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From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government, in collaboration with Cote d’Ivoire, have set plans in motion to cancel licences of transportation companies being used in human trafficking.
Nigeria’s Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, Ibrahim Isah, disclosed this when he gave a summary of achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Abidjan, in the just-concluded fifth African Union/European Union Summit.
The theme of the summit, which held between November 29-30, was: “Investing in the youth for a sustainable development,” and deliberations focused on the raging issue of illegal migrants, many of whom are Nigerians, being dehumanised and sold and slaves in Libya.
Reports indicate that the trade works by preying on tens of thousands of vulnerable people, who risk everything to get to Libya’s coast and then, across the mediterranean, into Europe – a route that’s been described as the deadliest route on earth.
Isah, who spoke to newsmen, on the margins of the summit, said the sanction became necessary, in order to stem the influx of Nigerians in Abidjan, which is the main route of human trafficking in West Africa.
He said since the threat was issued to big transport companies which ply the route from Lagos to Abidjan, there has been greater cooperation between the embassy and transport owners.
“In human (child) trafficking, we have a lot of people who are involved in this and they are Nigerians but, we are working hard on that.
“I have had meetings with a lot of people and I have threatened Nigerian transport companies who bring them to these place and I told them that anybody we find bringing them (victims and criminals), we will report to the Ivorien authorities and have their license cancelled, and they will not be able to operate this route again.
“So, that has instilled fear and many of them are cooperating and even giving us information about these ladies and are helping to transport them back Nigeria because, on a weekly basis, we get them.”
According to the Nigerian envoy, Buhari’s visit achieved two things.
“One, by meeting the Nigerian community and espousing the position of the government to them and also, admonishing them to live with the confines of the law, which we all have been doing, he has put a stamp on our work.
“Secondly, he has joined the international community in raising the voice against illegal immigration, slavery and the need to invests in youths.”
Isah, who is only three months old in his new post, disclosed there are lots of Nigerians in Ivorien prisons.
He said as at the time he resumed three months ago, there were over 30 Nigerians in prison but added that the figure could have increased.
“It bothered on issues of one, human trafficking and drugs, unfortunately, this is what we have been battling. Two weeks ago, I saw the Solicitor General of the country because I am not happy with the way they pick up and put Nigerians in prison. There was an operation of trying to clean up the city before the summit and they were just picking people.
“They suspected some Nigerians suddenly living in affluence and that they couldn’t establish their source of income and they picked them up.
“We found out that some Nigerians, too, were reporting others to the authorities, unfortunately, because they were fighting themselves. That was the first attempt I made here to bring them together. Thank God our meeting with them, before Mr. President’s arrival yielded positive results and they are now living in harmony.
“So, I told the attorney general that I was not happy that Nigerians were being picked up just because they suspected their means of livelihood…
“I wrote a protest letter to the Foreign Office and I met the attorney general and we achieved something. We found out that those who were actually involved were in connivance with the authorities themselves. The police gave them information and those ones left and the innocent ones were picked.”
Regardless, the summit agreed to set up a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force, to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes, and, in particular, inside Libya.
Furthermore, efforts will be intensified to enhance intra-African mobility and free movement of persons within Africa.
The joint EU-AU-UN Task Force will also accelerate assisted voluntary return to country of origin and resettlement of those in need of international protection. This action will build on, expand and accelerate ongoing work done by countries of origin, and the IOM, with EU funding, which allows voluntary return to countries of origin of 13, 000 migrants, since January.
The work of the Task Force will be closely coordinated with the Libyan authorities and be part of the overall joint work that the African Union and the European Union, and the United Nations, will intensify to dismantle traffickers and criminal networks, and to offer opportunities of development and stability to countries of origin and transit, tackling root causes of migration.
He added that other nationalities such as Ghanaians and Gambians, were also detained at the camps and that the mission visits the camps, to identify Nigerian citizens and get them registered.
Fachano stated that so far, about 2,000 Nigerians have been registered, even as he said that they were being conveyed to Nigeria in a batch of 250.
Speaking earlier, Oputa said he was saddened because Nigeria is a country that offered so little in spite of its abundant human and natural resources.
He added that it was a sad day because President Muhammadu Buhari had not shown leadership, declaring that the giant of Africa suddenly became the rat of Africa.
“It is a shame. I am here in solidarity with my comrades, my children, my grandchildren and this is the life I have chosen from henceforth to live, to be that facilitating factor, to be the ginger, to encourage young, exceptional Nigerian youths, for them to know, for them to finally realise that the future of this country lies in their hands and unless they are proactive, unless they take charge of their future, they won’t have a future in this country,” Oputa said.