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.
See more photos below:
NUC, NYSC to block ‘fake’ foreign-trained graduates from service
The National Universities Commission (NUC), in collaboration with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), on Tuesday said it had put measures in place to block fake foreign-trained graduates from partaking in the compulsory one-year national service.
The NUC said it would continue to ensure the credibility of certificates issued by Nigerian universities and block fake foreign-trained graduates coming into the country.
Its Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, spoke when the NYSC Director General, Brig.-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, visited him at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
A statement in Abuja by the NYSC Director of Press and Public Relations, Adenike Adeyemi, regretted the challenges in vetting the certificates obtained from universities established by Nigerians outside the country.
The NUC chief said many universities produce quality graduates while some produce graduates who cannot defend their certificates.
He said the commission had not approved the degrees of some online universities operating in the country.
Rasheed added that the commission had approached the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to shut down some illegal universities operating in Nigeria.
“NUC and NYSC must work together to help the country in producing quality graduates. The NUC will continue to certify the credibility of certificates obtained from Nigerian universities,” he said.
The NYSC DG said the scheme will not issue Certificate of National Service to unqualified graduates.
Eid-el-kabir: FG declares Monday, Tuesday public holidays
The Federal Government has declared Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th August as Public Holidays to mark the 2019 Eid-Al-Kabir celebrations.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Barr. Georgina Ehuriah, who made the declaration on behalf of the Federal Government, congratulated the Muslim faithful on the occasion .
She called on all Nigerians, at home and in diaspora, to use the period of this year’s Eid-Al-Kabir celebration to embrace the virtues of love, humility, peace and sacrifice as exemplified by the Holy Prophet Mohammed.
She urged Nigerians to shun any form of disruptive tendencies and join hands with the Federal Government to build a peaceful, strong and united Nigeria so as to achieve an enviable Next Level of growth and development.
According to a statement by Director (Press & Public Relations), Mohammed Manga, the Permanent Secretary reaffirmed the determination of the President Muhammadu Buhari led-administration to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians, adding that Security Agencies under the Ministry have been directed to ensure the provision of adequate security, before, during and after the Eid-Al-Kabir celebrations.
She restated government’s desire for all Nigerians to live a life of sacrifice, charity and love for one another.
Bar. Ehuriah wished Nigerians a happy, peaceful and fulfilling Eid-Al-Kabir celebrations.
N9.9b fraud: Court freezes Lagos accounts
THE Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the freezing of three accounts belonging to the Lagos State Government over an alleged N9.9 billion fraud.
Justice Chuka Obiozor made the order following an ex-parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He ordered the accounts’ “suspension” pending conclusion of investigation and possible prosecution of the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Adewale Adesanya.
The accounts are domiciled in First City Monument Bank (numbered 5617984012), Access Bank (0060949275) and Zenith Bank (1011691254).
In a supporting affidavit, an EFCC investigator, Kungmi Daniel, said the commission discovered huge inflow of N9,927,714,443.29 from the state accounts into the FCMB account.
He said the account, operated by Adesanya, was opened last September 17 during the Akinwunmi Ambode administration.
According to the deponent, investigators found that Adesanya and other signatories made fraudulent transfers from the state’s accounts and dissipated the funds.
“The trend is that the account always witnessed huge inflow from Lagos State Government in the above scheduled accounts managed by the respondent (Adesanya).
“There have been concerted efforts and attempts to dissipate the contents of the accounts listed in the schedule to this application.
“Without freezing the nominated accounts and temporarily forfeiting the money to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is no way the fraud being perpetrated using the scheduled accounts can be stopped,” the EFCC said.
EFCC counsel Mohammed Abbas urged the court to grant the order temporarily attaching the accounts to enable it to conclude its investigations.
Justice Obiozor granted the prayers and adjourned till Friday.
Some legal sources wondered last night why the victim, the state government, is being made to suffer while those suspected to be involved in the matter are left untouched.