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Tackling Sex-For-Gold Enterprises

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There were startling revelations recently on how Nigerian girls were used as sex slaves in some West African countries. The Director-General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, let the cat out of the bag when she said that over 20,000 Nigerian girls were in Mali working as sex slaves.
Nigerian Ambassador to Burkina Faso, Ramatu Ahmed, re-echoed that over 10,000 Nigerian girls were working as sex slaves in that country.
Those who commented on the issue decried the resurgence of slavery, that was abolished in 1833, via the Slavery Abolition Act, in another guise and called for urgent measures to tackle this menace headlong.
Some time last year, Okah-Donli disclosed that over 20,000 Nigerian girls were in Mali working as sex slaves.
Addressing the ECOWAS Parliament, she said that the girls were sold for between N210,000 and N240,000 and expected to pay back about N1.2million through sex slaving before regaining their freedom.
She told the parliament. “Some of the girls arrived in their school uniforms, meaning that they were kidnapped on their way to or from school.
“There are more than one million Nigerians residing in Mali; about 20,000 of these Nigerians are girls believed to be victims of trafficking and the number increases by 50 per day.
“Many victims are deceived to leave their livelihoods in Nigeria for greener pastures in Mali.
“Some of the victims were abducted from Nigeria, including those that arrived in their school uniforms,” she said.
Okah-Donli who led a fact-finding mission to Mali disclosed that though the girls were forced into sex slavery; after regaining their freedom, they decided to become “madams of their own to deal in new girls.’’
She said that some of the girls were unwilling to return to Nigeria as they were now used to the “sex for gold trade.’’
Okah-Donli said that many of the victims who were rescued in 2011 and some others in 2017 came back to Nigeria, only to return with more girls.
“The traffic madams are well known to the Nigerian community, but they are afraid to report them because of the complicity of the Malian security agencies, especially the gendarmerie that assist the traffickers to carry out their activities.
“Nigerian victims are way-billed from a motor-park in Cotonou, dropped at Sikasso near the border with Burkina Faso, from where they are picked by Malian gendarmerie for delivery to their madams.
“The Malian authorities collect taxes from the victims on a weekly basis and sell condoms and other medications compulsorily to their victims every month.
“Malian women are already grumbling that Nigerian girls are taking their men and there are fears of imminent xenophobic attacks.
“Three Nigerian girls were killed between November and December 2018,’’ Okah-Donli said.
Ahmed, in her testimony said that the sex trade business has become a source of serious concern to the Nigerian Embassy in Burkina Faso.
She said that the girls were deceived with job opportunities only to arrive and discover that they must go through the horror of sex slaving.
“The spate of human trafficking here in Burkina Faso is a big concern to the embassy because at present, we have nothing less than 10,000 Nigerian girls who have been trafficked into Burkina Faso as commercial sex workers.
Ahmed said that the embassy was partnering the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) office in Ouagadougou to assist in the voluntary repatriation of victims of trafficking.
She said that: “200 girls have been repatriated to Nigeria  by the embassy,  this is apart from the ones that ran to the churches , some to other Civil Society Organisations(CSOs) and the International Organisations on Migration (IOM).’’
Beyond repatriation, Ahmed insists that Nigerian parents must play their role by closely monitoring their children, so that they are not swayed into accepting deceitful promises of greener pastures abroad.
For the anti-trafficking agency, a multi-stakeholders approach has been adopted with a recent partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to establish a taskforce to fight human trafficking.
To check trafficking of girls for sex slavery, Okah-Donli recommended among other things, that Nigeria should sign a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) with Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Guinea and Senegal.
“There is need for comprehensive sensitisation of rescued victims before repatriation and a comprehensive blueprint worked out for tracing, empowerment and rehabilitation of victims,” Okah-Donli said.
The NAPTIP boss also suggested that the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods should be properly implemented such that other nationals are not harassed in other ECOWAS countries.
Nwoko writes for News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Ifeanyi Nwoko

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Group Spoils 600 Ikwerre Widows In Rivers

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Over 600 widows recently received the goodwill from the Ikwerre Community Association of California, United States of America as part of the group’s mandate.
Tagged, ‘Ikwerre Widows Project’, the association reached out to the widows in Rivers State as a way of putting smiles on the faces of the widows and other less privileged women from the Ikwerre ethnic nationality.
To this end, members of the association recently visited widows in Rumuewhor and Eli-Brada Communities all in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State with food items.
Presenting the food items to one of the happiest widows in Rumuewhor, the association’s representative in Rivers State and Coordinator of the group, Dr Christiana Chukumati, said that the association remains sensitive to the plights of the less privileged in the society, especially the poor widows.
In an interview with The Tide at Eli-Brada Community, Dr (Mrs) Christiana Chukumati said the yearly visit to Ikwerre widows in their various communities was designed to demonstrate the determination of the association to give back to the society, adding that the gesture had been part of ways the Ikwerres in California positively give back to the society.
your father or mother, you have killed your past life. If you kill yourself, you have killed your present life but if you kill children you have killed your future, so if they are not properly guided on time, they will go astray”.
Maintaining that education is key to developing the society, she remarked that if these children are engaged in meaningful ventures, the society would be free of crime, kidnapping and criminality, for an idle mind, she said, is the devil’s workshop.
She therefore, advised parents and elders to collectively put their efforts together to train up children in the way of God so as to attract peace and harmony among the people of the community. She reiterated that it is only when good training is given to children, that youth restiveness, crime and criminal activities are curbed in the society at large.
While she appealed to Ikwerres in California not to relent in their God-given-vision, she called on well-meaning individuals in the state and country at large to emulate the gesture and replicate same to other widows, as well as build up Rivers State instead of helping to run it down
Also speaking, another California representative in Rivers State, Pastor Constance Walker, who commended the efforts of Ikwerre brothers and sisters in California at keeping the initiative afloat since its inception, charged the beneficiaries to undertake meaningful ventures in order to maintain their dignity and be able to cater for their children.
Citing Proverbs 22:6, the cleric enjoined widows to seek God’ wisdom in the training of their children so that when they are old, they will never depart from it.” She thanked the leaders of the two communities for the warm receptions accorded them.
Walker stressed on the need for women to be calm in times of trouble and pray for continuous peace in their communities in order to engender development, nothing that Ogbakor Ikwerre in California would do all they can to continuously support widows if peace continues to exist in Ikwerre communities.
One of the widows, Mrs Mary Okpara, in tears, commended the initiative, saying it is a good thing for the rich to remember the poor, especially at celebration season, but regrets that they have hardly received anything from anyone except from Ogbakor Ikwerre California.
She said: “This is the first time we are witnessing this kind of gesture, where widows who have been forgotten are remembered for good and given hope. God must bless this our people in California.”
Beneficiaries could not hold back their joy as they thanked and prayed for their people in California and their representatives in the state.
Also speaking to The Tide, one of the beneficiaries and leader of the widows, Mrs Wikpe Josephine, thanked the Ogbakor Ikwerre in California for putting smiles on their faces and prayed that God continues to preserve and keep them alive to do more for them.
In her reactions, the coordinator of the widows, Mrs Helen Njigwum, said she was so glad that she could comfortably say that the days of begging during Christmas was over and extends her good will message to those in California, praying that celebration departs not from their households.
Another beneficiary, Mrs Happiness Ebulu recounted how she had been through rough times to the point that family meals was difficult to achive.
The Tide observed that in the two communities visited, the beneficiaries could not contain their joy as they broke into singing, jumping and dancing around the California representatives to express their gratitude.
In their separate reactions, the Nyeweli Rumuowhor, His Royal Highness (HRH), Oha Ikechi Igbukwu, expressed joy over the kind gestures shown by brothers and sisters in California.
Igbukwu added that the gesture was a welcome development, remarking that the visit availed the widows another opportunity of togetherness as well as put smiles on their faces.
He noted that he was excited when he received their letter on the planned visit to Rumuwhor, adding that the food items given to the widows was a big relief for Rumuowhor leadership.
Also in his response, the Acting Paramount Ruler of Eli-Brada, Ohar Abel Obilor, thanked the group for remembering widows in Eli-Brada, wishing that they do more. He prayed that God enlarge their coast to continue to reach out to the poor in the society.

 

Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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Promoting Beauty In Traditional Attires

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It is often said that women are more conspicous when it comes to fashion. This is so because they take out time to match colours to suit any occasion. Call it child dedication, wedding ceremonies, thanksgiving of every calibre, women are careful enough to select fabrics and colours that leave admirers wondering what heavenly creation is manifested on earth.
Due to the special attention they attach to fashion at every given moment, women have carved a niche for themselves as better handlers of fashion than their male counterparts. Today, you can hardly identify the true cultural background of some ladies by their attires.
The liberalisation culture of the fashion industry may have aided in the cross breeding attitude recently embibed in the fashion theatre, thereby enabling access to all into originally customised and traditionally based styles.
Leveraging on the current trend in the fashion world, Chioma Ubor (alias ADA OC), who recently tied the traditional nuptial knot with her heartthrob, Pastor Promise Nsiegbe, both of Ikwerre background, decided to do it the Kalabari way.
In her deep dark complexioned skin, every onlooker would have adjuged Chioma Ubor to have either hailed from Kalabari or Abua. Her emergence in a Kalabari attire on her traditional wedding helped to confuse her audience the more into believing that the Omerelu-born Ikwerre daughter was actually a Kalabari.
Although the choice of her traditional wedding attire added colour to the event, for Chioma, it was not just about the dressing, but an opportunity to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Rivers State. Ofcourse, as a fashion designer, being a practitioner in the industry with over a decade experience, it was not a difficult decision to make.
To some people, it is fashion on the parade, if not, why should a typical Ikwerre woman be donned in riverine attire on her traditional wedding day? But for others, it is an advent of urban life to the rural area, or a mere display of her talent as a designer.
However, such pattern of dressing, according to her, was to encourage unity in diversity.
She further explained that fashion is another modern peace weapon with the centrifugal force to bind people together.
She explained that the dynamism associated with fashion is another reason why no particular people or group could claim total ownership of any fashion and its design.
She believed that those who bother to claim ownership of any fashion may have in one way or the other copied it from another tribe centuries ago.
Come to think of that, several tribes in the country have a way of respecting or showing love to any one donned in their respective traditional attires, should such be sighted at any place other than their place of origin.
She explained that for those in business, being cladded in other’s traditional attires has a special way of attracting customers in a systematic way. The fashion designer cum stylist, reasoned that such “intentional mistake”, has the power to bring customers.
In her definition of fashion, Chioma said: “It is any dress style that could give the individual the needed fitness or match, irrespective of the season.”
For her, fashion must not necessarily mean that which is en vogue and worn by sundry members of the public, but that which can give or put the wearers in a relaxed frame of mind each time they are donned on it.
Imagining the exorbitant price of materials and its designs in recent time, Chioma charges ladies, especially brides in the making to consider their financial strength before deciding on a particular style of traditional or white wedding attire to make.
The Ada Omerelu (now Ada Rumuwoji), refused to support the idea of postponing occasions like traditional weddings or child dedication ceremonies on grounds of inability to afford a choice or ‘reigning’ material to match the occasion.
She said such has a way of discouraging men, who, she said are impatient. For her, the best approach to adopt, is to embrace the situation and take bold step by appearing in the very available material or fashion.
Chioma, the designer of her own traditional wedding attire, calls on young ladies to make themselves available and indulge in those trades that have the capacity to address some immediate/ daily need of the family.
She pointed out that her family could not spend much in sewing, since there is a ready hand in the family. Citing children’s school wears, Christmas and other festivities, she said that the only thing that will drain the family funds is the purchase of the materials.
She maintained that funds are the basic tool needed for family growth and so, must be jealously saved or frugally spent. The stylist further called on ladies to embrace the fashion industry, due to its juicy nature.
In our own clime, adorning oneself in traditional attire is gradually becoming an issue of cross pollination. People dress in traditional attires regardless of cultural background.
Those days, it was rare to see a northerner donned in any attire apart from his or her known traditional attire. But today, it is a common sight to see a southerner fully cladded with northern traditional attire and vice versa, as if to say, “I won’t be left behind”.

 

King Onunwor

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Rivers Council Moves To Stop Violence Against Women

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Following the realization of the fact that violence against women stops girls from reaching their potentials, Eleme Local Government Council has decided to put an end to gender-based violence.
This was demonstrated in a programme it organised in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Women Affairs, in order to join the international communities that are working hard to transform attitudes towards perpetrating violence against women and girls.
As part of ways to increase more awareness on the rise in gender-based violence in Nigeria and to put an end to it, the local government Chairman, Hon Philip Okparaji, took campaign to his locality so as to put an end to the dreaded scourge.
Speaking during the programme titled: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV) with the theme, “OrangeThe World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape”, last Tuesday, at Eleme LGA, the Chairman of the occasion and wife of the Eleme LGA Chairman, Hon Elera Phillip Okparaji, decried the patriarchal culture of the country which she said has become a global issue of discourse among the Eleme people as its negative activities are predominantly carried out on girls and women.
Mrs Okparaji listed some obnoxious practices carried out on girls and women as follows: Female Genital Mutilation, and forcing widows to drink water used in bathing their late husbands, shaving their heads as well as forcing them to get married to their late husbands’ brothers among others.
She appealed to all those still engaged in these obnoxious activities to stop, adding that such practices increase the victims’ chances of being vulnerable to diseases as well as making the young girls more promiscuous.
Mrs Okparaji stated that violence against women robs them of their self esteem. She expressed hope that the marking of the 16 Days of Activism Against violence and rape on women and girls in Eleme would finally put an end to it in the LGA, state, and country at large.
Also speakaing on the topic:” Gender-Based Violence Against Women And Girls, the Role of The Media”, The Treasurer, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State, Mrs Serekara-Nwikhana Susan, explained that the the media have numerous roles to play beginning with creating awareness on the negative implications of GBV and rape on girls and women so as to put an end to them.
Nwikhana stated that guardians to victims and victims themselves must ensure they break the silence by speaking out, adding that when you speak out the evil will be reduced, but refusing to speak out spreads the evil the more as perpetrators go Scot free.
Also speaking on the negative effect of Rape On women and Girls, Chief Dorathy Casca Ogosu one of the resource persons, stated that rape is condemnable crime, which culprit should be made to face 14 years imprisonment as a result of trauma and stigmatisation caused the victim.
Ogosu listed the negative effects of rape as Physical, mental and psychological, adding that the remedy to rape cases is early report to the police for immediate action.
Another resource person from National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mrs Charity Godchild, singled out homes as one major place where girls and young women often experience Gender-Based Violence which ranges from physical punishment to sexual, emotional and psychological harm.
She noted that acceptance of violence as a private affair often prevents others from intervening and prohibits girls and young women from reporting, she reiterated the need to break the silence and speak out against this dreaded scourge.
Charity also mentioned the school as a place where girls experience violence from sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation, adding that this violation of Girls’ Rights, especially when committed by those in position of care or authority, can impact on girls’ ability to continue and complete their education.
The NOA representative added that GBV occurs in all parts of the world, but the risk is higher where violence is normalized and where rigid concepts agenda exist, remarking that in many cultures, violence towards girls and young women is accepted as a social norm, but when it happens to the men it becomes political.
She maintained that this must be challenged as a matter of urgency especially in this part of the world where it is seen as a patriarchal issue, adding that the blame game, shame and stigma faced by victims must be eliminated as soon as possible.
Another speaker on Rape from the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Rivers State, Barr Dada Dibiah stressed that girls must never be held responsible for the violence against them as it a sole responsibility of the perpetuator, who must be held accountable according to National or International Legislation.

 

By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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