noted that the G7 Interior Ministers had met in Paris, France earlier in April and called for increased cooperation with INTERPOL against crimes such as human trafficking.
It added that the operation, funded by the INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World, was undertaken under the framework of the INTERPOL Global Task Force on Human Trafficking.
The Governor Of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, has inaugurated the state Anti-Human Trafficking task force that he believes would proffer a new set of home-grown solutions to the age-long social problem.
Speaking during the ceremony at the government house in Benin City the state capital, Governor Obaseki said a situation where the state is fast becoming synonymous with human trafficking is no longer acceptable.
He, therefore, charged the task force to urgently redeem the state’s image saying that the Edo people do not want to be associated with the stigma anymore.
Furthermore, he emphasized the need for the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) as well as other international organsations to join Edo State in the fight against human trafficking.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has arrested two members of a trafficking syndicate.
The suspects were arrested at the upper mission area of Benin City, the Edo State capital.
The Commander, NAPTIP Benin Zonal Command, Nduka Nwanwenne who revealed this in an interview with Channels Television said the suspects Mr Festus Osakpolor Osayamwonbor and his wife, Mrs Kate Osayamwonbor were apprehended with three victims, whom they were taking to the motor park.
He said preliminary investigation indicated that the suspects are said to own a five-bedroom apartment in Tripoli Libya, where they accommodate the people being trafficked.
“Some of the items we recovered from them are travelling passports of the victims, we also recovered a diary containing evidence of payment by suspects to them, we also recovered pictures of female victims that they may have trafficked in the past.
“They are claiming to have trafficked about 15 persons, that’s their claim but we are still investigating, it could be more than that, because they have lived in Libya for 10 years, they have a home there and they just came back in 2015 but they are still in the business. Apart from that, we also impounded the vehicle they were using to transport the victims that early morning. We also recovered items like pants, like bra, finger nails, pubic hair and all that and these are items for oath taking particularly the female victims.”
The Italian Government has promised improved collaboration with Nigeria towards ensuring both nations achieve better success in the fight against trafficking in persons.
The President of Italy’s Lower Parliament, Laura Boldrini, made the pledge during a visit to Benin City, the Edo State capital.
Boldrini, in company of other top Italian Government officials, was in the state to access the efforts of the Edo State government and that of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in the fight against trafficking.
She stressed the need for both countries to work together in providing support for NAPTIP and other agencies tackling the menace of the illegal act.
“Italy and Nigeria has to increase cooperation at all levels in order to provide enough resources for NAPTIP and other centres, to support the girls who are sent back from Europe, from Italy to rebuild their lives.
“I also think that we have to intervene before that; we have to give the girls the chance to have a decent job and in other to do so, we have to support the efforts of the Governor of Edo State who is trying to give an alternative,” she recommended.
The Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, appealed for better collaboration with the European country in the fight against trafficking.
“We have derailed in our path as a people. Some of the things we are seeing today are consequences of that derailment and that, we are determined to get back on the path of development.
“We are very clear as to what our issues are, what our problems are, and what the solutions should be,” he said.
The Director General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli, on her part, spoke on the nature of collaboration they expect from the Italian Government.
“There must definitely be a cartel there, we have not been able to break through this cartel. We are looking for ways where we will partner more with these other countries where these girls are brought back from, so that we can break into this cartel and investigate deeper,” she said.
African leaders have adopted and signed a draft Charter on Maritime Safety, Security and Development.
The agreement is aimed at establishing a roadmap on maritime security in Africa and causing development and economic growth through Africa’s oceans and seas.
At a summit in Lome, the capital of Togo, the African leaders signed the charter which is the culmination of previous summits, to provide peace, security and stability on Africa’s blue economy.
Over 90 per cent of Africa’s trade is maritime-based.
Prior to the signing of the charter, series of discussions were held by international maritime specialists and experts who met for five days.
They examined maritime piracy, trafficking, illegal fishing, development of the blue economy and protection of marine ecosystem.
These discussions culminated in a charter the Chairperson of African Union (AU), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and President Idriss Deby of Chad referred to as an uncommon feat.
Channels Television’s correspondent, Omelogo Nnadi, says nearly 3,000 delegates from 54 African countries and and outside the continent were in Lome for the African Union Extraordinary Summit on maritime security and development.
The summit had focused on mapping out an African strategy for the protection of the continent’s seas.
A Very Major Step
For the development of the continent’s blue economy to happen, Africa needs to run like a cheetah, UN Economic Commission Executive Secretary, Dr Carlos Lopes, says.
“What we need is a much deeper understanding of the transformation that is required by the continent and that transformation can be represented by the fastest moving animal on earth which happens to be in Africa – the cheetah,” he pointed out.
He said Africa must prepare for the worst while expecting the best.
The Chairperson of the AU Commission had listed major challenges facing the continent’s maritime development.
She says Africa needs to have its own products being transported out of the continent with its own vessels.
After the signing of the Charter on Maritime Safety, Security and Development, the President of Chad, Mr Deby and the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, said the agreement was a big achievement for Africa’s development.
“One of the critical things here is that we have been able to get everyone to agree, which by itself, is a very major step. It, of course, enjoins every African country to provide certain services and armed services in their own locality,” Professor Osinbajo stressed.
Before now, vast potentials of Africa’s blue economy have been infiltrated by criminals, pirates and smugglers, but the leaders have made a strong commitment to the monitoring and coordinating of activities in the continent’s waters through the charter.
Part of what the leaders plan to achieve with the new charter are job creation and revenue increase that could run into billions of dollars.
Three suspected members of a gang that kidnapped the wife, daughter and driver of a Justice of the Supreme Court, Bode Rhodes-Vivour, were on Tuesday paraded by the State Security Service (SSS), alongside other suspected criminals.
The suspected kidnappers had in May, this year, kidnapped the two women and the driver in Edo state.
Parading the suspects before the state governor, Adams Oshiomhole in Benin, the state capital, the state director of the SSS, Bello Bakori, said the suspects had confessed to the crime and that three members of the kidnappers of the judge’s wife are still at large.
He added that Mrs Rhodes-Vivour and her daughter had been kept in a house in Upper Sakpoba area of Benin City from where the suspects were arrested.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour’s family was held captive for 18 days by their captors.