By Temidayo Ajibola

Human Trafficking especially in Nigeria has assumed a dangerous dimension such that the media as the fourth estate of the realm must play critical role in the fight against those behind the menace.

This is the position of the Journalists International Forum for Migration (JIFORM) at a dialogue organised to mark the 100 days in office of Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi, the Director General of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on Wednesday.

Delivering a presentation on: The Role of Media In The Fight Against Human Trafficking at the virtual event, Ajibola Abayomi, President of JIFORM said the media must lead advocacy to enlighten the public and help to prevent cases of trafficking, he however called for more collaborations with the NAPTIP and other international agencies to empower the Nigerian journalists through capacity building to deliver on quality reportage.

Ajibola urged the media to always dig deep into the causes of human trafficking through investigative journalism and work assiduously to orientate the public against the antics of the human traffickers and be sensitive to tell the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) stories with care devoid of damage, sensationalism, exaggeration, incite hatred, hate speech, perpetuate stereotypes, and stick to the right terminologies.

He said journalists must “be provoked to evoke the pains of the survivors by highlighting the challenges the trafficked victims face in the hands of their abusers to elicit reactions and get justice in return. Similarly, the media have a duty to sustain quality reportage with human face and should always keep it at the front burner, by doing the followings not just as journalists but as advocates against human trafficking.

“Human trafficking exploits our people for profit, violates their human rights. Traffickers are linked to criminal networks organizing forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, slavery, removal of organs or harvesting of human parts, all these are inimical to our progress as a nation.”

He commended the NAPTIP DG who she described as prayer answered for the agency giving impact and promotion of anti-human trafficking activities,

“The tasks ahead are enormous because human trafficking has assumed a dangerous dimension. All hands must be on deck to stop the menace at all costs. For every trafficked victim in Nigeria, a potential president, governor, professor of law, journalist, medical doctor, and others with great futures ahead of them are being delayed and destroyed. That we must not allow it to continue.”

Ajibola added that journalists “must sustain the fight against human trafficking classified by the United Nations as the second largest crime network against humanity valued at $150 billion and the third rated criminal act in Nigeria according to the 2021 Trafficking Report of the US Department of State that placed the country on the Tier 2 Watch List.

“Hence the need for the media to up the ante on public enlightenment to prevent the act, expose those behind the crime and call for various support for the victims through rehabilitation and reintegration. They are brothers and sisters, and they deserve another chance to live a better life.

“We cannot and must not live in self-denial. This is a call to duty for the Nigerian journalists and other stakeholders to salvage our country.  The media must closely work with the NAPTIP to ensure that the ranking of Nigeria put at 32 out of 167 on human trafficking nations list is further reduced more so that we are said to have one of the highest numbers of citizens being used as slaves totaling 1,386,000 around the world as stated in the US State Department report as well.

“As journalists, we must share the burden confirmed by the NAPTIP that the highest number of trafficked children in Nigeria are girls between the ages of 12-17. This submission further calls for more proactive actions against the TIP and SOM by the media to save our younger ones. 75% of those who are being trafficked are trafficked across states, while 23% are trafficked within states in the country. We need not to be told that human trafficking is a serious crime that must be handled with all seriousness by all of us.”

The JIFORM President posited that the Federal Government must be told the home truth that “volatile political environment, continued hike in tariffs, high cost of living, insecurity and joblessness are the direct drivers of migration giving rooms for human trafficking to thrive through the push factors. We must not allow the criminals to capitalise on the ignorance and poverty in the land to kill the joy of our people.

“With the reports on the suffering of most young Nigerian trafficked women in the Arabian nations like Saudi Arabi, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon and others as exposed at the heat of covid-19 pandemic in 2019 where over 1000 Nigerian were repatriated by the Federal Government from Saudi Arabia alone is indeed an eye opener that apart from the irregular routes traffickers in conjunction with some quacks and job recruiting agencies have perfected network of deceits luring our people to human trafficking through the regular migration channels as well” he alarmed.

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