Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, on Saturday said the Federal Government is working hard to evacuate some 30 girls featured in a viral video from Lebanon.
In the viral video, the ladies were clustered in a room, seated in a tight circle, their backs against the wall. Some stood and one of them could be seen fanning herself.
They all wore face masks or covered their faces as a voice boomed in the background. “Good morning our government,” the voice started. “Please, we are pleading with you, we are stranded . . . we want to come home.”
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Okah-Donli, in two separate interviews with Channels Television on Saturday, said the girls are part of 150 persons already processed for evacuation by the Nigerian embassy in Lebanon.
“About 150 of them have been captured, including the girls in the video, for evacuation,” Okah-Donli said.
But the cost of chartering a flight amid coronavirus-induced lock-downs across the world “is not cheap,” the NAPTIP chief added.
“When these ones are airlifted, another batch will cry for help,” she said. “The Federal Government can not fund this alone.”
Okah-Donli said she will meet with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq on Monday and work with State Governments to help facilitate the evacuation of the ladies.
Lebanon is mired in its worst economic crisis in decades, with the downturn sparking soaring inflation and plunging almost half the country’s population into poverty.
However many Nigerians are being trafficked into the country with the promise of good, well-paid jobs.
In a later interview with Channels Television, Okah-Donli noted that the Federal Government has already taken steps to ensure the girls’ well-being.
“Where they are staying now, the Nigerian embassy in Lebanon put them there, at least kept them in a safe space,” she said.
“They are not just folding their hands and playing; they are working hard with the Nigerian government here and the relevant partners to bring them back; and we will bring them back, just as we’ve been bringing girls back from all over the world.
“A few weeks ago, we had a planeload of girls coming from Lebanon. So this is not a one-off exercise; it’s a gradual work in progress because we have about 5,000 of them there in Lebanon alone; and we are talking about more in Oman, Dubai, Mali, all over the place.
“It’s not a cheap exercise; it’s a very expensive exercise and the federal government is doing all it can to bring them back.”