Sokoto — The prevalence of child trafficking and the growing need to ensure protection of vulnerable children in the society, has been of immense concern to many.
However, as part of efforts towards safeguarding such children, a transit camp has been established for rescued victims of child trafficking in Sokoto.
It was established at Illela, a border area of Sokoto with Niger Republic, by the West African Network for the protection of Children on the Move, (WAN).
Speaking at the inauguration, National Coordinator (North) WAN Nigeria Abdulganiyu Abubakar explained that the transit camp would serve as a temporary home for children before being taken to their parents.
"The camp will provide temporary accommodation for vulnerable children on transit while arrangements are made to transfer them to NAPTIP office in Sokoto and to trace their families with whom to be united."
He explained "sometimes because these children are exhausted, they need to have a place where they can take rest, where you can counsel them, give them confidence that they are back, give them confidence that they are going to be re-united with their families."
Abubakar added "the shelter here will enable us keep this children for some time, they will interact with our social workers who will give them the necessary support they require before they are re- integrated to their families."
According to him, the network in collaboration with NAPTIP Sokoto Zonal office has identified, counseled and re-integrated over 160 vulnerable children and adolescents since April 2011 when the partnership in Nigeria became operational.
Nigeria is said to be the 10th member country to be integrated into the initiative launched by the Swiss foundation of the International Social Service to enhance the protection, return and reintegration of trafficked and vulnerable children on the move.
The National Coordinator (North) WAN Nigeria, said 12 countries of the sub region are already working on the issue, adding that the network aims to reduce the movement related risk for children in West Africa, Europe and elsewhere.
"The network collaborates with key actors like government agencies, civil society groups and other stakeholders to identify care and support as well as re-integrate vulnerable children back to their families and communities", he stated.
The beneficiaries of the network, he revealed, include children and youth in vulnerable situations such as young failed migrants, victims of human trafficking and all other forms of abuse identified across West Africa.
"As more children are received from our collaborating partners across the sub region particularly on the Illela-Birnin Koni Border axis, the need for continuous counseling and protection of vulnerable children according to the network standard becomes more imperative", he noted.
Zonal Head of the National Agency for the Prohibition of trafficking, Mr Stephen Naduku, who commissioned the centre, commended the organization for the initiative.
Speaking to Sunday Trust on the prevailing situation of human trafficking, he said with the collaboration of relevant stakeholders and public enlightenment programmes, people are now much more aware of the menace.
He however added "But day in, day out the traffickers keep employing strange ways, but so far, it is like it is reducing because we are catching and penalizing them."
The NAPTIP Zonal Head said as part of efforts to stem the tide of human trafficking, workshops were organized for law enforcement agencies including the police, immigration and State Security Services posted to the border.
"These are ways we are feeding our men with new ideas on how to track them down, trying to block routes that are porous here and there."
Naduku identified poverty as the major reason why people are into trafficking.
"Some are into it because they feel they have no job, some are not satisfied with the job they are into and some of the people are cajoled into it. People listen to false stories. The victims are always women and children, they are the most vulnerable and they are the ones who always fall victim, at times they are not used to the tricks but we are trying to sensitize the public, stakeholders.
People are beginning to be aware of our activities. Initially people didn't know, they were not aware but now with our efforts in sensitization, they are beginning to be aware of these tricks. When we sensitize, we open their eyes to see that the stories which they have been hearing but have doubts, are real. We give them practical cases of experiences we have come across, cases that we have handled here. So by the time someone comes to them with false stories, it triggers their mind towards the sensitization programme that they have participated in. So it is really helping and it is working for us."
He however stressed the need for government at all levels to ensure the provision of jobs to help in curtailing the menace.