By Okeke Jane
The National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has refuted recent claim by Lebanese Ambassador to Nigeria that it raised a false alarm about the status of the 56 Nigerian returnees who were victims of human trafficking.
Recall that on the 31st May 2020 the Lebanese Ambassador to Nigeria made a statement on a mass media over the return of the 56 Nigerians from Lebanon on Sunday, 24th May that non of the returnees was a victim of human trafficking but that they were in Lebanon with their full consent and legitimate contracts given the impression that NAPTIP was raining false alarm on the status of most of the returnees whom they classified as victims of exploitative Labour and other forms of human degradation which constitute human trafficking.
The Director General, NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah who made this assertion on Tuesday in a press briefing said she would have ignored his Excellency’s statement but for the need to keep the record straight.
Okah said,”I would have ignored his Excellency statement but for the necessity of keeping the records straight and presenting the ugly picture of the plight of our young women usually between the ages of 25 and 35 who are trapped in domestic servitude in Lebanon and many other countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
“It becomes imperative to address it as it has become a recurrent issue in recent times.
“NAPTIP has received not less than 50 distress calls from Nigerian women in Lebanon crying for rescue and return home because of the inhuman conditions in which they are made to work.
“Complained that they work for a minimum of 18 hours per day mostly on their feet, cleaning large houses, washing and doing other menial and hazardous jobs such as climbing ladders to clean outside windows.
“There are records of the detailed information on the complaints of these Nigerians such as maltreatment, long hours of work, nonpayment of wages and sexual exploitation, cruel conditions of works, illness, reduction of salaries, outright sale to third sales.”
She disclosed that atleast 10 of such cases were referred to NAPTIP by the Nigerian embassy in Lebanon, with notations like,”She lost her sanity due to stress and maltreatment and was dumped at the embassy gate.”
The NAPTIP DG disclosed that she has reached out to the Minister of foreign affairs, Mr Geoffrey onyeama who graciously set up an inter-ministerial committee to advise on a national response.
She added that the committee developed a draft Bi-lateral Labour agreement which all countries seeking the services of any Nigerian for unskilled labour must sign with Nigeria.
Okay further said that the committee has produced a standard operating procedures to regulate collaborations amongst the various government agencies involved in the process of recruitment and travel.
She appreciated the Nigerian Ambassador to Labanon, Senator Goni Modu Zanna for his patriotic empathy towards fellow citizens and his continuous support in the fight against human trafficking.