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Edo State Govt, ETAHT, Receives Accolades on Practical Approach to Eradicating Human Trafficking, Irregular Migration Among Youths in Edo

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_By Godspower Eguasa_

Edo State Government, through the Edo State Taskforce Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT), has received commendations from the Deputy Belgian Head of Mission, Veronique Bernard, and her team, during a courtesy visit to the Agency in Benin, to discuss strategies and possible areas of partnerships in order to consolidate on the efforts by the state government in addressing the ills of human trafficking and irregular migration in the state.

According to the Belgian Head of Mission, though the menace of human trafficking and irregular migration is a global one, the Belgian Government is most concerned about Edo State, as it seeks to assist young victims of the vices in the state.

According to Bernard, “It is our pleasure to be here. We are making an awareness campaign on the risk of illegal migration, because 30% of victims of trafficking from Nigeria that are emerging in Belgium are from Benin City, 40% from Lagos, and the remaining percentage from other states including Abuja.

“That was the reason we came to Benin and why we made a first contact and press brief this morning, to display to the people that illegal migration is very risky and dangerous and that legal migration remains a better option.

“We see young girls from Benin City being forced into prostitution and exploited by traffickers. We want to use this medium to sensitize them on false promises used by traffickers to enslave them.”

Bernard, while commending the massive impact made by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration in arresting the menace, applauded the strategic approach adopted by ETAHT in rehabilitating and reintegrating victims back into society, and providing them a place to flourish in the state.

She said: “We are delighted to hear about the impact your government is making, everything you have said here was not just mere theory, but practical, they were all practical approaches and that is how it should be. We look forward to reviewing and working with your government. Once again, thank you for having us”.

On her part, the Executive Secretary of the Edo State Taskforce Against Human Trafficking, Ms. Itohan Okungbowa, while addressing the team from Belgium, highlighted the developmental strides of Governor Godwin Obaseki, noting that Edo is blessed to have a Governor who is passionate and committed to eradicating the ills of human trafficking and irregular migration in the state, creating the enabling environment for youths in the state to thrive and be productive.

Okungbowa said: “You are welcome to Nigeria, Edo State in particular. This is your first time coming here, and we will try and ensure we make this very memorable for you. Some of these fears you have expressed regarding the activities and dangers of human trafficking were perceptions the Edo State Governor had even before he assumed office in 2016, about 7 years ago.

“He already saw these ills, particularly regarding Edo State. And that may have informed his positive decision to have made our office one of his priority project immediately he became the Governor of Edo State, to tackle the ills of human trafficking and irregular Migration. The Governor saw the problem, embraced it, and proffered a solution.

“We are the first Human Trafficking Taskforce in Nigeria, established by law. I recall that from the last national meeting held in 2023; we stood tall as the first to be set up and also created by statute. And we have been a model and also a source of encouragement to other states in respect of our operational style.

“This shows the commitment of the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration in tackling the issues of human trafficking and irregular migration. Over 5,600 victims have been supported psychologically, economically and reintegrated to family and society since the inception of ETAHT.

“As part of government’s effort to arrest the ills, we have skill acquisition centers across the three senatorial districts of the state to drive productivity among our youths, encourage entrepreneurship, as well as various centers to provide information on the need to migrate right if we have the need to”.

She continued: “In the areas of Job creation, the Government is not relenting, as several jobs are being created, attracting young minds into the state workforce, and on merit basis.

“As we speak now, there are currently two rescued victims of human trafficking in our state shelter, while the suspects have been apprehended and under investigation with our investigating unit. Also, our data records and use have enabled us to keep planning the activities of our returnees both in the area of preventive approach, and continuous sensitisation”.

Okungbowa while thanking the Belgian Government for continuous cooperation and interest in eradicating these vices, recommended direct partnership with the state government to promote accountability and aid wider impact.

According to Okungbowa, “As ETAHT, we have been doing much, but we want more direct partnership engagement with you. We appreciate the fact that you are also closely working with NGOs in the state, some of the NGOs are wise enough to carry us along, updating us on their activities with partners and beneficiaries”

“However, we want a situation where we can directly engage with you as partners for more robust achievements together. We thank you once again for coming and wish you a memorable experience”.

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