Operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) have intercepted and rescued 10 Nigerian youths who were being trafficked to Moscow, Russia. They were intercepted on Saturday night at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in an operation code named ‘’Operation BLOCK’’ while trying to board a Turkish Airline flight to Russia using the 2018 World Cup tagged ‘’Russia 2018’’ as avenue for travelling to Russia.
The rescued victims comprise of 9 young girls and 1 boy. Five of the rescued persons are from Edo State, 3 are from Delta State, one from Imo State and the other is from Benue State. 8 of them reside in Benin City while the other 2 reside in Warri and Osogbo respectively. It was from these locations that they were moved simultaneously on Friday to Lagos for the journey to Russia. They all had the FIFA Fan ID.
Five suspects including a Police Sergeant and a Quarantine Officer were also arrested as they were caught coordinating the movement of the victims. Those arrested are Esan Matthew (Policeman), Stephen Fayemiwo (Quarantine Officer) Azeez Olowo, Idowu Fashakin and Eni Godwin.
It will be recalled that the Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli had penultimate week alerted the nation through the media that criminal gangs were on the prowl using the relaxed entry into Russia for the 2018 World Cup to recruit Nigerian youths to Russia for exploitation. She also stated that operatives of the Agency were working on some intelligence gathered and were on the trail of the criminal gangs and their potential victims.
‘’These traffickers have continued to mount pressure on some youths and their parents forcing them to part with huge sums of money in exchange for a Russian visa’’, she said on that occasion.
On Friday the potential victims commenced their movement to Lagos from their various locations to meet their recruiters as they had agreed and NAPTIP operatives who have been following their communications followed them up until they were stopped at the point of departure at the Airport and those involved in recruiting them and facilitating their journey were arrested.
Four of the Victims arrived Obalende, Lagos at various times on Friday from Benin City, Edo State to a place called Sura Market and kept in a room in a shanty at the Sura area of Lagos.
Operatives who followed them kept vigil at that location until Saturday at about 3pm when the movement to the Airport commenced. The gangs used two Lagos yellow painted taxis. One taxi carried two potential victims (PVoTs) with a young man later identified as Azeez Olowo sitting in the front passenger’s seat while the second taxi also carried two PVoTs with a young man later identified as Idowu Fashakin also sitting in the front passenger’s seat.
Upon arrival at the International Airport at about 5.25pm, the four PVoTs alighted with their luggage and the two suspects that accompanied them. The two suspects, Idowu Fashakin and Azeez Olowo started making phone calls while the four PVoTs were standing by a corner outside the departure hall for over one and half hours awaiting further directives. Shortly after, Azeez Olowo met and held discussions with one man who was eventually identified as Eni Godwin. Later on, one Mathew Esan who was later identified as a Police 0fficer went to met with Eni Godwin who was standing a few meters away from the four PVoTs, and had a chat with him for a while. Thereafter, Matthew Esan went to the girls and held discussion with them and the situation was like that of a teacher addressing his students.
Not too long after this meeting, one Stephen Fayemiwo who was later identified as a Quarantine Personnel came to meet the girls where they were sitting outside the departure hall, addressed them and handed to each of them their travel documents including their International Passports, Russian 2010 FIFA ID Card and Turkish Airline tickets. He thereafter, led them into the departure hall and facilitated their check-in at the Turkish airline counter where he was eventually arrested.
His arrest was simultaneously done with the other four persons who had NAPTIP operative marking them closely. Stephen Fayemiwo (Quarantine Officer) was arrested beside the Turkish Airline counter, Mathew Esan (Police officer) and Idowu Fashakin were arrested beside the passage queue of Turkish Airline while Eni Godwin and Azeez Olowo were arrested outside the departure hall by Gate D entrance.
The team also rescued five other PVoTs who were refused boarding by the Airlines because they had only one way ticket to Russia. The male amongst the PVOTs was stopped because his sponsor in Russia is linked to one of the five female PVoTs rescued.
They were all taking to the office of the Aviation Security where they were documented before they were taken to NAPTIP Lagos Command for further investigation. This operation was supported by officials of the Aviation Security (AVSEC) , Department of State Service (DSS) and the Joint Border Task Force (JBTF) which NAPTIP is a member.
While investigations have continued, the Agency is still on the trail of some other facilitators and the sponsors in Russia.
Reacting to this operation, the Director-General who expressed delight over its success said that the Agency will not give human traffickers any opportunity to use the World Cup to ferry Nigerians out into a life of misery abroad. While explaining that the Agency has been vindicated on the alarm it raised she called on all law enforcement Agencies working in all the nations’ International Airports and other entry points as well Airline officials to be on red alert to pick out criminals and potential victims in order to save the Nigerian youths from exploitation.
She also urged the Law enforcement Agencies to collaborate with the Agency in making the 2018 World cup free of trafficking of Nigerians. She however, reminded them of the directive of the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Sports that all group delegates to the World Cup must get a Clearance Certificate from NAPTIP before they can be allowed to travel.
For: Head, Press and Public Relations (NAPTIP)
10th June, 2018