MEN of the Nigerian Army have intercepted and rescued fourteen minors from the claws of human traffickers while three suspected human traffickers were arrested in the process.
Both the victims and suspected traffickers were handed over to the operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP).
A statement issued on Tuesday in Abuja by NAPTIP and signed by Nneka Aniagoh, said the victims, aged between three and thirteen years, comprising nine females and five males, were crammed into an eight-seater, Alhambra Sedan, with Plateau state registration number: JJN 964XB, where they struggled for space.
She disclosed that preliminary investigation revealed that the victims were taken from Riom Local Government Area of Plateau state, and on their way to Ekpoma, Edo State before they were intercepted and rescued.
Aniagoh, said the suspects, two females- Evelyn Jerry, 27 years old, Stephen Rebecca, 30 years old, and Mr. Richard Patrick, 38 years old, were intercepted by men of the Nigerian Army on official duty in Lokoja, Kogi state, and handed over to the Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) Lokoja, before they were subsequently handed over to NAPTIP.
According to NAPTIP, the suspects, who are from the same town with the victims, confessed that they were taking the children to Ekpoma where they would be distributed to various households, for labour purposes.
The statement indicated that the suspects claimed that the parents of the 14 children gave them consent to take the children and send them to various households for domestic labour.
Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli, reacting to the development, expressed her sincere appreciation to the officers of the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Immigration Services for their contributory efforts in the interception, rescue and hand-over of the victims and suspects.
According to her, “This is what the National referral mechanism, being put in place by NAPTIP and relevant organisations, aims to achieve. There needs to be a synergy in our collaboration towards the elimination of human trafficking from Nigeria.”
Dame Julie Okah-Donli used this opportunity to warn the general public that the Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015, prohibits the employment of children below the age of twelve as domestic workers, and warned that those found culpable will be severely dealt with.
The NAPTIP DG also added that “such acts fuel the incidences of child exploitative labour, and the Agency would not tolerate such abuse on our children, and the suspects will definitely be charged to the court upon the completion of preliminary investigations.”