The Lagos State Government on Tuesday, inaugurated the its Task Force on Human Trafficking, toward curbing the menace of human trafficking and irregular migration in the state.
Speaking during the inauguration at the Lagos House, Ikeja, Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu urged the 20-membe committee to see their appointment as a call to service.
Sanwo-Olu also charged the task force members to come up with brilliant ideas, innovations and policies that would assist the state government in curbing the menace of human trafficking.
He said that COVID-19 pandemic had exposed and exacerbated many global inequalities and plunged many economies into recession.
According to him, this leaves millions of people at greater risks of being trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriages and other crimes.
”What this implies is that the pandemic has created more economic difficulties for many, especially women, young ladies and children, who are the most vulnerable and may become exposed to the perils of human trafficking in a bid to seek better lives.
“In view of this, I strongly believe that this initiative of constituting state task forces on human trafficking could not have come at a better time than now when it is needed more than ever.
“We meet to put human dignity and human rights at the forefront and governments across all levels need to join hands and make collaborative efforts to put an end to the scourge of human trafficking.
“The government and people of Lagos state must understand the value of partnership as an inestimable tool in combating the transnational organised crime of human trafficking.
“As a result, we use this opportunity to assure you of our unwavering support, collaboration and strong partnership in providing all that is needed to ensure we bring an end to the menace of human trafficking in our society,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu expressed concern on the menace of human trafficking, which had become a profitable venture for criminals who exploited people by kidnapping them and selling them into forced prostitution, forced labour and modern day slavery.
”Everyday, in every country of the world, at least a person is reported of being a victim of human trafficking, while several other cases go either unnoticed or unreported.
“Unfortunately, human trafficking has now become that bitter bile that is not felt by the victims alone, but rather affects humanity in general, as it encroaches on our right and dignity as a people,” he said.
The governor commended the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) for its relentless efforts in the fight against human trafficking and irregular migration.
He also appreciated NAPTIP for rendering assistance to human trafficking victims that were being rehabilitated.
“I must applaud you for this brilliant idea of re-constituting the State Working Groups on Human Trafficking into State Task Forces that will be equipped with the requisite skills and technical support to provide a platform to articulate and consolidate our government’s policies and programmes aimed at countering the terrible scourge of human trafficking,” Sanwo-Olu said.
In her address, the Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, said that the problem of human trafficking and irregular migration had become a great national concern.
Okah-Donli said that the state task forces on human trafficking had a pivotal role to play in ensuring adequate sensitisation at the grassroots and among vulnerable groups.
She said that the task force was to provide services and support to victims who had been rescued and returned, as well as information sharing and law enforcement.
According to her, this requires strong political will and budgetary provisions on the part of the state government, in addition to the commitment of traditional Institutions, religious and community leaders.
Okah-Donli also commended Gov. Sanwo-Olu and members of his cabinet for partnering with NAPTIP to stem the tide of the twin evils of human trafficking and irregular migration in Lagos state and the country, in general., in particular.’’
Lagos state has in the past, supported the operations of the Lagos Zonal Command of NAPTIP and I will like to appeal for stronger collaborations and support to enable the agency achieve its mandate in Lagos, which unarguably is the commercial business capital of Nigeria,” she said.
Also speaking the Counter Trafficking Officer of International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Bertha Ngurulu, said that migration was not a problem to be solved but a reality to be managed.
Ngurulu, therefore, promised continued partnership with federal and state governments in facilitating humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all.
She said that IOM since 2011, had been providing support to Nigeria government in areas of migration and development.
According to her, IOM has been facilitating migration, regulating migration and forced migration, assisted voluntary return of both irregular and regular migrants in need of protection.
Lagos State Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), who is Chairman of the Lagos State Task Force on Human Trafficking, assured that the team would work tirelessly to fight the pandemic and ensure that people felt the impact of the taskforce in the state.
Members of the task force are made up of officials from security agencies, government agencies, civil society and community-based groups.
They include the Chairman, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) representing Lagos State Ministry of Justice; Co-chairman, Mr Daniel Atokolo (NAPTIP) Mrs Olufusayo Alabi (Ministry of Women and Poverty Alleviation), ACP Oladotun Odubona and CSP Ighodalo Margaret (Police).
Other are : Mrs Toyin Odusanya (Citizens Rights), Rev. Sr. Patricia Ebegbulem (Bakhita Safe House), Mr Adegboyega Bajulaiye (Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps, LSNC), and Dr. Iyabo Ogundiran (Legal Hub on Anti-Trafficking).
Moreso, John Deborah Chigozie (Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC), and Mrs Ogunluyi Titilope (National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA) .