The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has alerted international community of imminent xenophobic attacks on Nigeria victims of human trafficking trapped in parts of Mali.

Ms Julie Okah-Donli, NAPTIP Director-General said she raised the alarm on the floor of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament on May 24.

Okah-Donli said in a statement by Stella Nezan, Head, Press and Public Relations Unit of the agency in Abuja.

The director-general said she was briefing members of the parliament on the report of the fact-finding team that visited Mali to assess the situation and work out modalities of evacuating the victims.

Okah-Donli said that the scourge of human trafficking was a clear and present danger that threatened human and national security of member states.

” Thousands of Nigerian victims of human trafficking are being held in sex slavery and exploitation in that region, and the task is to ensure their freedom.

“Many of these victims are first incubated in sex and labour camps in various member states of ECOWAS.

“The fact-finding mission and my own visit to Mali in December 2018 and March 2019 painted a gory picture of the situation of possibly hundreds of thousands of victims of sex trafficking within the sub-region.

“Nigerian girls are trafficked mainly to the mining areas in the South and Central parts of Mali, but substantial number is trafficked to rebel-held areas in the North, where they become radicalised,” she said.

The director-general said that Nigerian girls were treated as slaves, and less than second-class citizens by some of the Malians and their law enforcement agencies.

“The Malian authorities collect ‘taxes’ from the victims on a weekly basis, and sell condoms and other medications compulsorily to them every month.

“Most of the madams force the victims to sleep with numerous men without using any protection, hence, the high incidences of sexually transmitted diseases and other ailments among the victim-community.

“Malian women are already grumbling that Nigerian girls are taking their men, and there are fears of imminent xenophobic attacks,” she said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that NAPTIP’s fact-finding team led by the director-general had visited Mali earlier in 2019.

It came out with a report on the level of the exploitation of human trafficking victims in Mali.

The ECOWAS parliament had invited the NAPTIP boss to brief members on the situation so as to enable it to take action.

“One of the conclusions from the visits is the need for a regional approach to addressing the problem through legislative reviews and deliberate actions by the ECOWAS parliament and the ECOWAS Commission,” she said.

The statement quoted Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Moustapher Cisse Lo, as saying that the situation was heart rendering and requiring urgent action from member states.

The speaker commended the NAPTIP director-general for the presentation, saying that the appropriate committee of the parliament would be mandated to visit Mali.

He said the ECOWAS Council of Ministers would be fully briefed thereafter.