Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onayekan was among members of the Caritas Africa group hosted to a dinner by former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzo Kalu in Abuja at the end of an international conference. He spoke to journalists on the state of the economy and steps being taken by the clergy to tackle human trafficking in Nigeria. ANULE EMMANUEL captured the report
Why are the Archbishops in Abuja?
First of all, we thank his Excellency Orji Kalu for providing this forum for us to relax after the Caritas meeting. The meeting is the Caritas International with headquarters in Rome and the Pontifical Council on Migrants and general purposes.
That is like a ministry in the Vatican. They are jointly hosting this with Caritas Africa and Caritas Nigeria. The focus is on Africa; we are looking at human trafficking in Africa and trafficking outside Africa. We must distinguish between trafficking and migration.
People move for different reasons. The history of the world has shown a lot of mass movement of people. But human trafficking is a situation where people are making money, profit out of the problems that people have- buying and selling of human beings
,- that is the major concern, whether for cheap labour in foreign lands or in the case of women for sexual exploitation and even children for domestic work. We are hearing now that people are being transported for harvest of organs. There is no limit to how horrible and wicked human beings can be to follow human beings.
What is the importance of the meeting to Nigeria?
This meeting holding in Nigeria is very important. Anytime we go abroad and they are talking about human trafficking, our country is always in the picture. It is not enough for us say that since we are the biggest country in Africa, therefore, we must have the biggest number of prostitutes on the streets abroad.
That is not good enough. We can be the greatest country in the continent and should be able to be a country that can deal with these issues. If Nigerians have to go out at all, they should go with dignity and live like hundreds of thousands of other Nigerians are living.
I want to add that while we are talking about a few who are stranded in America, we cannot forget the far numerous Nigerians who are doing wonderfully well, who are settled where they are, and are contributing to development of both the countries where they are and sending money home.
But is poverty responsible for this?
Poverty is not the only cause, because there are many people who are poor but are not going to be trafficked. In fact, sometimes people pay a lot of money to be trafficked. Many of them sale even their farm lands and undergo these journeys with agents so they become traffickers. So, it is not only poverty, there is a lot to do with mind set, what you consider important in life.
Are they ready to endure?
Those are the important things, not actually money. The girls on the streets of these countries have no reason to be there. There are other girls who are at home struggling, selling ‘akara’ and making little money. They are not selling their bodies to Europeans at all. So, we must not trace everything to poverty. If there is any poverty at all, it is spiritual and mental poverty.
Nigeria is in recession. Do you think the government is taking the right steps?
The advice I have is this, whoever is in charge of Nigeria today, even if it were Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, they would have to still face this problem that we are now facing- problem of significantly reduced income. It is a question of arithmetic and not politics anymore.
So, what should be done?
Giving the situation we are in, almost an emergency situation, I will hope government will try and broaden its mind to try and bring in good minds as we can, irrespective of where they come from, what political party they belong to and whatever religion they belong to.
Let them make it a major concern to bring the best brains we can get in Nigeria to tackle this problem and put politics aside and all kinds of sectional feelings because you cannot solve Nigeria’s problem by any sectional way.
I don’t know whether Mr. President is doing that but if he is not, he should do much more of it. Because, there are many brilliant Nigerians, some are solving other people’s problems out there. You are not calling them, we need them all home; we are in recession, in an emergency