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Death of 26 Girls: NAPTIP Boss Challenges Italian Authorities on Prosecution, Full Disclosure 

The Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Dame Julie Okah-Donli has asked the Italian authorities to ensure that those involved in the death of the 26 girls on the Mediterranean Sea recently are properly identified and prosecuted.

She also frowned at the haste with which the girls were buried without full disclosure of their proper identities and nationalities. She expressed sadness that the remains of the girls were buried on Friday 17th November 2017 just a day after Italian Embassy in Nigeria had communicated to her during a meeting with the Ambassador and through an email that the remains would be buried on November 26, 2017.

The NAPTIP boss spoke in Italy at various fora with officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Italy, officials of some sister Agencies and the Nigerian Community in her attempt to unravel the mystery behind the recent deaths of Nigerian migrants at the Mediterranean Sea. She also did not mince words in her presentation at the International Conference on “Women Empowerment and the Fight against Trafficking in Persons – The Partnership between Italy and Nigeria” organised by the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Hon. Laura Boldrini.

Other Italian officials that spoke at the conference were: the convener of the conference, Hon. Laura Boldrini, Anna Finochiaro, of the Ministry for Equal opportunities; Tullio Del Sette, General Commander of Italy’s Carabinieri; Franco Gabrielli, Chief of Italian Police; Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special UN Rapportuer on Trafficking in Persons; Cesare Sirignano, National Anti –Mafia Assistant Prosecutor; Federico Soda, Directorof the IOM’s Mission in Italy Coordinating office for the Mediterranean; and a Nigerian former victim Isoke Aikpitanyi. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Honourable Yakubu Dogara led the Nigerian Delegation to the conference.

In her presentation at the conference, Okah=Donli conveyed the anger and sadness of the Nigerian people over the news of the death of the young girls especially with the unavailability of their proper identities and how they died.

‘’We demand that those who are involved in the gruesome death of these girls be properly identified and prosecuted’’, she said.

While disclosing that NAPTIP through the Courts has convicted 334 traffickers, she challenged the Italians and other destination countries to equally show good faith by prosecuting their own nationals engaged in the obnoxious trade, adding, ‘’if there is no buyer the trade will die off’’.

She also asked the Italians to always engage in full disclosure when their nationals are involved. She also requested them to implement to the letter the Palermo Protocol especially with victims care and support rather than treat the victims especially those from Nigeria as criminals.

The Director-General explained that while a good number of Nigerian victims voluntarily opt to migrate for the purpose of seeking better living conditions, others were lured into being trafficked without knowing the consequences of their decisions. She however, added that the desperation has led to the colossal loss of lives of would-be Migrants in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

To stem the tide of such dangerous journeys, she explained that the Government of Nigeria has introduced a number of economic and social measures to reverse this unfortunate trend with a view to ameliorating the living conditions that force young Nigerians to migrate.

During her meetings, she was informed that out of the 26 dead girls, only 3 were positively identified as Nigerians while the other 23 were from other nationalities. She was also informed that 2 persons have been arrested in connection with the incident.

As at the time she left Italy, the Nigerian Embassy was still awaiting a formal response to the request for a proper report on the matter from the Italian authorities especially with regard to the number of identified Nigerians and their identities.

While in Rome, the Director-General had a training session with officials of the Nigerian Embassy on Victims’ identification, treatment of victims and how to prepare them for voluntary return to Nigeria. She also interacted with members of the Nigerian Community where she spoke to on the need to be good Ambassadors of Nigeria in Italy. While urging them to help in getting information about the secret camps where Nigerian victims of trafficking are kept by criminal gangs in Italy for possible intervention by Government, she encouraged them to always contact NAPTIP and the Embassy whenever cases of human trafficking come up.

She said, ‘’You are all Ambassadors of Nigeria, so you have to join us to remove this shame that has enveloped us as a people by exposing those amongst you here in Italy involved in the enslavement of our young girls as well as their Italian collaborators.

‘’We cannot be working hard at home to stop trafficking and you people here who suffer the image problem firsthand will stand aloof. Wake up from your slumber and fight on our side to end this shame’’.

Josiah Emerole

Deputy Director/Head, Press and Public Relations

25th November, 2017