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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We’ll Treat Anyone Associated With IPOB As A Terrorist – Abia CP
The Abia State Police Command has warned the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) against any activity capable of truncating the peace and safety of the residents.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Ene Okon, gave the warning in an interview on Channels Television.
He said that anyone or group of persons associated with IPOB will be termed as a terrorist and dealt with severely.
“The Nigeria Police Force In Abia will treat any person associated with IPOB as a terrorist and such a person or group of persons will be dealt with according to the law”.
The commissioner’s comment comes in reaction to the sit-at-home-order issued by the proscribed movement, scheduled to come into effect on May 30, 2019.
He noted that security personnel have been put in strategic places, thereby assuring residents to go about their activities without fear.
“I am assuring the good people of Abia to disregard the illegal order and go about their normal businesses as there is every assurance of protection of lives and properties”, he added.
EFCC arrests Kwara Assembly clerk over alleged N400m severance pay
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is currently investigating alleged illegal payment of about N400 million to some members of the Kwara state House of Assembly, it was gathered.
Accordingly, the anti-graft body is quizzing Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Sola Gold and the Clerk of the state House of Assembly, Kperogi Halimat Jummai over the alleged payment.
EFCC source maintained that the payment did not follow due process.
It was gathered that all the 24 lawmakers were two weeks ago paid the sum of N400 million severance package, when their tenure is yet to expire.
The petitioner said even though the lawmakers and members of the state executive council are entitled to severance package, it is the next administration that is supposed to pay the money, a source at the EFCC has said.
“More worrisome is the issue of furniture allowance running to hundreds of millions of naira according to the petitioner which they wanted it pay along with severance package,” the petitioner added.
Speaker of the Assembly Dr Ali Ahmed had in a letter with Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, confirmed that the lawmakers are entitled to severance package at the end of their tenure on June 7th this year.
The letter reads that “in accordance with the provisions of the revenue mobilization, allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) honourable members are entitled to 200 percent of their annual basic salaries as their severance gratuity allowance at the end of their tenure of office.”
The clerk of the house, Halimat Jummai Kperogi confirmed that the lawmakers had received their severance package.
She was said to have told the operatives of the EFCC that Governor Ahmed approved the payment of the package.
Kperogi said “in a meeting of the principal officers of the Kwara House of Assembly wherein I was scheduled to be the secretary, held on May 8th, 2019, issue of severance gratuity to the honourable members was raised, the principal officers were informed that the state government has approved the payment of the severance gratuity.”
“At the meeting, I informed the house that the governor had approved the payment. I added that members were expected to be paid after the expiration of their tenure of office. The house debated it and they overruled me.”
Alhaji Gold on the other hand wrote and sought for the approval of the severance gratuity and furniture allowances amounting to about N300 million for some members of the state executive council.
Gold, in a letter to the governor dated May 8th, 2019 said “your Excellency, by virtue of the provisions of Kwara state remuneration of political and public office holders laws, certain category of political and public office holders are entitled to severance and furniture allowances of their basic salaries respectively upon
successful completion of tenure.”
Alhaji Gold said that while the lawmakers had received their monies, members of the state executive council are yet to receive their gratuity.
FG approves N25bn earned academic allowances for ASUU members
….Minister: We spent N1.338tn on education in four years
The Federal Government on Tuesday said it has approved additional N25 billion payment for Earned Academic Allowances for members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
It was learnt that the money is a part payment contained in the Memorandum of Action the Union signed with the government.
The government said the N25 billion was aside the N20 billion that was released last year to public universities in the country.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu broke the news at his valedictory press conference as a minister on Tuesday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Adamu was joined by Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah and Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed at the briefing.
The minister said all universities in the country have benefitted from the N20 billion released last year by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government.
He said the Buhari administration inherited an unimplementable agreement of N1.3 trillion when it assumed office in 2015.
Adamu said: “Let me inform you that the federal government has just approved an additional N25 billion to be shared to beneficiary institutions directly. Last year, the federal government released N20 billion directly to universities. As I speak, all universities have got their share of the N20 billion.
“The sad news is that the N200 billion that was released to the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2013 for the universities has not been fully accessed. In specific terms, all the 73 public varsities have accessed the 1st tranche of 50 percent of the N200 billion.
“For the second tranche of 40 percent, only 56 institutions have been able to access their funds. The last 10 percent representing the third tranche of the N200 billion has not been accessed at all.
Adamu, in his Education for Change: Our stewardship in the last four years, address, said the government invested N1.338 trillion on the sector in the last four years.
Adamu said: “In spite of the economic downturn, we have done well in terms of investment in capital expenditure. The UBEC interventions in states have recorded a total of N350 billion, while TETFund and NEED Assessment interventions have recorded N857 billion with the main ministry and other agencies recording N86 billion, totalling N1.338 trillion in the last four years.
“This is aside from the N25 billion just approved for public universities. These figures have nothing to do with personnel and overhead cost in the education sector, which are also well over a trillion naira.
“Private sector investment in the education sector from the basic, secondary and tertiary levels far outweigh government investment. Our aggregate expenditure in the education sector (public and private) therefore exceeds the much touted 20 percent of our national budget. We are poised to do more.
He said the administration has laid a good foundation for dealing with the challenges posed by the out-of-school children phenomenon and the huge number of adult illiterates.
“If we continue on this path, in the next ten years, Nigeria’s challenges in this twin direction I’ll be confined to the dust in of history.
“On basic, secondary and tertiary education, we shall continue on the path of infrastructural and manpower development, increasing carrying capacity and creating unfettered access to all levels of our education for our young people.,” the minister added.
ASUU president. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the N25 billion was supposed to be released by government to its members in March this year as part of the MoA it signed with the union.
He said he could not confirm if members of the union had received the funds or not.
The. ASUU president said the N20 billion that has been fully accessed by its members was for revitalisation of universities in the country.
“I can’t confirm if the money has been released to our members. We still have issues with the money.
“The N25 billion is part of the Earned Academic Allowances for our members. It is a part payment. We have been chasing that money to be released to us. The money was supposed to be released in March 28 this year but the government released only N20 billion leaving a balance of N5 billion.
“The balance is supposed to be mainstreamed into 2019 budget,” he added.