Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF) blazed the trail in the fight against illicit trading in persons in Nigeria and would soon be marking its 19th year in existence. WOTCLEF Founder, Mrs Amina Titi Atiku Abubakar, speaks on how the idea was conceptualised while playing host to a women political group in Abuja. CHIZOBA OGBECHE reports.
With the return of democracy in 1999 the populace had high expectation from the democratically elected government having endured long years of military dictatorship. The innovation of Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF) by Mrs Amina Titi Atiku Abubakar, who was the wife of the Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, was a welcome development.
Speaking during a meeting with a delegation from the Women Wing of the New Nigeria Vision Group (NNVG), a pro-Atiku group, which conferred on her the Award of Mother of Inestimable Value, she disclosed that her experience as a mother and teachers greatly motivated her to set up the Foundation.
According to her, “As a teacher some of students shared their experiences with me. I also used to hear about young girls travelling to Rome until I travelled to Rome to further my studies.
“The experience was not a good one. We, those of us with the green passports, were the last to be screened and we were transported separately too.
“During my stay I always noticed a lot of our girls on the streets and I later discovered that most of them were deceived by the ‘madams’ to come to Rome with the impression that the streets are paved with free money. The same also obtained in many other European countries.
“I also discovered that the madams use voodoo rites to instill fear in these girls so that all their proceeds will go to them. So have to work for as long as 10 years before gaining their freedom.”
Speaking further she said that, “It is worth noting that the first 144 girls that were repatriated from Italy were escorted by 70 security operatives because of the reluctance of the girls to return to the country.”
She said that the Foundation received the girls and a re-integration and counselling programme held for them for assistance after reuniting with their families.
“It was discovered that most of the girls travelled under false identity and many had contracted HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”
She explained that: “When the Foundation started, it seemed strange because a lot of people were not aware of the menace; however, it was applauded and appreciated in Europe and other parts of the world.”
It would be recalled that Mrs. Abubakar had convened a National Workshop on human trafficking which was attended by wives of governors, Local Government chairmen, civil society organizations, as well as representatives of state and federal government agencies.
The workshop revealed the menacing level of this scourge in Nigeria and led to the foundation of WOTCLEF which was registered as an Incorporated Trusteeship by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Similarly, an Anti-Trafficking Bill Drafting Committee was inaugurated under the chairmanship of Justice Mary Odili with the objective of drafting a private bill harmonizing the various laws on human trafficking in Nigeria, using the United Nations Protocol as a model.
Mrs Abubakar reminded her audience that WOTCLEF in 2001 submitted the Draft Bill, which was the first Private Bill submitted to the National Assembly in the Fourth Republic.
She noted that the Bill was signed into law by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and provided for the establishment of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP).
The Founder, WOTCLEF, who also disclosed that the Foundation had been granted a Special Consultative Status by the United Nations, maintained that WOTCLEF has remained actively involved in counselling and rehabilitating victims of the illicit trade.
She said that some of those rescued by the Foundation have completed primary, secondary and tertiary education while some have become employers of Labour.
Mrs Abubakar vowed to do even more if her husband is elected as president in the 2019 general elections.
Leader of the NNVG delegation andNational Woman Leader of the group, Ms Evelyn Onyilo, while speaking on the group’s mission said that the group was visiting her as a mother to discuss with her.
She said that the award was being conferred on her in recognition of her contributions to national development, especially towards curbing women trafficking and child labour.
She said that Mrs Abubakar, who was also decorated as NNVG’s Grand Matron, operated an open-door policy as wife of the vice president and has continued to work with women even after leaving office.
Ms Onyilo explained that the group which was initiated on November 5, 2016, with the main objective of seeking ways to move the country forward, has massive network across the country.
She disclosed that NNVG had visited the Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in November 2017, and identified with his vision and aspiration based on the conviction that he has what it takes to move the country forward, even while he was still in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Speaking further, the woman leader said that the group has since continued to mobilise support for his candidature and expressed hope that with his emergence as PDP candidate Nigerians, especially women and youths, will support him to actualise his vision for the country.
She pledged the readiness of the group to rally support for Atiku, especially at the grassroots given NNVG’s “formidable structures.”
While appreciating the group for the award, Mrs Atiku commended their efforts, noting that for NNVG’s vision and mission must be well articulated for the group to have been in existence since 2016.
According to her, the dream is being actualised with the first hurdle having been successfully scaled at the tough PDP primary election.
She said it was now time to work even more assiduously, night and day, just as she noted that more women and youths vote during elections hence the need for the group to use its structure to mobilise those at the grassroots.
“The dream is actualising today. Though primaries were tough but God did it. One hurdle is down and another is before us. We have to work assiduously night and day.
“We know that during elections women and youths, especially at the grassroots, vote more than any other group. These women and youths are at the wards and local areas. So, your solid structure is a welcome development.
“As you campaign there is need to sensitise the people on the need to have their PVCs, which is our passport that will speak for us.
“INEC has been talking about uncollected PVCs. We need to encourage the registered voters to collect their PVCs because it will determine where we are going,” she said.