A joint operation by police personnel in Nigeria and Benin Republic has led to the rescue of 157 children.
The International Criminal Police Organisation, simply known as INTERPOL, disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday.
The 157 minors, according to the organisation, were among a total number of about 220 victims of human trafficking rescued by the police in the operation coordinated by INTERPOL.
Some victims were equally rescued from premises where they were forced into prostitution, while 47 suspects were arrested as investigations continue.
The police also seized vehicles, cash, mobile phones and computers in the course of the operation.
The minors were aged between 11 and 16, with the youngest rescued at the land border between Nigeria and Benin Republic.
In his reaction, INTERPOL Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, described human trafficking as a transnational crime from which the vulnerable, especially children, simply cannot walk away.
“This operation underlines the need for cross-border collaboration between law enforcement and all stakeholders to ensure that together we can enhance our prevention, protection and prosecution efforts,” the INTERPOL chief stated.
During the operation, the police found a boy who had been forced to carry clandestinely between the two countries heavy goods, including bags of rice weighing up to 40 kg.
According to INTERPOL, all the victims originated from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Togo.
It explained that the victims were recruited and trafficked by means of deception and coercion, after which they were held in bondage in various labour intensive activities.
The organisation added that before regaining freedom, many of the minors were moved around as ‘merchandise’ themselves, across the border.
The victims were also forced to work in markets all day, peddling goods, fetching water, cooking, and carrying heavy loads.
In other cases, some were made to work as housemaids and others were victims of sexual exploitation.
INTERPOL said most of the minors endured beatings and psychological abuse, as well as death threats and warnings that they would never see their parents again.
It, however, highlighted some of the steps taken to ensure the rescued victims receive the necessary care following their rescue.
These include social services while some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) undertook post-operation interviews and provided support services to the victims.
In Nigeria, the organisation revealed that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) took charge of the minors.
The Comptroller of the Nigeria Immigration Service at Seme border region, Do Asogwa, called for a collective effort to tackle the menace of trafficking.
He said, “We have to cooperate with one another to combat the crime networks behind the trafficking and smuggling of human beings.
“These crimes can only be tackled collectively and through interagency cooperation.”
In Benin Republic, some of the minors were transferred to shelters, returned to their parents, while others were taken into care by national social affairs authorities and NGOs.
The Police Divisional Commissioner of the country’s Central Bureau for the Protection of Minors and Families and the Prevention of Human Trafficking (OCPM), Hounde Seidou, said: “Nobody belongs in the markets or on the streets as slave labourers.
He added, “As law enforcement officers, it is our duty to combat human trafficking, especially when children are involved.”
INTERPOL said building a sustainable law enforcement capacity to investigate and handle cases of human trafficking and migrant smuggling dominated its strategy on vulnerable communities.
To this end, it explained that ‘Operation Epervier II’ was preceded in Benin Republic and Nigeria by specialised training exercises to help officers enhance their investigative techniques along with victim and offender interview skills.
The organisation said its secure communications system I-24/7 was also deployed to operational hotspots, providing police with real-time access to criminal global databases containing millions of records, including on stolen and lost travel documents and biometrics.
It noted that the G7 Interior Ministers had met in Paris, France earlier in April and called for increased cooperation with INTERPOL against crimes such as human trafficking.
It added that the operation, funded by the INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World, was undertaken under the framework of the INTERPOL Global Task Force on Human Trafficking.
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Buhari may repeal Land Use Act for Ruga, SMBLF alleges
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum has said there is a surreptitious plan by the Federal Government to repeal the Land Use Act and take over the control of lands in the country from state governors.
This, it said, was to enable the government to subsequently implement the suspended Ruga project.
The forum said it gathered that the FG suspended the Ruga Settlement Programme due to the Act which restricted its access to land, adding that the government may move to repeal the law in order to facilitate the implementation of the Ruga grazing scheme.
SMBLF cautioned Southern lawmakers in the National Assembly to be vigilant and to guard against the introduction of any bill intended to repeal or amend the Land Use Act.
The forum said this in a statement in Abuja on Sunday by its co-spokespersons: Yinka Odumakin (South West), Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (South East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South South), Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt).
The group stated that it was not impressed by the suspension of the Ruga Settlement Project, which it declared as “an expansionist agenda on behalf of the Fulani nomads.”
The statement reads, “It is being alleged that there will be moves to repeal the Land Use Act in the (Ruga) suspension period so the Federal Government can have authority over land which is currently under the states.
“We therefore call on all our members in the National Assembly to be vigilant about any surreptitious bill that may be introduced to tamper with control of land and thwart such without any waste of time.
“The 2014 National Conference debated this issue at length and resolved to retain the Land Use Act in the Constitution.”
The forum further warned the lawmakers against passing the ‘Bill to establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria,’ sponsored by the executive, noting that it was meant to give the FG sole authority and control over the nation’s rivers and underground water.
The group added, “When this obnoxious Water Bill is taken alongside the Ruga programme and the speculated assault on Land Use Act, the internal colonialism agenda is complete and we would have no one but ourselves to blame if we don’t effect our no-pasaran (They shall not pass — a slogan used to express determination to defend a position against an enemy).
“It is pertinent to ask why the FG is not going ahead with Ruga in some northern states that have accepted the policy if the whole idea was not about land-grabbing in the South and Middle Belt states,” it said.
The political pressure group stated that the FG’s support for local government autonomy was hinged on the Ruga scheme to allow “aliens” to take over allotted land under the programme.
It vowed not to relax its opposition to the project, stressing that only outright cancellation of the initiative was acceptable to the forum.
“The whole policy has opened our eyes to the reason why the President has been harping on local government autonomy now and then,” the group stressed.
Insecurity: Buhari vows Serious punishment on murderous herders, terrorists
…Salutes army on 156th anniversary
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday vowed that the federal government will not allow anyone who kills or maim another under any guise to go unpunished.
He spoke at the 2019 Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) held at the Ikeja Cantonment, Lagos, in commemoration of the service’s 156th anniversary.
Buhari who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the federal government was working seriously with other states to contain herders-farmers conflicts, banditry and terrorism saluting the army for its efforts to save the country from disintegration.
He said: “Nobody will be allowed to maim, kill or commit other crimes and escape. It is our duty to apprehend and punish these criminals and we are doing and will continue to do so.
“Herder and farmer conflicts, random killings, banditry and kidnapping some attributed to Fulani bandits, in different parts of the country are extant challenges that the army has had to intervene in on several occasions. I want to reassure all Nigerians that these issues are being seriously tackled by the Federal Government, working with the states, through a multi-pronged approach.
“You will be hearing a lot more about these solutions in the weeks and months ahead. Law enforcement is of course an important element of the response.
“We have seen an unprecedented ramping up of the deployment of military personnel- multi-agency intervention squads like Operation Whirlstroke. The training and deployment of Special Forces, new Forward Operating Bases, and so on – to the flashpoints, in the last eighteen months.
“Several bandits’ hideouts and camps have been destroyed, and hundreds of arrests have been made, and it is now up to our judicial systems to ensure that justice is meted out not just comprehensively but also in a timely manner.”
COZA: Police investigate rape allegation as Busola Dakolo files complaint
The police have commenced investigation into the allegation of rape against Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) founder Pastor Biodun by celebrity photographer Mrs. Busola Dakolo.
The commencement followed an official complaint filed by Mrs. Dakolo at the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID), Alagbon in Lagos.
A source, who hinted on the development, told our correspondent that the investigation would be thorough.
He stated that the police now have something to build a case on.
It was gathered that she was accompanied by her husband Mr. Timi Dakolo, a popular music artist, who also took to his verified Instagram account to refute reports that Fatoyinbo joined him and his wife in holy matrimony.
Dakolo also denied ever attending COZA nor meeting Fatoyinbo, describing all the counter stories as desperate attempts to cover the truth.