TRAFFICKING AND THE WITCH DOCTORS

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The authorities could do more to contain the menace

The recent decision by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), to engage the services of native witch doctors to curb trafficking in persons, tells the enormity of the challenges and the urgent need by all stakeholders to rally round the agency in combating the menace. Expressing the agency’s readiness to confront the criminal activities of human traffickers head-on, the NAPTIP Director General, Mrs Julie Okah-Donli, said the agency had gathered “witch doctors’’ in Benin, Edo State capital and made them ambassadors in fighting against the menace. “When we gathered these witch doctors recently to sensitise them on what human trafficking victims go through in Europe, they were shocked. And they have made their commitments to work with us to fight the menace of human trafficking,” said Okah-Donli.

Instructively, the danger posed by human traffickers has also attracted the attention of the respected Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare II who recently expressed concern over rising cases and illegal migration. Expressing surprise about the development considering the increasing number of religious worship centres in the society, the Oba stated that reports indicated that many of the clerics may have been encouraging human trafficking and illegal migration, instead of discouraging it. The Oba promised that the Palace would collaborate with security agencies to reduce the crime in the state.

With many of the women involved in prostitution ring in Europe said to be of Edo stock, this is reassuring: everything within the framework of the law must be done to stop these illegal activities by some criminally minded persons, which is tainting the image of the country in many of the European nations and indeed, the world over.

However, human trafficking is both international and local – we have the source, the transit and destination states. Records have shown that the proportion of the local trafficking almost equal international dimension of the criminal act. Some unscrupulous Nigerians recruit from their villages and towns young girls with the promise of securing for them good jobs in urban centres only to turn them to prostitutes. That explains why it is urgent and important for the NAPTIP to partner with other organisations in tackling this threat.

The latest and most heinous dimension to trafficking is that it has gone beyond sexual exploitation. The traffickers now trade in human organs. They sell human organs for financial benefits. The harvesting of organs has become attractive to these criminals because there are so many people in need of kidney, liver and heart transplants, and records reveal that these organs are in high demand, especially in developed countries. There is therefore need for collaborative efforts by the relevant local agencies, state governments and the international partners in dealing with the issue.

The global community has already seen this act as a threat and many have expressed disappointment over the slow approach by the Nigerian government. A recent report by an organ of the UN on human trafficking rated Nigeria poorly in tackling human trafficking. Before the latest report, Nigeria got to “first tier’’ and later dropped to “tier-two watch list.’’ And one of the reasons given for the downgrade was that child soldiers were being used in the North-east.

While we condemn human trafficking, we are of the strong belief that a demonstration of political will to diligently prosecute offenders would serve as deterrent to those engaged in the nefarious trade.