The Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Diaspora, Hon. Tolu Akande-Sadipe, on Thursday said about 80,000 Nigerians are currently held as sex slaves and in forced labour across the world in countries like Lebanon, Mali and across the Middle East.
Akande-Sadipe, who said this during plenary in Abuja, condemned the complacency of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Labour and Employment, which has subjected young Nigerian girls to modern-day slavery, sexual exploitation and organ harvesting among other ills.
She also noted that the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the guise of diplomacy, is working towards the release a Lebanese trafficker, Wafic Mohammed Hamze, apprehended by National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, who is complicit in the trafficking of 16 girls to Lebanon.
She said: “Records show that Wafic Hamza was complicit in the trafficking of 16 girls, 10 of which have been repatriated back to Nigeria, whilst six remain stranded in Lebanon.
“Hamza is currently in custody in Ilorin, Kwara State awaiting trial for trafficking, but it appears that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the guise of diplomacy is working for the release of the said trafficker, without any regard for our citizens’ losses, their repatriation back home and compensation.”
In addition, Akande-Sadipe decried the unprecedented rise in the abuse and dehumanisation of Nigerians abroad, especially in nations with long history of cordial relationship with Nigeria.
She said: “The current and ongoing sordid dehumanising treatments foisted on Nigerians abroad, particularly trafficked girls, under the cover of foreign domestic staff, has become very disturbing.
“According to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, in the past one year, there has been an alarming number of daily distress calls from Nigerian women crying to be rescued due to the inhumane conditions they face in various parts of the Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Oman and Lebanon and Mali (with Lebanon, Oman and Mali being top on the list).”
In the motion she raised as a matter of Urgent Public importance, Akande-Sadipe opined that there is a pressing need for parliamentary intervention in the eradication of trafficking in persons, the resultant dehumanising treatment of Nigerians abroad and the repatriation of stranded citizens.
She also noted that there are some Nigerian students in Turkey, who want to return home but cannot afford the cost of the evacuation flight, and as a result are stuck in Turkey experiencing undue hardship.
She therefore urged the House to compel the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to negotiate affordable evacuation flights for Nigerians in the diaspora.
She further prayed that the House mandates the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Nigerian Immigration Service and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons to initiate the process of preparing a Bilateral Labour Agreement and Standard Operating Procedure for recruitment of Nigerians for unskilled labour employment in foreign lands.
In addition Akande-Sadipe implored President Muhammed Buhari to ensure that necessary disciplinary measure is meted on the Minister and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment for violating its suspension on the issuance of International Recruiters Licenses and issuance of licenses to non-compliant companies.
She stressed despite the fact that these companies were in violation of the Federal Government’s procurement and service provision procedures and standard requirements, they were excused from the mandatory annual reporting requirements on location and conditions of service of each recruited Nigerian taken abroad.
Akande-Sadipe noted that the Ministry obstructed the House’s Committee on Diaspora in its attempt to carry out its official mandate by its refusal to submit documentation and lying under oath.