The Edo Government says it will go after the assets and properties of persons behind the wanton trafficking of Edo indigenes.
Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo in an interview with our reporter in Abuja on Friday said that proceeds from such properties would be ploughed into rehabilitating and reintegrating returnees.
According to him, convicting the perpetrators and liquidating their assets will serve as a deterrent to others who are still scout for vulnerable Nigerians to traffic.
The governor who was among guests at an event held at the British High Commission in Abuja on Thursday, however, said that the state had been hindered by delays in prosecution.
He said that whereas the government had recruited competent prosecutors, judicial processes, long adjournments and handling of victims’ testimonies had delayed the government’s move to get convictions.
“We have been able to intensify investigation and prosecution but unfortunately we have not been able to get any conviction.
“Not because the prosecutors are not doing their uttermost best, but because of the very nature of our legal system.
“We are working very hard with the high courts and NAPTIP to ensure that we get convictions.
“This can serve as a deterrent and punishment to the perpetrators, ensuring that they lose property and they lose assets with which we will now use in supporting the rehabilitation of victims.
“We will work with the judiciary to try and reduce the long adjournments and also the way they treat evidences from victims.
“Many of these victims are afraid of revealing information on their traffickers because of threats but we are taking measures to provide safe houses for them and to provide cover for them until we are able to get prosecutions.”
The governor disclosed that in the last four years under his watch, the number of persons trafficked from the state had reduced with rehabilitation of and reintegration of over 6,500 returnees.
He said that the focus for the government, working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), is to re-humanise the victims and restore their dignity.
He added that the government also, in the process of rehabilitation, extracts information from the victims in a bid to understand the scope and nature of the network.
“We have rehabilitated over 6,500 victims of trafficking and irregular migration working with partners like the IOM.
“We have also used the opportunity to extract a lot of data to understand the nature and scope of all these trafficking network and crisis.
“With that information, we now understand what drives people and what have driven people to be trafficked, the areas they come from, their social situation and economic situations.
“That has helped us to put strategies in place to combat trafficking in Edo state.
“You would see from records available that the incidence of trafficking and irregular migration in Edo state over the last three years has dropped dramatically,” he said.
In a passionate message to the people of Edo and other Nigerians, the governor advised them to shun irregular migration in search of greener pastures.
“There is nowhere better than home no matter how challenging the situation at home may seem; just realize that it would not be easier on the other side.
“It always looks greener on the other side of the fence until you get there, sometimes you may never get there.
“So my advice is: difficult as it may seem, please let us make home home,” he said.