Abuja — Director-general of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, has alerted the Nigerian authorities and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament of imminent xenophobia on trafficked Nigerians in Mali.
The NAPTIP boss noted that Malian women were already grumbling that Nigerian girls were taking their men, stoking fears of imminent xenophobic attacks.
The development came on the heels of the resolution by the ECOWAS Parliament to visit the controversial mining region of Mali to free Nigerians held in sex slavery and exploitation.
NAPTIP raised the alarm on the floor of the parliament while presenting the report of the fact-finding team that visited the North African country to assess the human trafficking situation and work out modalities of evacuating the victims.
The fact-finding team led by the DG visited Mali early this year and came back with heart-rending report on the exploitation of trafficked Nigerians in Mali.
Apparently disturbed by the ugly development, the parliament had invited the NAPTIP boss to brief members on the situation, to enable it take action.
In her presentation, Okah-Donli said: "The scourge of human trafficking is a clear and present danger that threatens human and national security of member states.
"Unfortunately, many of these victims are first incubated in sex and labour camps in various member states of ECOWAS.
"The fact-finding mission and my own visit to Mali in December 2018 and March 2019 respectively painted a very gory picture of the situation of possibly hundreds of thousands of victims of sex trafficking within the sub-region
"Nigerian girls are trafficked mainly to the mining areas in the south and central parts of Mali, but substantial number is trafficked to rebel-held areas in the north, where they become radicalised.
"They are treated as slaves and less than second-class citizens by Malians, including law enforcement agents. Most of the madams force the victims to sleep with numerous men without any protection, hence the high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and other ailments among the victim-community."
"Malian authorities collect 'taxes' from the victims on a weekly basis, and sell condoms and other medications compulsorily to the victims every month."
One of the conclusions from the visits is the need for a regional approach to addressing the problem through legislative reviews and deliberate actions by the ECOWAS Parliament and the ECOWAS Commission, she said.
In his response, speaker of the parliament, Moustapher Cisse Lo, described the situation as heart-rending and requires urgent action from member states.