By Bankole Shakirudeen Adeshina
Poverty, lack of education and weak parental structures are mostly responsibility for the susceptibility of many innocent children who are being exploited by human trafficking cartels across the country, the zonal Commander of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking of Human in Persons (NAPTIP) for Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States, Daniel Atokolo has said.
Speaking exclusively with CITYVOICE on Friday, Atokolo, who doubles as an Assistant Director, Intelligence for NAPTIP, also admonished parents to consider birth control to reduce the burden of raising children they have no resources to take care of.
“My strongest appeal goes to the parents. They should please try and observe birth control. In other words, they should only give birth to the children they can take care of. And this is an honest appeal, one that is devoid of religious and or cultural sentiments,’’ Atokolo said.
“If they don’t, these unschooled, trained and largely uncared-for children will end up being lured into hard labour, prostitution, and modern day slavery by the waiting human traffickers. Or sometimes, they may end up in the hands of the other violent criminal gangs like insurgent groups. Other times, some traffickers will even out-rightly harvest the organs of these innocent and helpless children. ”
Atokolo, who was recently deployed from Makurdi Command to Lagos, said it would no more be business as usual for traffickers within his jurisdiction as he has activated a zero tolerance programme, driven by a 24-hours penetration awareness campaign and rapid response programmes in its interface with the public.
“At the moment,” he said, “Every Thursday, our campaign team hit the streets, going to Communities, Churches, Mosques and tertiary institutions to campaign vigorously against human trafficking.
“Interestingly, we have been having a sustained synergy with the National Youths Service Corps in Lagos, where we train and as well disabuse the graduates against the criminal exploitation of human traffickers.
“At the end of the day, many of them go further to become our ambassadors and hence take the campaign to their respective area of primary assignments and beyond,” he added.
Atokolo also sounded a note of warning against hospitality businesses that engages the service of minors for prostitution, saying “our search lights shall beam on all your activities henceforth. And there will be no escape for all of the promoters of the criminality.”
He therefore encouraged Nigerians to assist the agency in its effort, through credible intelligence as there are huge financial incentives for such patriotic service.
“Last year, the Federal Government has announced the extension of the whistleblower policy to cover the activities of NAPTIP. Meaning, people should be confident to come forth to assist us with credible intelligence that would help us to bust the major trafficking syndicates.
“However, once they provide this intel, they should endeavor to keep their mouth sealed. Because the deterrent against traffickers are stiffer now, compared to before. In most cases, the laws now impose fine and compulsory jail term without any other option. Therefore, source of intelligence should not play into the hands of the criminals,” he added.