The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NAPTIP) in Anambra State, has rescued 93 victims of human trafficking since its inception in Anambra State in 2021.

The Commander of the agency, Mrs. Ibadin Judith-Chukwu, who disclosed this in an interview to mark the 2023 International Day against Human Trafficking, said 10 of the rescued victims were males while 83 were females.

Mrs. Judith-Chukwu gave the breakdown of the rescue efforts as follows: 17 in 2021, 69 in 2022 and 7 victims so far in 2023.

“This year, we have received a lot of cases most of which are external trafficking. The victims are still abroad.

“We have been able to bring back seven victims this year from Burkina Fasso, Ghana and Mali.

“We are working to bring others back. Internally, we have been able to rescue a 4-year and 15-year old children,” she narrated.

Apart from rescuing victims, NAPTIP, the commander noted, had also arrested some of the criminals.

“In 2021, NAPTIP arrested 31 suspects (16 males and 15 females). They are from Anambra, Edo and Ebonyi States.

“In 2022, we arrested 44 male suspects and 36 female suspects giving us a total of 80 suspects from Anambra, Benue, Imo, Rivers, Ebonyi and Akwa Ibom States.

“This year, we have arrested 16 suspects (11 males and 5 females). They are from Akwa Ibom, Niger and Anambra states,” Mrs. Judith-Chukwu tabulated.

While restating the resolute determination of the agency towards the fight against human trafficking, the Commander stressed the need to always prioritize the interest of the victims in all operations.

This, she noted is in line with the theme of the commemoration this year, which is “Reach every victim of human trafficking: Leave no one behind.”

“Just like the way NAPTIP works, our greatest concern is the victims of the crime because of the exploitation and other ill-treatment they went through in the hands of traffickers.

“It is not enough to arrest suspects, try and jail them. What about the victims? Put yourself in the position of the victims.

“There is need to care for them, counsel them and make sure that justice is served. And there is need too to economically empower them,” the NAPTIP Commander appealed.

Despite the sustained campaign against human trafficking, Mrs. Judith-Chukwu cried out that the battle raged on.

“I can say that it is still on the increase inspite of everything we are doing. Human trafficking is endemic in Anambra State.

“The number keeps increasing despite that we are doing sensitization and all that hoping that this crime will be reduced just that traffickers are stubborn because of the huge money they are making in it. They don’t want to stop, but we are going to stop them,” she insisted.

Speaking during the road walk at motor parks and markets, two members of Anambra State Task Force on Human Trafficking, encouraged the people to watch out for suspicious movement and break cycle of silence, which had hitherto served the interest of the criminals.

“Some of those children who had been messed up by traffickers have psychological problems. When you see any of them, please call us.

“These are our children. They took them away from village with a promise to take care of them,” Yohanna Rachel admonished.

One of the anti human trafficking crusaders, Ms. Hope Okoye urged residents to be watchful against the antics of the traffickers.

“Speak out every time you notice suspicious movements around your parks. Many children have been trafficked from your park here. So, shine your eyes.

“Our children, old and teenage are being trafficked for sexual exploitation, hard labour, organ harvesting and the rest of them. Give us information. Report to NAPTIP or the Ministry of Women Affairs,” she advised.

A concerned citizen, Dr. Ken Okoli, who was in a group of persons sensitized in the course of the exercise, drew attention of NAPTIP and partners to the army of child labourers found in the nooks and crannies of city centres in the state.

“We encourage what you do. Please, do not relent. A lot of our people do not really understand all you are talking about. But, with sustained sensitization, we will get there.

“Also pay attention to children who hawk and beg on the streets during school hours.

“If you go around town in these hot zones, where you have prostitution going on, most of them are coming from poverty. What you are doing generally is helping everybody,” Dr. Okoli submitted.

The sensitization road walk, which started from Ekwueme Square was taken to some strategic locations in Awka, including motor and tricycle parks as well as Eke-Awka Market.

Leaflets containing useful tips on human trafficking were also distributed to residents to deepen their knowledge about the social scourge.

NAPTIP in collaboration with the State Task Force on Human Trafficking organized the walk to sensitize the populace to the problem, which, it noted, is increasingly assuming a more disturbing dimension in the area.

International Day against Human Trafficking is set aside annually to create awareness about the crime and celebrate the counteractions made to dismantle it.