OVER the years, the trafficking of Benue children to other parts of Nigeria has increased. Only recently, 19 children trafficked from the state were discovered in Lagos and returned back to Benue following the intervention of Break the Silence Initiative (BSIN), an NGO.
THE Victims were made of seven boys from Ushongo Local Government, and twelve from Vandeikya Local Government of the agrarian state.
WHILE receiving the victims on behalf of the state government, the commissioner for women affairs and social development, Mrs Tabitha Igirgi, thanked the NGO and the Nigeria Police Force for the rescue operation. She promised that government would do its best to end child trafficking in the state.
THIS pledge to eradicate child trafficking, and indeed, human trafficking was given added impetus by the state government a couple of weeks later when the Director General of the National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons(NAPTIP), Mrs Imaan Suleiman-Ibrahim, paid a courtesy visit on the state Governor Samuel Ortom.
AT that occasion which held last Tuesday, the Governor, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Engr Benson Abounu, inaugurated the Benue State Task Force on Human Trafficking. The task force is headed by the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr Michael Gusa.
THIS, no doubt is a step in the right direction as the task force is expected to coordinate the state government’s efforts to fight this modern-day form of slavery, known as human trafficking.
TO be effective in this assignment, the task force will necessarily need to collaborate with NAPTIP, the police, other security agencies as well as opinion leaders in the state and beyond.
TRACKING down traffickers and rescuing victims is important, but equally important is the prevention of human trafficking from happening in the first place.
WHILE the first aspect of this two-pronged approach, which The Voice is advocating, involves security operatives; the second aspect which deals with prevention involves the rest of us as well.
A good preventive approach could see government embarking on a vigorous and sustained enlightenment campaign across the state to educate parents on the dangers of accepting to be persuaded into releasing their children to be taken away for menial jobs in expectation of income from such ventures, as such children end up being used for forced labour, forced marriage, sexual exploitation, domestic slavery, criminal activities, etc.