Human Trafficking and the Lure of Free Visas: Who regulates Nigeria’s travel operators?

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Are newspapers like Complete Sports overlooking the public good by carrying adverts that are questionable in intention?

Are newspapers like Complete Sports overlooking the public good by carrying adverts that are questionable in intention?

Open today’s Complete Sports newspaper, Nigeria’s biggest sports daily, and you are confronted by adverts promising travelers work and sweet pay in Dubai and Turkey, as long as you have an international passport.

An advertiser even sweetens the deal with the headline: “First time ever, Pay back in Dubai!!! Get a 2years Dubai visa + Ticket. This batch is for WOMEN only. The minimum salary is N150,000, graduates or skilled (artisans) get more, pay back the money spent on you abroad,” as he lures Nigerians into the world of shady travel as many seek to escape a country where good jobs are increasingly hard to come by and living day to day brings with it troubles and uncertainty.

So I called up the number on the bottom of the advert saying I intend to send a younger sister abroad in order to make money for the family.

“It is nanny work,” responds the man, who confidently tells me the visa will be issued to my fictional sister.

When I talk about the fear of turning women into prostitutes during the trip, he responds: “I can’t lie to you, I’m a good Christian. I don’t deal with things like that.

“The visa will be out in a month,” he assures.

Despite Dubai's stringent new immigration rules, adverts like this promise easy money

Despite Dubai’s stringent new immigration rules, adverts like this promise easy money

Another advert promises jobs, “free ticket, free accommodation, free feeding, free medical and four years permit” to work at American military bases in Spain and Turkey among many other offers.

In broad daylight, Nigerians are asked to surrender their freedom to traffickers on the pages of major newspapers.

In a time when human trafficking is such a big deal, shady deals are advertised in broad daylight inside Nigerian newspapers to lure desperate individuals who are thirsty for a better life and the promise of heaven on earth in foreign countries.

Who is monitoring these activities?

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) oversees all issues pertaining to illegal travel.

When I called their Lagos zonal office, a female officer told me they are regularly monitoring the media and doing underground investigations.

However, she wasn’t aware of today’s publication in the Complete Sports.

“We will get [the paper] and do our own underground investigation,” she said.

How often do they sweep the media for open advertisements like these?

“We do, we have our own ways of doing this kind of thing. But this one that you said, I don’t know maybe the people in investigations have any hint about it. So I will get across to the Zonal Commander,” she said.

As long as implausible offers of travel to foreign lands continue to be allowed in the media, Nigerians will continue to fall prey to human traffickers.

Let’s hope they bell these cats.

Emmateks

Promise of work and free living in Turkey and Spain could lure unsuspecting Nigerians

Do you have a human trafficking tip off? Call the Lagos NAPTIP office: 07080601801. Email: infolagos@naptip.gov.ng

African artistes keep silent as Kwazulu-Natal Kingdom, scene of recent xenophobic attacks, hosts MTVBase Awards

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Rappers Jesse Jagz and MI perform on stage at the Afropolitan Vibes at Freedom Park, Lagos on April 17, 2015. Photo by Lolade Adewuyi

Rappers Jesse Jagz and MI perform on stage at the Afropolitan Vibes at Freedom Park, Lagos on April 17, 2015. Photo by Lolade Adewuyi

In April 2015, the King of Zulu Land made a speech that denounced immigrants to South Africa as taking jobs from locals.

This speech increased tensions between locals and foreigners which led to the killing of more than 50 immigrants, the looting of their shops and destruction of their livelihood in the townships around Durban, the coastal Indian Ocean city that is known for its pristine beaches and eclectic mix of races.

The xenophobic violence spread across the country to as far as the commercial capital Johannesburg with foreigners needing to stay in shelters in order to secure their lives.

All over the continent, we watched our TV screens in shock as black people descended on other black people with knobkerries, stones and knives.

It was like a scene out of Phillip Saville’s 1987 ‘Mandela’ movie – this time, instead of white policemen chasing down blacks in townships, it was black citizens hunting down and destroying businesses and homes owned by black immigrants.

The actions of this hate-filled group led to international uproar and the threat of sanctions against South African businesses as well as the threat to report King Goodwill Zwelithini to the International Criminal Court.

Many artistes, singers and actors spoke out against the killings which threatened the relations of South Africa with their neighbours whose citizens were killed.

Continental music channel MTVBase Africa is set to hold its fifth Africa Music Awards (MAMAs) in Durban on July 18, less than five months since those attacks on African immigrants.

The Awards, the second time in the city, are being supported by the Kwazulu Kingdom and would showcase the culture of the Zulus and their King.

Yet no artiste has spoken about the horrors of the recent past.

Have we suddenly forgotten the outrage of April and the way Africans were treated by the Zulu people?

What kind of conscience do we have as a people, as a race, as a continent?

Major artistes like 2Face Idibia, Diamond Platinumz, Davido, Yemi Alade and Wizkid are all billed to perform at this event that is supposed to celebrate African music, culture and unity in a land that recently consumed African migrants without apology.

With music increasingly uniting the continent – we have seen an increase in collaboration between artistes across the continent like never before – yet musicians are not doing enough to pass the message that they stand up against hate.

It is not enough for Mafikizolo to enter the studio with MayD and sing “Happiness”, they must also speak out against the perpetrators of sorrow.

Our big time music acts need to take a stand against Durban’s playing host to the awards this year otherwise they would be guilty of being part of the crime against other Africans.

While the African acts have kept quiet, US artistes Ne-Yo, Jhene Aiko, Young Thug and host comedian Anthony Anderson have also not seemed perturbed by the recent history of the city.

With the recent public denouncement of prejudice by American billionaire Donald Trump, we know that this would not have happened if it was in the West.

However, this is Africa where its people are not worth much to the world.

To attend the awards on July 18 is to thumb up the hate of the Kwazulu king and a sod off to every African immigrant who lived through weeks of agony and fear for their lives in the heady days of April on the streets of Durban.

African artistes must stand up against hate, unfortunately they are failing.

How social media helped Ondo State counter #IreleOutbreak scare

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Dr Dayo Adeyanju talks about the impact of social media on public health

Dr Dayo Adeyanju talks about the impact of social media on public health during the Irele Outbreak

Sometime in April 2015 in the rural community of Ode Irele in Irele local government of Ondo State, death came calling as the town turned into a funeral pyre.

On the afternoon of the 13th, about 20 able-bodied men lost their lives in Ode Irele with symptoms ranging from headache, dizziness, sudden blindness and then the inevitable death.

Wherever there is mass death in a community with little education, superstition spreads like wildfire in the dry season.

The situation in Ode Irele became tinder for mass hysteria and it was not helped by the recent scourge of the Ebola Virus Disease that had dealt massive blows to populations in Liberia and Sierra Leone and had also claimed precious lives in Nigeria the year before.

As news spread around the country of the deaths in Ode Irele, talk of the deaths resulting from the desecration of the shrine of the local Malokun deity blew.

It was alleged that the young men had stolen some artifacts from the grove of the powerful goddess and then met their untimely death as swift judgment from the orisa.

Immediately, unsightly images of diseased men began to be shared on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and blogs which further spread panic across the land.

Back in Akure, the Ondo State capital, officials at the Ministry of Health had swung into action to investigate the deaths.

While they arrived at an early assumption that the deaths related to the consumption of alcohol by the dead men, they were losing the battle of telling the true story of the events on ground.

They knew that to beat the fearsome news that was already out in the public domain they had to take charge of the social media landscape with their counter argument.

“There can’t be a better interface to disseminate information to a greater majority of people than social media,” Dr Dayo Adeyanju, commissioner of health, says with hindsight.

“We underrate the endless possibilities that abound in the social media. I might not get to read my newspapers for two weeks, I might not get to turn on my TV for 48 hours but I would always be with my phone. And in every free second that I have, something would pop up and that would be my interface with what is currently happening.”

Dr Adeyanju and his team in the ministry’s Computer Department set up an Emergency Situation Room and went to work with their Twitter handle @OndoStateHealth and their website.

At first the outbreak was referred to as #OndoX as the public awaited news on a formal name. Eventually when it was established that it was caused by alcohol consumption as the men drank to celebrate the announcement of election results, the hashtag #IreleOutbreak was used to address all inquiries and Twitter chats.

The Ondo state team was eventually able to assert that the deaths had been caused by methanol poisoning in the community’s favourite local brew. It also disabused the minds of all that the photographs that had emerged online were those of victims.

“That was why we were able to cover a lot of ground, we were able to reach out to as many people as possible, both home and abroad, as well as allay fears that the situation was under control – particularly those who lived abroad,” Adeyanju said.

What could have constituted another major health scare was quickly brought under control via social networks as word spread on Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and blogs that the #IreleOutbreak was not contagious but toxic.

The state then moved to ban the production, sale and consumption of local alcoholic drinks in its domain. This brought about some problems as locals felt they were being denied cheap pleasure in favour of commercial brands.

In June, more than 70 people have died in Rivers state after consuming another locally brewed drink. It seems they did not take a cue from the success made in Ondo.

The Ondo State Ministry of Health has written two documents on its handling of the Ode Irele case and Dr Adeyanju has used every opportunity to speak about their success.

He was recently invited to speak in Orlando, South Florida about the manner the scare was successfully handled with the use of social networks.

It is a case study that would interest many in the developing world.