Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Following the upsurge in trafficking of Nigerians to the Middle East, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has said that the Federal Government would embark on a fact-finding mission to Saudi Arabia.
Onyeama made the disclosure when he held talks yesterday with the Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, Ms Julie Okah-Donli.
Recall that Okah-Donli had while on a familiarization tour to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month, bemoaned the mass recruitment of Nigerians to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries.
Okah-Donli had during the April meeting said “The new dimension now which is giving all of us serious headache is this mass recruitment to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Dubai, Egypt and so on, by agents under the guise of providing employment as in house-helps and nurses to the Saudi Arabian nationals.”
The meeting between Onyeama and Okah-Donli was in furtherance to the earlier meeting to fine-tune ways of nipping the situation in the bud.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Onyeama said there was a cloak of legality about the development.
He said the Ministry of Labour will sign a labour agreement with Saudi Arabia to send people to engage in unskilled labour.
Onyeama said it is based on the agreement that the Saudi government and its embassy in Abuja will issue visas to Nigerians intending to work in Saudi Arabia.
“Agencies would be the ones organizing it and they would get to Saudi Arabia and we are hearing all kinds of horror stories.
“We want to tackle it at source. Clearly, there is an issue. Young girls especially, but young people who ostensibly are going to Saudi Arabia to do unskilled work is a problem and we want to tackle that.
“So, the first thing we are going to do is that we are going to send a team to Saudi Arabia to ascertain the facts and the circumstances.
“We are going to meet with the Ministry of Labour and have NAPTIP involved in this process of giving licences, agreement or whatever for these girls to obtain visas and we are also going to engage with the Saudi Embassy here on this question,” Onyeama said.
On the issue of Nigerians trafficked to Libya, Onyeama said not all of them are interested in returning to the country.
Recall that Okah-Donli, had in an interview with our sister publication, Sunday Sun, in its April 29, 2018, edition, said there were still 3000 Nigerians left in Libya.
Onyeama however said majority of those trafficked to Libya, have been brought back to the country by the government.
“We have brought back the vast majority who want to come. Our mission there is primed and working continuously to bring back those that still want to come back and are left there.
“And of course, the International Organisation for Migration is also helping with that,” Onyeama said.
Speaking earlier, Okah-Donli said her visit to the ministry was to see how the nation can reduce the number of flow of girls going to Saudi Arabia for unskilled labour since it has become a huge problem to the country.
“A lot of girls going out of the country and to Saudi Arabia and the reports we hear are not very nice to the ears. A lot of them are stranded there.
“So, I just came to see how we could stop that from happening or reduce it,” Okah-Donli said.