… highlights gains of social welfare reforms in taming Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration for Edo Youths

As part of its effort to stem human trafficking and irregular migration in the State, the Edo State Government, in partnership with the Italian Government, has commenced the training of over 75 traditional and religious leaders in managing migration across the three senatorial districts of Edo State.

The objective of the training is to equip them with the requisite skills and knowledge for tackling migration issues, providing reintegration and protection support to victims of trafficking, as well as information and alternatives to irregular migration in the State.

This was made known by the Executive Secretary of the Edo State Taskforce Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT), Ms Itohan Okungbowa, during a stakeholders’ capacity-building programme organized by ETAHT, under the Managing Migration through Development (MMDP) 2.0 project, deployed by the State Government to curb the menace.

According to Okungbowa, the programme was organized to ensure the rights and dignity of every Edo resident are safe and protected, thereby enabling the productivity of Edo youths to flourish and actualize the MEGA vision of making Edo the best place where people can live and prosper by 2050.

The capacity building workshop, which commenced with the training of traditional and religious leaders in the Edo South Senatorial district, was held on Tuesday 22nd of August, 2023, at the Edo Heritage Hotel, in Benin City, and was extended to Edo Central Senatorial district and held at the Dominion Hotel Conference Center, Uromi on Thursday 24th of August, 2023. The training programme was further extended to Edo North Senatorial district, and was held at the EdoJobs Centre in Auchi on Saturday 26th of August, 2023.

The exercise was graced with notable dignitaries and representatives across the senatorial districts, some of whom included the Secretary to Oba Eware Foundation, Prince Enoma Eweka and other representatives from the Oba of Benin’s Palace; the President of the Enigie Wives Association, Hon. Barr. Mrs. Stella Aigbe; the Deputy Imam of the Benin Central Mosque, Otokiti Mohammed; the State Legal Adviser to the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria, Sule Rukayat Omoshoke; representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria, amongst others.

Okungbowa said: “I welcome all participants, especially our traditional and religious leaders. This meeting is centered on awareness creation.

“Looking inward, from research studies and experiences, we found out that traditional and religious leaders are key influencers on the subject matter because of the role they play in our place of worship and communities.

“We are here to synergize, work together, and exchange information. We want to make you a part of the sensitizers, those sensitizing people. The load is not solely for ETATH, NAPTIP or other NGOs to handle; we all have our parts to play.”

Okungbowa, while commending the developmental strides of Governor Godwin Obaseki in creating alternatives to irregular migration through social economic empowerment and sensitization programmes, assured of the State Government’s continuous commitment to prioritizing the welfare of Edo youths.

Okungbowa said: “The Edo State Government also recognizes the lingering bad economic environment which is one of the push factors, and the insecurity. The Government is collaborating assiduously with other partners to address these push factors. Part of the ways is this: managing migration through developmental strategies.

“That is why the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration has resolved to creating an enabling environment for the ease of doing businesses to thrive, unleashing the productivity of our Edo youths.”

According to Okungbowa: “From research and results, we also found out that most of these victims were easily deceived because of their educational background. That’s the reason you can see so much investment the Government is doing in the education sector like the EdoBEST, and much focus on secondary and tertiary institutions, and infrastructural development.”

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Furthermore, Okungbowa, who encouraged regular migration and harped on its benefits, warned that no trafficker would escape the full weight of the law when apprehended.

She said: “We encourage anyone who wants to migrate to follow the proper procedure which is cheaper and saver. It is also important that we have the right educational knowledge, and also have the good skills that will make our relocation worthwhile. The State Government is not relenting on the campaign against Human Trafficking and irregular migration. In Edo, traffickers and potential traffickers are warned to desist from further carrying out the dehumanizing acts.”

She continued: “When you have complaints of victims of human trafficking, refer such to the ETAHT’s office, that’s the reason the Agency exists.

“Human trafficking is a serious offense with jail terms. I want us to know that there are laws regulating these offences and their punitive measures. There is the Edo State Trafficking in Persons Law 2018, and there is also the NAPTIP law. Both laws cover every aspect of human trafficking offences.

“Like the Edo State law, if you look at sections 13 to 23, you will see these offenses; that is, whether you were there when it was planned or you aided in any way, or you paid the person’s transport, you have become part of the offence. It is a minimum of seven years jail terms.

“The organ harvesting as we are now very familiar with, it is an offense with jail terms of a minimum of seven years.”

She added: “Forced labour, child labour: they are all with the minimum of seven years jail term. That is the major reason we invited you here so that you can be our extended hands in sensitizing people in your locality, churches, and mosques. Any offender of the law will be made to face the full weight of the law.”

In her remarks, the Head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Benin Office, Wintana Tarekegn, commended Governor Godwin Obaseki, ETAHT, and the Italian Government for the resilience and gains achieved so far in the fight against human trafficking and irregular migration in the State.

Tarekegn, who disclosed the vision for MMDP2.0 to supersede just tackling human trafficking and irregular migration, stressed that it aims to bring development to Edo residents through laudable socio-economic empowerment programmes and infrastructural development in the State.

Tarekegn said: “On behalf of IOM, I would like to welcome you for today’s capacity building for religious leaders and traditional rulers.

“Special thanks go to the Edo State Task Force for organizing this capacity-building exercise. But I also want to mention the government of Italy for their generous support to fund the project; Managing Migration Through Development 2.0.

“We started implementing this project with the government since last year, and it has various components, among which is to strengthen the coordination structures in Edo State in general.

“Apart from that, this project also looks at migration from the development angle, not only trafficking and irregular migration, but how migration can also contribute to development in Edo State.

“We thank you for participating, and urge you for your uttermost contributions and support.”

In their goodwill messages, traditional and religious leaders from the three senatorial districts (Edo South, Central, and North axes), who represented various associations and entities at the exercises, commended the efforts of the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration in taming human trafficking and irregular migration in the State, and assured of their unwavering support and collaboration in curbing the menace.