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IOM engages religious, traditional leaders to combat irregular migration, trafficking

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The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has called on religious, traditional leaders and government agencies to join IOM’s efforts in combating irregular migration, human trafficking and smuggling in Nigeria.

Mr Frantz Celestin, Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, made the call on Tuesday in Abuja at a news conference following a two-day high-level sensitisation workshop organised for traditional and religious leaders.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that the workshop was organised by IOM with the theme “Promoting safe migration practices and supporting reintegration on returning migrants”.

Celestin said a recent survey revealed that religious and traditional leaders commanded respect, were well trusted by their followers; and messages from them had great impact.

According to him, the workshop also aims to inform religious and traditional leaders of the dangers of irregular migration so that when dealing with their subjects, they would know the best approach.

He explained that these included educating them on the dynamics the traffickers and smugglers were using and how the knowledge could be used to counter them.

“What necessitated this meeting is that we have seen in the past few years an increasing numbers of people risking their lives to find greener pastures.

“We believe that because the traditional and religious leaders command such respect and trust within their communities, they would be the proper messengers to carry the message.

“Educate those who may want to go through irregular routes and put the fear in the minds of smugglers and traffickers.

“We actually did a study not too long ago and found out that 63 per cent of the people polled trusted traditional rulers more than anybody else.

“So if the messages are coming from them, we are more likely to get that message received,’’ Celestin said.

He disclosed that IOM had set up a follow up plan where it would go from community to community to see how the royal fathers and religious leaders had succeeded in convincing their subjects.

Speaking at the event, Mrs Ifueko Aideyan-Okovo, Executive Secretary, Oba Ewuare 2 Foundation, said that the Oba of Benin had carried out several interventions to combat irregular migration in Edo state.

Aideyan-Okovo said that one of the most effective interventions was the revoking of curses on already trafficked victims and placing of curses on traffickers and smugglers who continued in the trade.

She said that after the Oba’s pronouncement, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person (NAPTIP) had recorded good numbers of prosecutions with trafficked victims already speaking up.

“His royal Majesty’s foundation has done a lot of sensitisation, empowerment, entrepreneurship skills and providing employment.

“We are sitting here together to get best strategies to put in place that will be implemented in respective communities, build sustainable partnership with IOM and how best we can help our people.

“His royal majesty has spent over N16 million of his own finance in empowering returnees, the Edo state Task Force under the governor has also done the same.

“We are going back to the basics because one of the primary goals we have in the foundation is taking the sensitisation to the grassroots.

“We have gone out of the state, we have gone to Libya, Italy and other countries to sensitise Nigerians and to reiterate the Oba’s pronouncements so that traffickers can desist from such trade,” Aideyan-Okovo said.

Earlier, Apostle Rowel Omoro, representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Edo State Chapter, said that the workshop had further educated them on the dynamics of irregular migration and how to intervene.

Omoro said that after the Oba’s pronouncement, Edo State chapter of CAN invited all the pastors and warned them against collaborating with traffickers and to preach the gospel in the right perspective.

He called on IOM to continue partnering with CAN in its fight against irregular migration.

Similarly, Sheik Enabuible Abdulfataih, Chief Imam of Edo State, said the Islamic community remained committed to working with IOM and government to reduce irregular migration to the barest minimum.

According to Abdulfatah, the community will never relent in sensitising Muslims during sermons in Mosques and other gatherings on the dangers of irregular migration.

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