Yenagoa—The Bayelsa State chapter of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) has raised an alarm over the presence of an alleged child trafficking syndicate in the state.
In a statement jointly signed by its chairperson, Maria Olodi-Osumah, and secretary, Grace Koinyan, the Association accused one Okechukwu Nwokafor of specializing in luring unsuspecting teenagers to Europe and other countries under the guise of providing greener pastures for them.
The statement noted that Okechukwu Nwokafor was in late last year arrested in connection to a trafficking case of miss Blessing Ayuba, a 16-year-old resident of Yenagoa, and was later released by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on bail.
“This is coming on the heels of the trafficking of a sixteen-year-old, Miss Blessing Ayuba by a neighbor, one Mr.Okechukwu Nwokafor from their Azikoro village residence in Yenagoa to Onitsha, Anambra State in August 2021, from where she was taken to Libya, alongside three other girls.
“Accordingly, the child had established first contact with her mother in October 2021 narrating her ordeal and an official report was made to the Bayelsa State Police command the same month.
“The suspect was thereafter arrested and after investigation, handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons NAPTIP Bayelsa State command.
“It is however regrettable that six months after, NAPTIP Bayelsa State has not made any tangible progress to prosecute the culprit and bring back the child from Libya. Instead, Mr.Okechukwu Nwokafor was rather granted bail and is now at large.”
The Association criticized the alleged poor handling of the case by NAPTIP and warned that trafficking would be commonplace in Bayelsa state if proactive measures are not taken or deployed by the government.
“It may not be out of place to conclude that NAPTIP is handling the issue of Child Trafficking with kids’ gloves, a signal that it is either incompetent or deliberately neglecting its responsibilities of stemming the societal menace of human trafficking.”
“NAWOJ Bayelsa is convinced that many other teenagers are being trafficked out of Bayelsa to countries in Europe without a trace and more would-be victims if proactive measures are not deployed.
“This is a very disturbing trend, as, before this time, Bayelsa State was not listed amongst States with high Human Trafficking activity.
“However, with the recent disappearance of underaged girls, Bayelsa seems to be recording increased cases of Child Trafficking.
“Child Trafficking is a crime against humanity.
“It is wickedness to take a child away from her family, sell her off to slavery, exposing her to degrading and dehumanizing torture.
“We must challenge this anomaly and ensure it does not take root in our State.
“This is a call for extreme vigilance by Parents, Guardians, and Security Agents to take proactive measures to nip this ugly act in the bud, ” the statement read.
While appreciating the peaceful disposition of all non indigenes in the State, the association appealed to the Igbo community in Bayelsa State to scrutinize the activities of its people to assist agencies fish out bad elements amongst them and maintaining the existing cordial relationship between the Igbos and Bayelsans.
The statement further called for the re-arrest of Mr. Okechukwu Nwokafor by the Bayelsa State Command of NAPTIP and intensify efforts aimed at reuniting Queen Ayuba with her family.