Onaiyekan Blames Get-rich Syndrome for Rise in Human Trafficking

  • Urges developed countries to relax restrictions on visa applications

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Catholic Archbishop of Nigeria, His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has blamed the rise in human trafficking on the get-rich syndrome of most Nigerians, regretting that a lot of young people have lost their lives in a dangerous attempt to get to Europe continent and other developed countries.

Onaiyekan also called on Europe countries and other developed conntries to relax the stringent demands placed on visa applicants in the spirit of globalisation, adding that with the Syrian refugees influx into Europe, a regime of strict border control cannot be sustained for too long.

He stated this while delivering the keynote address at the 2017 Anti-human Trafficking Public Lecture organised by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

The event which was part of activities to celebrate this year’s World Day against human trafficking has the theme: “Nigeria’s Anti-human Trafficking Efforts: The Uncomfortable Truth’.

The cleric, while observing that some of the victims of human trafficking are lured through the offer of various scholarship and contracts by their beneficiaries, however held that others are victims because of their pursuits of wealth and affluence.

“It is often said that our young people are running in droves abroad because of poverty and misery at home. There is no doubt that there is too much poverty and misery in our land and that those who are in charge of the economy need to do more to improve our economic environment. But, I’m beginning to believe that what is pursuing many people abroad is the desire and ambition to get rich quickly and at all cost.

“The girls parading themselves half naked for sale on the suburbs of Milan and Nepal to our shame are not the poorest girls in Nigeria. While doing our best to improve the standard of our people, we need to encourage people to be patient, modest in their expectations and learn to live happily and peacefully, working hard and building our own economy here at home,” the cardinal said.

He stressed that it is high time religious and other leaders began to impress it upon Nigerians that there is more to life than wealth and affluence, adding that so many people have gotten themselves killed in the pursuit of wild dreams of making much money abroad.

While acknowledging the concerns of Europe over the plight of the thousands of people who embark on dangerous voyages in the bid to enter their countries, the archbishop stressed that it is time for Europe to move from words to action, stressing that a lot of people took the risk because of the stringent requirements placed on visa applicants seeking entry to Europe countries and other countries.

According to him, “Traffickers thrive because of high restrictions on the free movement of people. The world must wake up to the realities around us and open our borders to encourage free movement of persons and business.

“It means relaxing and liberalising visa regulations so that people can line up for visas at embassies instead of being washed ashore on the islands after many years of ordeals through the deserts.”

He, however, expressed hope the conference would be a good opportunity to provoke adequate response from the authorities.

Also speaking, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), reiterated the government’s determination in ridding the menace of human trafficking from the country due to the shame and embarrassment the issue is bringing the nation.

Malami promised that the government would partner NAPTIP to reverse the setback the agency and the nation have experienced in the fight against trafficking in persons.

“It is a matter of equally grave concern to us as a government to observe that pursuant to the 2017 Trafficking in Persons report, the United States downgraded Nigeria to the ‘True 2’ Watch list which creates the undue impression that our country is not doing enough to combat the scourge.

“We are determined to address this regrettable classification and ensure that NAPTIP is restored to its pride of place as a model anti-human trafficking institution in Africa and globally.

Earlier, Director General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli, in her welcome address, identified ignorance and greed as the major factors sustaining human trafficking. She noted that traffickers prey on the ignorance of the rural poor, offering them the proverbial pie in the sky as a way out of pervasive poverty.