Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), has reacted to the news of the death of 26 young Nigerian girls on the Mediterranean Sea with a call on the United Nations to carry out a high level investigation of the incident with a view at ensuring that anyone found culpable must be brought to back.
This is as Global Initiative against Illegal Migration, a nonâ€“profit making organisation focused on fighting illegal migration has while condemning the incident, blamed bad economic situation in the country and chronic unemployment of youths for such tragedies.
The call which was contained in a statement issued by its Head of Press and Public Relations Unit, Josiah Emerole, described the incident as not only saddened but one too many.
According to Emerole, the Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli and the entire Management were saddened by the unfortunate occurrence which they said had cut short the lives of the young women in their prime and in very painful and suspicious circumstances, adding that the deaths were untimely and unwarranted.
â€œWe are using this medium to once again call for a high level investigation by the United Nations on this incident and others before it along the Mediterranean region. This death is one too many. We need to know the identities of the owners of the rickety boats that carry people along that axis as well as their owners, so that they could be prosecuted appropriately.
â€œFor us as an Agency we will engage with the Italian authorities on this, with a view to knowing the Nigerians identified to be involved in trafficking our people through this dangerous route to apply the laws against them.
â€œWe reiterate that human trafficking and irregular migration are criminal activities that must be stopped and we need the collaboration of all Nigerians to end this. Our young people must resist the lure to undertake such treacherous journeys, as thousands of Nigerians have perished while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea,â€ the DG was quoted to have said in the statement.
The 26 girls were among the 375 migrants said to be aboard a Spanish Warship, Cantabria, which docked at the port in the southern Italian city of Salerno.
The agency described the incident as one of the negative effects of embarking on desperate, dangerous and illegal journeys in the guise of seeking for greener pastures abroad. It disclosed that NAPTIP in the past few years, had mounted awareness campaigns against human trafficking and illegal migration and has consistently persuaded fellow citizens to resist any temptation of embarking on such dangerous and life threatening journeys through the desert and the Mediterranean Sea that can end up in organ harvesting, forced prostitution, domestic servitude, forced begging and death.
â€œWhile praying for the repose of the souls of the departed, we all should learn lessons from this unfortunate occurrence and join hands with NAPTIP to stop human trafficking and irregular migrations from our country,â€ he said.
Reacting to the development, the Executive Director of Global Initiative against Illegal Migration, Emmanuel Osime Obinyan, blamed the harsh economic situation in the country for the tragedy.
Obinyan said there was a need for the federal and state governments to address the rising rate of unemployment in the country to curb the menace of human trafficking.
â€œThe Global Initiative Against Illegal Migration condemns this development and insist that things cannot continue this in this manner. This is highly unacceptable and no nation can afford to fold its arms and allow her citizens to be dying unnecessarily like this.
â€œThis association has been campaigning against illegal migration and human trafficking for a long time and we have kept emphasising the need to empower the youths and women in order to reduce the spate of mishaps arising from the illegal acts of human trafficking and illegal migration,â€ Obinyan said.
He said the organisation had a few weeks ago launched a special scheme aimed at training and empowering hundreds of widows and this effort came on the heels of the completion and launch of the non-government organisationâ€™s multimillion naira skills acquisition and ICT centre in Edo State.
The scheme, he said, would lead to the training and empowerment of scores of widows in the first batch which, according to the body, will begin in a couple of weeks.
According to him, the scheme is part of the bodyâ€™s holistic approach to the fight to eradicate illegal migration and human trafficking across Nigeria.
Remarking on the scheme, Obinyan said, â€œOur research has shown that young men and women engaging in illegal migration and human trafficking are mostly the children of widows. We, therefore, believe that if these widows are trained and empowered to start their own business, they will have the funds to take adequate care of their children and be fully responsible for their upkeep and welfare.â€