Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, has charged religious leaders to lead the fight against human trafficking using their influence as spiritual leaders in society, especially as the illicit trade enjoys the backing of some religious leaders in the state.
Obaseki gave the charge when he hosted Christian leaders to breakfast at the Government House in Benin City, the Edo State capital. The governor said, “If government must record success in the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration, all hands must be on deck.”
The meeting is coming on the heels of a similar charge to the Italian Government and the European Union to move against human trafficking cartels in Europe with strong links in Edo State, fuelling the illicit trade, by a Benin-based Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), the Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration Development and Reintegration (IYAMIDR), led by Solomon Okoduwa.
At the meeting with the religious leaders, the governor said he called the meeting with the clergy because of their spiritual role in society.
Some of the prominent clergymen at the meeting include the Catholic Archbishop of Benin Metropolitan, Most Rev. Augustine Akubueze, and chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Edo State chapter, Bishop Oriame Oyonude Kure, among others.
They spoke separately on the illicit trade and described it as a crime against God and humanity. They commended the state government on the steps taken so far in the fight and pledged to support the initiative.
Speaking on the antics of the human trafficking cartel, Okoduwa, a returnee, who also leads a coalition of returnees from Libya and Europe in Edo State, said, “The human trafficking cartels should be charged for crimes against humanity, considering the scale of their inhuman and criminal activities that have led to the death of many Nigerian youths on the Mediterranean Sea and in the Sahara Desert.”
He disclosed that his organisation has received intelligence on the plans by the human trafficking cartels across Europe and America to build a strong coalition and raise funds to scuttle the empowerment and reintegration programmes of the Edo State government.
Okoduwa explained that one of the strategies of the human trafficking cartels is to paint a hopeless picture of the state of affairs in Edo State, despite the giant strides of the Governor Obaseki-led administration in the areas of job creation and capacity building for Edo youths, which have earned him the sobriquet ‘Wake and See Governor.’
He recalled a video that is trending on social media in which the trafficking cartel was soliciting funds from their colleagues they call sponsors or madams and calling victims of trafficking ‘rats that are in the streets of Italy’.
“These traffickers, including one hoodlum called Eranomigho Edegbe, have embarked on an aggressive fabrication of falsehood against the Edo State Government on social media, in a bid to protect their illicit trade in human beings. They are manipulating their gullible victims to raise funds for them to execute their campaign of calumny against the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki,” he said.
He further said that the traffickers instil fear and a sense of insecurity in their victims by threatening them that the Edo State Government has signed an agreement with the Italian Government to deport them.
According to Okoduwa, “The strategy is working for the trafficking cartels who have raised huge funds and smiling to the banks daily. We wish to put on record, that to the best of our knowledge, the Edo State Government has not signed any agreement to deport people from Europe. This falsehood is the creation of the trafficking cartels and their sole aim is to stop the campaign against illegal migration by the Edo State Government, that has led to the death of thousands of Edo people.”
He further said: “We have uncovered a plot by these criminals to stage a protest march to the Nigerian Embassy in Italy, next Monday, as part of their effort to put the Edo State Government in bad light. We urge the Italian and European governments to move against them, investigate their businesses and throw them into jail to serve as deterrent to others who may be contemplating floating a similar ring.
He commended the Obaseki-led administration for rising to the occasion by coming up with several empowerment initiatives for the reintegration of the returnees.
He stressed that Edo people are proud and hardworking people and assured that his organisation will continue to fight the few individuals who are determined to drag the image of Edo people in the mud because of their selfish and criminal ventures.