By Sunday Oyinloye
It was a cloudy Saturday morning with many in Abuja the capital city of Nigeria trying to make it to their destinations before the heavens release rain, some succeeded in beating the rain while others were beaten by the rain, after all , rain is known to be a sign of good things by most cultures in the country, little wonder it couldn’t stop the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) , sister agencies and its partners from kicking out human trafficking at the weekend. With strong determination, NAPTIP operatives led by their vibrant Director-General, Dame Julie Okah-Donli despite the early morning rain made it to the National Stadium to deal a big blow on human trafficking.
NAPTIP did not fight the weekend battle alone, sister agencies of the Federal Government joined in the onslaught which was a perfect example of inter-agency collaboration and what Nigeria stands to gain if agencies of the government do away with all forms of unhealthy rivalries. If you think the battle was fought with arms and ammunition, you may be wrong; NAPTIP was wise enough to also enlist the support of the entertainment industry, the sports sector, the media and the youth. Are you wondering why NAPTIP had to collaborate with the entertainment industry and the sports sector, particularly football, then you must be reminded that Nigerian film industry is one of the biggest in the world, while football in Nigeria does not understand any language, ethnic, religion or political party, it is indeed a unifying factor in the country. That was the reason NAPTIP organized the Novelty match between its officials and sister agencies and partners named All Stars to kick out human trafficking at an event which attracted ex-Super Eagles striker and coach, Samson Siasia .
Expectedly, the match which ended in favour of NAPTIP after a penalty shootout following a one all draw at full time saw elated crowd cheering not only the players but also two of Nigeria’s most prominent Artists, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and Tonto Dikeh-King both who vowed to reawaken the minds of Nigerians about the evils associated with human trafficking.
The Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli gave an insight into why the Novelty football match was organized. Julie explained that for the past one week, series of events were organized to mark the 2018 World Day against Human Trafficking, which saw a boost in the fight against human trafficking including taking the message to church and mosque in order to get all Nigerians involved.
Julie noted that the football match was organised not only to foster unity and collaboration between sister agencies of government and partners but also because football remains one of the platforms to get the attention of more Nigerians to be part of the warriors against human trafficking.
According to her, the youth should be wary of criminals who pose as agents that could secure foreign teams for them stressing that anyone who wants to embark on any journey should always go through the official channel to avoid falling victim of human traffickers. She also warned against payment of salaries of house-helps to agents saying that amounts to trafficking in persons adding “anyone working should be paid his or her salary directly”
The Director-General reiterated her commitment to putting the heat on human traffickers even as she solicits for more collaboration with sister agencies and the cooperation of all Nigerians.
Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Sports and Youth Development , Solomon Dalong represented by the acting Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Oduyebo Simeon said the Federal Government was committed to the fight against human trafficking which he noted affects the youth most.
The minister described human trafficking as a monster which all Nigerians must join hands to eliminate adding “the best way to put an end to human trafficking is for all to form a united front against the monster”. He commended Julie for her relentless efforts at fighting human trafficking stressing that the ministry will partner with NAPTIP in its efforts at bringing an end to the menace.
It was not only the minister that declared support for the fight against human trafficking; Samson Siasia also said he has become a disciple of NAPTIP and a fighter against human trafficking. The coach who described human trafficking as a disease said sports remains a veritable tool for fighting human trafficking.
Speaking in the same vein, a popular Nigerian actress, Tonto Dikeh-King called on all Nigerians to join in the fight against trafficking because of its negative effects on the nation’s economy. The Actress who is a NAPTIP Ambassador identified human trafficking as part of the reasons for unemployment in Nigeria stressing that the crime is giving a bad image to Nigeria and driving away foreign investors. Tonto also commended the commitment of the Director-General to the fight adding that even though the operatives of the agency face danger every day, they have remained committed to their jobs.
In her words: ‘We have to give it to the Director-General and her officials for their commitment despite the danger they face every day in combatting human trafficking. I want all Nigerians and partners to join them so that we can eliminate human trafficking.”
Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde agrees with Tonto on the need for all Nigerians to be involved and be on the same page in the fight against human traffickers. One of the ways to achieve this according to her is aggressive awareness campaign so that more Nigerians could be better informed about the dangers associated with human trafficking.
The event was indeed instructive and passes a strong message to the criminal elements within the society that it is no more business as usual. It also marks a renew effort in the fight against human trafficking and the need for all Nigerians to be involved in kicking out the monster.