By Vera Wisdom-Bassey
Resolved to halt all forms of human trafficking and to continually create awareness on the need to protect all lives, a group called Religious Sisters of Charity recently organised a walk in Lagos State. The group took the campaign to Agboju and Festac areas of the state, where it renewed its commitment to abolishing direct and indirect trafficking of girls, women and boys.
The Religious Sisters is aligning with other advocates, organisations and agencies such as the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to create more awareness and educate Nigerians on the short and long-term consequences of human trafficking.
Across the globe, every July 30 is marked by the United Nations as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, established to raise awareness on the plight of human trafficking victims, and to promote and protect their rights. Human trafficking has been described as a crime punishable under the law. Yet, the practice has continued in different parts of Nigeria and the world at large.
As the group marched through the streets, the participants chanted: “Say no to human trafficking; say no to organ harvesting; no to child molestation and save our children.” The sisters insisted, “Our girls are not for sale.”
The walk kicked off from the premises of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, Agboju, through Biakanta Street and down to First Gate, where pamphlets were distributed to residents and passers-by. While the walk lasted, policemen were drafted from Agboju and Festac police stations to provide security for the campaigners.
The campaigners were received at Amuwo Odofin local government area and Amuwo Odofin local government councils.
Many people might not have forgotten how 23-year-old Ngozi Eze from Anambra State was called upon to bring her passport photograph by a young man close to her family that she would be given an international passport, which would enable her travel to South Africa. She was deceived that, when she got there, there would be work waiting for her.
Expectedly, she was happy to travel, until her brother’s friend heard of it and immediately dissuaded her. The young man was her saving grace because it was later discovered that she was being lured into prostitution in the foreign land.
The case of Eze is similar to what many Nigerian youths are faced with today. Many of them have been deceived and misled into doom in the name of seeking greener pastures abroad.
Speaking, chairman of the Festac council, Valentine Buraimoh, represented by Mrs. Folami Abisola, charged the advocates to continue the good work, and assured them that what they were doing was recognised by the local government and the state.
She said that Lagos State was also discouraging human trafficking by empowering women and girls in entrepreneurship and other profitable ventures. According to her, Amuwo Odofin has been working effortlessly to curb the menace of human trafficking. She also lamented that the number of cases of girls who run to the council to complain of being maltreated by their guardians was on the increase.
“Parents, relatives and guardians should stop telling lies to the girls. The Lagos State government is trying to stop trafficking, and it is not to do it alone. The state needs the support of the NGOs and religious groups to stop this menace,” she said.
The convener of the group, Rev. Justina Suekime Nelson, said embarking on the exercise was provoked “after seeing our girls’ videos in Europe trapped in trafficking.”
“We decided to take up this campaign and to encourage everyone to join in this struggle. People are so degraded that we no longer know that they are created in the image of God,” she stated.
She decried Nigerian girls unwillingness to patiently learn skills that would help them secure their future. She explained that their quest to get easy money was largely responsible for the ugly trend. She also called on parents to increase family value system, lamenting that societal ills were on the rise everyday.
She stated: “If there is poverty and these girls are taught to manage it, it is better than going into this sex trade. They should also teach their children to keep themselves dignified, and learn skills that can help them be better than their parents.”
A trader at First Gate, Obi Nwaeze, said during the walk that the government has also failed Nigerians by failing to provide jobs for the young girls and boys who are ready to work.
“We have many girls who are graduates today, and since there is no job, they go into prostitution. It is not an acceptable reason but it is a contributory factor,” he said.