By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
RELIGIOUS leaders in Edo State in conjunction with the state government and non governmental organizations, yesterday, brainstormed on how to end the scourge of human trafficking in the state. The meeting was attended by Governor Godwin Obaseki, prominent clergymen including the Catholic Archbishop of Benin Metropolitan See, Most Rev. Augustine Akubueze and Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Edo State Chapter, Bishop Oriame Oyonude Kure, among others.
The clergymen prayed fervently for God to arrest the lives of the perpetrators of human trafficking in the state just as they appealed to the international community to come to the aid of the government.
Governor Obaseki who spoke at the event charged religious leaders to lead the fight against human trafficking using their influence as spiritual leaders in the society, especially as the illicit trade appeared to have enjoyed the backing of some religious leaders in the state. He said, “if government must record success in the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration, all hands must be on deck.”
The meeting is coming on the heels of a similar charge to the Italian government and the European Union to move against human trafficking cartels in Europe with strong links in Edo State, fuelling the illicit trade, by a Benin-based non-governmental organisation, NGO, the Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration Development and Reintegration, IYAMIDR, led by Comrade Solomon Okoduwa.
Obaseki said he decided to call for the meeting with the religious leaders due to to role they play in the society, asserting that their commitment will help in ending the scourge of human trafficking in the state.
Bishop Akubueze and other clergymen who spoke at the ocassion, described human trafficking as a crime against God and humanity just as they commended the state government on the steps taken so far in the fight and pledged to support the initiative.
Speaking on antics of the human trafficking cartel, Okoduwa, who also leads a coalition of returnees from Libya and Europe in Edo State, said, “The human trafficking cartels should be charged for crimes against humanity considering the scale of their inhuman and criminal activities that have led to the death of many Nigerian youths on the Mediterranean Sea and in the Sahara Desert.”
He said his organisation has received intelligence on the plans by the human trafficking cartels across Europe and America to build a strong coalition and raise funds to scuttle the empowerment and reintegration programmes of the Edo State Government.
Comrade Okoduwa explained that one of the strategies of the human trafficking cartels is to paint a hopeless picture of the state of affairs in Edo State, despite the giant strides of the Governor Obaseki-led administration in the areas of job creation and capacity building for Edo youths, which have earned him the sobriquet ‘Wake and See Governor’.
He recalled a video that is trending on social media in which the trafficking cartel was soliciting funds from their colleagues they call sponsors or madams and calling victims of trafficking ‘rats that are in the streets of Italy’.
He added, “We have uncovered a plot by these criminals to stage a protest march to the Nigerian Embassy in Italy, next Monday, as part of their effort to put the Edo State Government in bad light. We urge the Italian and European governments to move against them, investigate their businesses and throw them into jail to serve as deterrent to others who may be contemplating floating a similar ring.
He commended the Obaseki-led administration for rising to the occasion by coming up with several empowerment initiatives for the reintegration of the returnees, stressing that Edo people are proud and hardworking people and assured that his organisation will continue to fight the few individuals who are determined to drag the image of Edo people in the mud because of their selfish and criminal ventures.
The post Human trafficking: Obaseki, religious leaders move against illicit trade cartel appeared first on Vanguard News.