EDO State government officials have entered into an agreement with the United Kingdom to introduce video-conferencing in courtrooms to make it easier for people to testify in cases of human trafficking as part of a move to stamp out the menace.
Nigeria has one of the highest incidences of human trafficking into Europe and the bulk of the victims tend to come from Edo State. Benin City, the state capital in particular is notorious, as traffickers prey on young and innocent girls who they send to Europe as prostitutes and over the years, the industry has boomed.
It is not uncommon for families in Edo State to now actively encourage their young women to engage in prostitution. In many instances, these young girls are made to swear oaths at local shrines, which they believe will result in their instant death if they attempt to run away once they get to Europe.
Seeking to address the issue, the Edo State government has launched several initiatives to retrain returning prostitutes. Over the weekend the Edo State governor Godwin Obaseki, met with Harriet Thompson, the deputy British high commissioner at Government House in Benin, where they agreed work together to combat the menace.
During the meeting, Governor Obaseki disclosed that his administration has also increased investment in education, digital infrastructure, job creation and power, among other reforms to tackle illegal migration and human trafficking. He said the creation of sustainable programmes in areas prone to illegal migration in the state would discourage human trafficking, noting that significant successes have been recorded in the areas of arrest, trial and prosecution of the traffickers.
Governor Obaseki, who called for synergy between the UK and the state government to fine-tune ongoing initiatives for better results, disclosed that commensurate investment had not been recorded in funding capacity building programmes to engage potential victims. He added that according to available verifiable data, migration from the state had dropped and traffickers have started relocating to other centres.
Ms Thompson expressed satisfaction with the innovations being introduced by the Obaseki administration to better the lives of the citizens of Edo State. She noted that the UK government would explore investment opportunities currently being created by the governor in technology and agriculture sectors to create meaningful employment for young people.
She added that the high commission was already in partnership with some state government agencies such as the Edo State Skills Development Agency to equip young people with skills and create jobs for them. According to a 2015 report, 93% of Nigerians trafficked for the sex trade in Europe are from Edo State.
This same report indicated that Italy is the most popular destination for Nigerian trafficking and there are an estimated 10,000 Nigerian prostitutes in the country. As many as one in three women in Edo State have been approached by a trafficker, offering them the chance to create a life in Europe.