By Miriam Humbe
Stakeholders were agog in Calabar last week for the first national awareness raising strategy synergy meeting to combat human trafficking in Nigeria.
The event was organized by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in collaboration with NAPTIP and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) to foster better collaboration among government partners, civil society organizations and other stakeholders working towards raising awareness about the dangers of irregular migration and human trafficking in communities of origin in Nigeria.
The meeting was held in Calabar, Cross River State, a border town and seaport in south-south Nigeria that has witnessed an increase of cases of human trafficking and irregular migration.
“We are not going to stop people from migrating; migration is a right, but we must work together to ensure that those migrating are not being trafficked,” said Arinze Orakwue Director, Public Enlightenment, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
Last year Joe Abang, Cross River State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, stated that traffickers used ports and various creeks in the area to transport their victims to countries like Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon among others.
From April 2017 to date, IOM has helped 32 female and 25 male migrants return home to Cross River from Libya.
The meeting paved the way for the formation of a technical working group on national awareness raising to combat human trafficking, to be chaired by NAPTIP. Participants also agreed to establish a social media network called Partners Against Trafficking and Irregular Migration (PATIM). The Network will facilitate information and knowledge sharing among relevant state and non-state actors for effective coordination of all awareness activities aimed at combatting human trafficking and irregular migration in Nigeria.
On behalf of the Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Paul Odenyi pledged the agency’s commitment to fight against human trafficking through awareness raising. “We should outline roles and responsibilities up to the local level. National Orientation Agency is willing to make available the existing facilities and structures in all the local government areas of the federation in support of any awareness raising activities aimed at addressing the challenges of human trafficking and irregular migration in Nigeria,” Odenyi said.
“Stakeholders should be encouraged to use communication for development (C4D) techniques towards creating awareness about the dangers of irregular migration and engineering behaviour change towards safe migration,” said Cyprine Cheptepkeny, IOM Nigeria C4D Officer.
The meeting, which was funded by the European Union and the Italian government under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration and the Aware Migrants project respectively, gathered 17 female and 11 male participants from NAPTIP, NCFRMI, NOA, and Girls Power Initiative (GPI), among others.