By Bridget Ikyado
A Civil Society Group, Action Against Trafficking in Persons Cluster, on Wednesday called for media synergy to combat trafficking in persons.
The Programmes Director, Mr Timothy Ejeh, made the call when he led a delegation to an advocacy engagement with the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Council Chairman, Mr Emmanuel Ogbeche in Abuja.
According to Ejeh, the initiative is anchored by the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) of the Archdiocese of Abuja, with the aim of implementing the Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) components 4, projects.
He said the projects is titled “Galvanizing Action for Effective countering Trafficking in Persons Regime in Nigeria” .
According to him, its major aim is to seek increased funding for the focal agency – NAPTIP, Reactivation of victims of Trafficking Trust Fund and Improved prosecution of traffickers.
He explained that the initiative comprised of six CSOs, the JDPC, Earth Spring Intl, Children Against Child Abuse (CACA), Health /Justice Development and Peace Initiative (H/JDPI), Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria (FOMWAN ) and CEDARSEED Foundation.
The Programmes director said the meeting would help to get the union’s buy-in into the SCALE Project currently being implemented
“We have discovered that the focus of the focal government agency that is saddled with the responsibility of tackling trafficking of persons have some gaps in doing their jobs.
“We feel that we can come and support them to be able to deliver on their mandate because there is a whole lot they have been saddled with which is NAPTIP.
“We have discovered that they are severally underfunded and when you do not have funding, you do not have manpower and won’t be able to achieve any results.
“One of our advocacy acts is to push for reforms to see how NAPTIP can be properly funded to be able to carry out the mandate given to them by the government.
“We have also discovered that there is this weak political drive towards the prosecution of traffickers,”he said.
Ejeh added that a whole lot of traffickers were out there and nobody was pushing to ensure arrest and confiscating the process of trafficking.
He told the NUJ that they were working around the three advocacy act adding that the media was the fourth estate of the realm and could voice out some issues to be addressed.
“I believe you will have your way of pushing for advocacy, talking to the government and even bringing the public to be part of any advocacy act we push for.
“We feel that you will be very instrumental to what we are pushing for, so that there can be a reform of the advocacy act.
“We are here today to say thank you for the work you are doing and we also want you to please make a case around our advocacy act.
“The case is to increase funding for NAPTIP, speedy prosecution of traffickers and the reactivation of victims of traffickers trust fund,’’ he said.
He further said the NGO was producing some videos and jingles on the dangers of illegal migrations.
He added that with the support and voice of the NUJ, it would have a wider coverage and a wider reach to their target audience.
In his response, the FCT Council chairman, assured the team of the union’s support in combating trafficking in persons.
Ogbeche called for the creation of a data base to ensure records were kept for easy identification of impacts made.
“I do not know if there is a data base because data is life and that is one of the major challenge we have in this part of the world.
“As a cluster, I think we must begin to improve in the direction of having a credible data base.’’
Ogbeche commended the team for seeking collaboration on how to strengthen synergy, demand political will in the prosecution and confiscation of traffickers and their illicit gains, and the resuscitation of the Trafficking Trust Fund.
He frowned at the rates of illegal migrations and therefore, called for a search light on internal migration.
“When we talk about irregular migration, we do not focus on the internal dynamics, we lose focus.
“There are hundreds of young girls and boys that are brought into Abuja for prostitution, forced labour and all sorts of things.
“I think it is important that when we talk about some of these issues, we should also look at what is happening in our local communities so that we can begin to look at what is happening outside,’’he said.
The Council boss said the union had a constitutional mandate to support such social endeavors because growth and development was holistic.
He added that if there was a fracture in one arm of it, then it would not help in terms of helping the society that was progressive.
“These are issues that can be adequately funded and should be properly funded.
“I want to make a commitment that there is need for us to have a stakeholders’ conversation, and the NUJ is willing to offer its premises.
“We can also take a lead in partnering with you to take a conversation in terms of these issues you have raised,’’ he said.
He suggested that NAPTIP itself and stakeholders should be present as we could make a demand of government in terms of funding and capacity development in NAPTIP.
He said this was necessary because the issue was about being creative and working with the right people in the right places.
“We will make a demand of government on all of these issues as well as the reactivation of the trafficking fund.
“If there is no fund, the work of the police and security agencies will not be heard.
“When you address one crime, having a form that properly tackle this issue, even in terms of rehabilitation, it also goes a long way in tackling these issues.
“We assure you that we will work diligently with you to achieve your objectives,”Ogbeche said.
Earlier in his remarks, Mr Ochiaka Ugwu, the FCT NUJ Council Secretary, stressed the need for the synergy to eliminate the evil illegal acts of trafficking in persons for enhanced positive businesses for national development.