The speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, meanwhile has become the latest voice urging President Muhammadu Buhari to do more in tackling slavery on the African continent. “Mr. President should, if necessary, deploy Nigeria’s diplomatic andmilitary clout on this matter. We would like to see an immediate convening of emergency session of the ECOWAS and AU to lunch a rescue operation as soon as possible,” Dogara said yesterday.
He regretted that “the voices of ECOWAS and the AU are unacceptably too feeble on this devastating issue”, and commended French president, Emmanuel Macron, for taking “a principled position and applying pressure on the UN to take urgent steps in dealing with this scourge.”He said: “We expect other nations who value freedom and the dignity of the human person to join France in working out a permanent solution to this resurgent evil.”
The speaker consequently directed that “the public hearing on house resolution (HR. 151/2017) which ordered an investigation into the death of the 26 girls recently in the Mediterranean Sea and the resolution passed yesterday mandating relevant committees of the house to investigate the slave trade going on in Libya be consolidated and immediately scheduled for hearing in spite of the pending work on the 2018 budget.”
Buhari on Tuesday had disclosed that Nigerians stranded in Libya and other parts of the world would be brought home and rehabilitated. He also committed to reducing the number of citizens heading for Europe illegally through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea by improving education, healthcare, food security and other necessities.
Dogara’s remarks were contained in his address to members of the house following his arrival from Italy where he participated in a conference convened by the president of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, Ms. Laura Bodrini.
The forum discussed, ‘Women empowerment and thefight against trafficking in persons: the partnership between Nigeria and Italy’.
According to the speaker, “What is consistent with the lessons of history is that unless slave masters are forced to halt, they won’t on their own put a stop to the criminal enterprise.
We have a duty to stop them and we must begin by acceptingresponsibility for what is happening now.”
Earlier in the week, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP),also stated: “Given Nigeria’s leadership role in the region, Buhari can and should provide greater leadership and push European and African leaders to go beyond merely condemning the atrocities and act swiftly to end the shocking abuses, remove Nigerians and other African women, men and children still trapped in Libya from harm’s way, and guarantee their safety and wellbeing.“
Nigerian and other African victims of abuses in Libya are crying out for leadership and urgently need African leaders to act. It is not only the right thing to do; it is also critical, if Nigeria wants to remain relevant in regional and international affairs.”
In a related development, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it would not condone the maltreatment of its citizens in northern Africa.President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel Alain de Souza, represented by the commission’s vice president, Edward Singhatey, said this while presenting the Status Report on the State of the Community to the Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.Following De Souza’s report, parliamentarians expressed doubt over efforts by North Africa’s sub-regional bloc to investigate reports on African migrants being sold into slavery.
They particularly voiced concern over requests by Tunisia toact as an observer country, and Morocco’s desire to be a member of ECOWAS in spiteof reported abuse against African migrantsin both countries.
De Souza urged member states to condemn the abuse of African citizens in Libya, disclosing that the bloc had commenced assessment of the situation and had sought assistance from the international community to repatriate and reintegrate citizens. He added: We do not know how many of our youths are in Libya or where all of them are because we understand that some of them are being held in different detention centres. We do not have enough funds to go to Libya and bring them, so wehave written to the International Organisation for Migration for immediate and urgent assistance.“We are still trying to stop the tide of youths flowing northwards.
We have to keep them (youths) by giving them reasons to stay and find decent living. But if we continue this trend with very little funds, there is also very little we can do. We are constantly engaging our donors to immediately do something for us.”