Market Development in Niger Delta (MADE II) has organised a stakeholders’ conference to share its achievements, as well as receive feedback from participants on projects aimed at tackling human trafficking and forced labour in Edo State.
Themed: ‘Strengthening Market-based Approaches to Stimulate Livelihood Opportunities,’ the event held in Benin City, the capital.
It was organised as part of the organisation’s Edo State Investment Portfolio (ESIP) Project.
In his welcome address, MADE’s Team Leader, Tunde Oderinde, applauded partners in the state, including the government, for embracing the project’s recommendations and approach.
“Like travellers, we came into Edo State specifically to look into a new terrain, a new dimension, and how to strengthen livelihoods for the teeming youth,” he said.
“We knocked the doors, we met some of our potential victims, and we met some of the returnees. We came with honest intentions and you did one thing: you opened your doors, you’ve shared knowledge with us, and in 2018, July 24 specifically, we came back to share our recipe with you, what we intended doing: aspirational sector on one side and also to look at livelihoods within the agricultural sector on the other side.
“Today, we currently have a portfolio with suites of interventions within the agricultural value chains and also in some aspirational sector. And we are here today also to sit with you, share the soup with you, learn from you, and also chart a way forward.”
Oderinde added that the event was also put in place to validate ideas that can be implemented subsequently and suggest means of further stimulating investment into Edo State.
Rufus Idris, who manages ESIP, provided an overview of the project.
He explained that ESIP aims at reducing the incidents of human trafficking and irregular migration by increasing the state’s capacity to provide aspirational economic opportunities to raise the incomes of returnees and vulnerable persons.
The project especially focuses on such sectors as agribusiness, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), entertainment, trading, renewable energy, and fashion. Its objective is to facilitate investments and partnerships that will positively impact 40,000 persons and increase the earnings of 30,000 residents of the state.
“ESIP is a new component that came into MADE II sponsored by DFID focusing on Edo State and the northern part of Delta state,” he said.
“These regions are unique because of the issue of human trafficking and irregular migration with data showing that prevalence of this is more is this region.
“MADE through ESIP is here to see how we can help Edo State increase its human capacity to provide aspirational economic opportunities for people that are vulnerable and potential victims; and we believe by doing this we will reduce the incidents or temptation to want to embark on human trafficking.”
Idris admitted that part of the lessons learned so far in the implementation of the project is that the market systems approach as a solution to human trafficking is relatively new and “it is often challenging to persuade profit-oriented private sector partners to target unskilled and less educated youth in skills development and job placement”.
While delivering a keynote lecture, Yinka Omorogbe, a professor of Energy Law and chairperson of the Edo Taskforce Against Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration (ETAHT) shared the experience and successes of the state government in the fight against trafficking.
She revealed that 59 per cent of interviewed returnees said they travelled for economic reasons, 13.7 per cent blamed family pressure, while others mentioned unemployment, frustration, peer pressure, among other factors.
The vast majority of the migrants, 72.5 per cent, are male, while the rest are female. Also, 43.3 per cent of them were found to be between the ages of 18 and 25.
Also, out of a total of 3911 returnees, 942 (24 per cent) had primary school leaving certificates, 2462 (63 per cent) were secondary school leavers, 330 had an OND, 61 and HND, and 117 were BSc holders.
A typical migrant intends to travel to Italy, but other top countries of destination include Germany, France, Austria, and Spain. 90 per cent of the returnees had economically viable skills before embarking on the journey. While welding, fashion designing and furniture making were common skills among the males, the women were often inclined towards hair styling, business, and tailoring.
The chairperson, who is also the state Attorney-General, said the task force has received up to 4769 returnees from various countries since its establishment in August 2017 and has, through partner support, successfully trained over 500 of those returnees.
“All the returnees received went through counselling and those identified to be seriously traumatised were referred to the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital or were given appointments to visit in-house social-workers for free treatment and follow-up,” she said.
The event on Tuesday also featured the screening of a documentary as well as two panel sessions on aspirational job creation and the ease of doing business in Edo.
On the panel were Ukinebo Dare, Senior Special Adviser to the Edo governor on Skills Development and Jobs; Isimeme Whyte, founder of Genius Hub; Stephen Osawaru, Co-Founder of Ignite StartupX; Igbinoba Smart, chief executive officer of God Grace Multiple Fashion; and Kelvin Uwaibi, head of Edo State Investment Promotion Office.
Others were Victor Legogie, chief executive officer of Asanita Agricultural Processing Company; Edosa Eghobamien, chief executive officer of Amena Academy; and Ayo Arikawe from Partnerships and Technology (Thrive Agric.).
ESIP is a two-year project funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UKAid) that started in March 2018. It is an addition to the second phase of the Market Development in the Niger Delta project (MADE II) and targets the attraction of investments worth £10 million (N4.6 billion) into Edo state.