BY JESSICA ANGULA

 

When gory and despicable images of Nigerians held in modern slavery in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Italy or other countries in Europe trend on social media, it melts and drenches the heart with infinite pains. It invokes sadness and sorrow. It challenges the pride and dignity of Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth.

No one is pretending about the need to salvage Nigerians from the servitude perfected by these merchants of evil and their dubious internal agents. When Nigerian migrants are consumed by tragic ship wreck on the high seas, many families are saddened. No responsible nation is proud that its citizens continue to suffer such indignities, under the fluid excuse of the quest for greener pastures.

But it seems human trafficking has assumed a dangerous and frightening dimension in Nigeria. The quantum of illegal migrations, the menace of child labour, forced labor, sexual exploitation, organ harvesting and the various dimensions of human trafficking in the country and its accruing nightmares have been Nigeria’s latest and near insurmountable challenges.

It is equally sad that those most prone to such debasing and inhuman actions are women and children. And Nigeria in the last few years has postured as a fertile ground for the abuse of the dignity of her citizenry by perpetrators of this crime against humanity.

The stark reality on ground makes it undeniable that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NAPTIP) has enormous work on her hands. But an amazon, tested lawyer and experienced Administrator, Dame Julie Okah-Donli has come on a rescue and restoration mission in Nigeria.

Appointed the Director-General of NAPTIP in April 2017, by President Muhammadu Buhari, the new boss hit the ground running. She has launched positive reforms which has infused life into the operations of the agency. She has embarked on re-orientation programmes, enlightenment campaigns, rescue missions and transformations that have repositioned NAPTIP, which is splendidly executing its lawful mandate.

A lawyer, with expertise in Arbitration, company and corporate Law, Okah-Donli has spent decades working in both private and public establishments since 1992. Her rich profile and experience is sourced from among others, the Securities and Exchange Commission, as Manager, Secretariat and Legal Administrative Department. She was also Legal Adviser/Company Secretary, Nigerian Capital Market Institute and the UBA Trustees, Abuja. Okah-Donli, who was Executive Assistant to the Governor of Bayelsa State until her appointment as NAPTIP boss was into private legal practice.

She is innately passionate and very emotional about the indignities suffered by women or children particularly and indeed, all Nigerians. So, the job was like icing on her cake to do what she knows doing best. From the outset, she left no one in doubt about her mindset in administering the agency, as she warned ‘’Our task here is basically to stop the crime against humanity and we have to discharge our duties with absolute fear of God. We must resist any temptation to compromise our duties. I will not tolerate any form of indiscipline under my watch that will expose this organization to public ridicule.”

So far, Okah-Donli has demonstrated abiding and irrevocable faith to this pledge to liberate Nigeria from the crimes of servitude and demeaning human exploitation. The determination to register her impact on the war against trafficking in persons in line with the change effect of the Buhari Presidency has enlivened the operations of NAPTIP.

Nigerians are gradually being liberated from the crimes of man’s inhumanity to man. She has introduced new perspectives’ in tackling these crimes and placed the Agency on the path of positive engagements and results.

The NAPTIP boss has realized that Nigeria is afflicted by both internal and external human trafficking, which are all very dangerous dimensions of this obnoxious and reprehensible crime. Therefore, she has channelled her energy, focus and experience to a policy and vision, encapsulated in a working document christened “NAPTIP’S Rehabilitation Plan,” which is religiously implemented.

The continuous evacuation of Nigerians trapped in slave camps in Libya and elsewhere in Europe are the new reliefs NAPTIP under her watch is offering to people of Nigeria.

Okah-Donli has a full grasp of the problem. So, she has adopted measures and solutions to curbing such criminal excesses. She is fighting day and night to demystify these merchants of evil to retain Nigeria’s dignity.

Therefore, her sustained efforts to dismantle the roots of internal human trafficking, which is a precursor to the external human trafficking has yielded a lot of dividend. The NAPTIP boss has embarked on penetrative enlightenment campaigns in villages and communities in the country. The awareness is creating the desired effects as “People are beginning to understand and give more information to NAPTIP now than ever before.” Especially after her visit to the Oba of Benin who she requested to engage the Juju Priests to denounce their hold on victims of Trafficking.

Adults who delight in marrying underage girls are also facing the heat of the NAPTIP boss. And the nest of masked human traffickers in the country now have serious nightmare, as clandestine operations by the agency is tracking them down for prosecution.

While she believes that migration itself is not a bad idea, the agency under her supervision is beginning to impinge on the psyche of Nigerians some new perceptions of the phenomenon. Okah-Donli is sermonizing relentlessly that a migration dream pursued and anchored on the conviction that Europe or other such foreign countries have better opportunities for survival is defective and dangerous, and the message is sinking.

NAPTIP has discovered a perennial problem where Nigerian migrants held in camps for repatriation, by host countries are detained for months, before action is taken. She has worked out modalities to compel such countries to instantly repatriate illegal migrants of Nigerian descent, as against the culture of prolonged delay which leaves them susceptible to various forms of human abuses, whilst protecting and caring for trafficked victims

Therefore, there is no hesitation that NAPTIP under Okah-Donli has symbolized the new face of Nigeria’s aggressive combat of all forms of human trafficking and allied crimes against the people. Her positive reforms in the agency in the last one year, has projected the image of Nigeria, as one country, which is now demonstrating its aversion to such acts and fighting this devilish trade to its roots.
Okah-Donli has shown that Nigeria is indeed serious and committed to the war against trafficking in persons. With the pledge of the National Assembly to increase the budgetary votes of NAPTIP in 2018, the agency would post unimaginable results in performance.

Angula is Managing Director, TheNigerian Media Group, London.