The Vicar General, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Rt. Rev. (Dr.) John Aniagwu, has called on those in authority to act decisively on the issue of trafficking in persons so as to bring the act to an end in Nigeria and the world at large. Giving the charge during the celebration of the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita and the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Trafficking in persons, with the theme “Economy without trafficking.” February 8, Aniagwu said the Church uses the day to raise awareness on the reality of human trafficking and pray for a speedy end to the evil act. Speaking on the pains and sufferings brought on people by COVID-19, the cleric said one would have imagined that the coronavirus pandemic would have slowed down or even brought the global trafficking in persons to a halt. He said: “This age-old evil has persisted without interruption.
If anything, the pandemic itself has made it even more deadly for the victims. Many of them run the risk of being effected in the countries to which they are trafficked. If and when that does happen, no one is there to do anything to save them from getting critically sick and dying from the infection.” Recalling the recent case of a Nigerian who was dead in the shadow of St. Peter’s Square, Monsignor Aniagwu harped on the need for all concerned to pay greater attention to the menace of global trafficking in persons. While calling government at all levels to their primary responsibility of securing the lives and property of citizens, the cleric drew attention to internal trafficking in Nigeria, which he said has risen to unprecedented levels in recent times.
‘Our country Nigeria is today experiencing the hydra-headed monster of insecurity more than ever before. All over the country, people are being abducted on a daily basis on the highways, on their farms, in their homes and from school; men and women, young and old. All too often, those who are abducted are trafficked from one criminal gang to the other. In the process, many of them are never seen again by members of their families. Giving a brief history of the nun, Rev. Sr. Patricia Ebegbulem, SSL said St. Josephine Bakhita who was born in Sudan in 1869, was kidnapped and sold into slavery. According to Ebegbulem, the fright and the terrible experience she went through made her forget the name her parents gave her, as she took on the name Bakhita, given to her by her kidnappers.
She said providence led Bakhita to Canossian Sisters of the Institute of Catechumens in Venice after she was taken to Italy by Italian consul, Calisto Legnani who bought her in Khartoum. “After her baptism, she experienced the call to be a religious and to give herself to the Lord in the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa. “After serving in the Schio Community for 50 years, Mother Bakhita breathed her last on February 8, 1847 at the Canossian Convent in Schio. She was beautified on May 17, 1992 and canonized October 1, 2000.” Rev. Fr. Raymond Anoliefo, Director, JDPC, noted that Nigeria remains a source, transit and destination country when it comes to human trafficking.
He said human trafficking is a high profit, low risk business, which allows traffickers to generally operate with impunity. He said: “Per the latest Global Slavery Index (2018) Report, Nigeria ranks 32/167 of the countries with the highest number of slaves – 1,386,000 – and its National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) reports that the average age of trafficked children in Nigeria is 15.” Quoting a UNESCO, 2006 record, Anoliefo revealed that trafficking in persons is the third most common crime in Nigeria after drug trafficking and economic fraud, as well as the second most lucrative illicit business in the world, behind Drug trafficking.
The priest noted that in the course of embarking on this journey, many have lost their lives through unlawful killings, gang rape, prostitution, arbitrary detention, torture and inhumane treatment, unpaid wages, slavery, racism and even xenophobia in Libya. “Truth be told, trafficking in persons end when human dignity is restored. That restoration requires a combined strategy of government engagement and political will, empowered communities, value re-orientation and access for individuals”, he said The event which was attended by the religious and lay organizations in the Church also saw the presence of Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, Director of Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Mr. Ganiu Aganran, Zonal Commander and representative of Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, Hajia Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, DNS Ola Erinfilami, Head, IDP Unit and representative of Madam Margaret Ukaegbu, South-West Zonal Director, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, C.Y.O.N. Chaplain, Rev. Fr. Gabriel Odunaiya and Internally Displaced Persons among many other partners engaged in the fight against human trafficking.