Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, Ms Julie Okah-Donli, has bemoaned the mass recruitment of Nigerians to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries.
This was even as the NAPTIP Director-General said the agency has convicted a total number of 341 persons since inception.
Speaking during a familiarisation tour of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Okah-Donli who was received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the NAPTIP delegation was at the ministry to fine-tune ways of working with the ministry more from inside.
She said there was need for greater collaboration between NAPTIP and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassies.
Okah-Donli recalled a distress call she received from a Nigerian victim in Saudi Arabia who ran to the Nigerian Embassy and did not receive the necessary assistance.
She said the same situation exists in some other Nigerian embassies, saying that “virtually all the embassies react the same way.”
“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.
“And of course, you and I know that there is a lot of sexual exploitation going on because most of the times, even for those who are actually doing house work, they are always sexually abused by the masters of the house. And there is a lot of organ harvesting also going on in countries like that.
“So, we fear that most of these people that are really unaccounted for may never return back alive and there is need Sir, to do something very seriously about this trend,” Okah-Donli said.
The NAPTIP Director-General further raised the alarm over cases of recruitment of very young boys and girls by so called sports agents, taking them to various countries, saying “of course, their organs are being harvested.”
Recalling the activities of NAPTIP, Okah-Donli said the agency had been able to convict 341 traffickers from inception to date.
Over 13,000 victims, Okah-Donli added, have received assistance from NAPTIP so far who passed through NAPTIP’s various shelters from inception to date.
Challenges being faced by the agency, according to Okah-Donli, include inadequate resources, very poor budgetary allocation, late release of budgetary allocation and half release of budgetary allocation.
Okah-Donli, however, said NAPTIP had been thinking out of the box and looked for ways to run NAPTIP without necessarily relying solely on the budget.
She also said lack of support from state governments was another serious issue for NAPTIP, noting that many of the state governments were not doing much to improve the lives of their people.
“And even at that, when we have indigenes from the various states, they do not assist in anyway.
“We have shelters and they don’t even assist in terms of maybe food supplies, medication, skill acquisition.
“There is a lot they can do to also assist NAPTIP, but they have not been forthcoming,” Okah-Donli added.
While listing inadequate support by destination countries as a major challenge, Okah-Donli said another major problem is that in most of the destination countries, prostitution is legal.
She also bemoaned what she called “very unhealthy rivalry” amongst various agencies of the Nigerian government and officials, leading to lack of appropriate synergy in fighting the problem.
Responding, Onyeama said the analysis of the situation brought out very clearly, how grave the situation is.
Onyeama also said one area that is of challenge is the division between regular migrants and trafficked persons.
He added that another area that needed to be looked into clearly, is the labour contracts and arrangement.
“So, we would have to look at, probably with the Ministry of Labour involved as well to look at the mechanism,” Onyeama said.