Reps to quiz Customs boss over alleged export of human organ harvesting

•To explore diplomatic, political solution for Temitope’s release •NAPTIP queries Ministry of Labour for granting employment agency licence to oil firm •As Dabiri-Erewa applauds Saudi, Lebanon for suspension of work visas for domestic staff

The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to summon the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over the proliferation of human organ harvesting of Nigerians across the borders.

Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora, Tolulope Akande-Sadipe issued the directive in Abuja while ruling on the various presentations made by relevant regulatory agencies including Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Nigeria Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) and Federal Ministries of Justice and Labour & Employment, during the investigative hearing into the ‘rising dehumanization of Nigerians abroad with a focus on Temitope Ariwolo’.

In his presentation, NIS Comptroller-General, Mr Muhammed Babandede who disagree with the submission that human organs are harvested and exported through coolers across the borders, however, argued that “usually when a person is trafficked for organ harvesting you need to take the person to the venue to remove the organs.

“The House may have to talk to Doctors to give you guideline I doubt if it is possible to remove organ to take it as far as other countries. The best they can do is to traffick the person and you remove the organs.”

Hon. Akande-Sadipe who expressed disgust over the menace of human trafficking and illegal international recruitment that fuel the unprecedented dehumanization of Nigerian nationals abroad with particular reference to the recurring abuses in the Middle Eastern countries including Lebanon called for synergy among relevant regulatory agencies in the bid to end the crisis.

Worried by various abuses in the issuance of the licences to employment agents, the lawmakers underscored the need for Department of State Security (DSS) to profile all the agents without compromise.

“Similar to this is the plague of organ harvesting by syndicates for export. It is sad to note that Nigeria has become the hotbed for this inhuman and dastardly act; resulting in several mutilated bodies seen across the nation. We have gathered here once again, to explore avenue for synergy among relevant stakeholders which will, in turn, bring a lasting solution to the ugly trends to an end,” she said.

According to her, Temitope alleged that she suffered abuse and sexual harassment from the husband of her employer, Mahmoud Zahran and his wife, Feyzeh Diab, adding that when interrogated by the Lebanese Labour Ministry, “at no point during this interrogation was the accusation of murder levelled against Temitope. Thereafter Diab was blacklisted and henceforth unable to employ a domestic worker in Lebanon. Had there been any issues of murder raised at this time, Diab would not have been blacklisted,” she noted.

However in their presentations, while the Director (Employment and Wages), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr John Enemali explained that the Ministry at no time halted the issuance of licenses to employment agencies, the NAPTIP Director, Investigation and Monitoring, Mr Greg Esele blamed the Ministry for suspending the issuance of licenses since December 2017.

According to Mr Esele the suspension of the licenses was disclosed during an inter-agency meeting chaired by a Director, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that it will only be lifted when certain conditions had been put in place, including an employment treaty with other countries.

He, however, noted that one of the companies which are currently having issues with the agency was licensed in January 2020, while the letter from Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment informed NAPTIP that the company (name not disclosed) was licensed in May 2020.

While responding, Mr John Enemali who could not provide concrete answers as to why a company involved in oil services was licensed as an employment agent, simply informed the Committee that: “they requested for a license and we gave them.”

However, NiDCOM Chairman, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa who stressed the need for Nigerian to strengthen its migrant workers’ law, noted that the Philippines makes about $6 billion from the management of foreign employment. She explained that Temitope’s case requires Diplomatic and Political solutions, adding that: going to court would not proffer a lasting solution to the lingering crisis.

She disclosed that Temitope who is currently undergoing trial for alleged theft of $5,000 and attempted murder has been granted bail and released to the Nigerian Mission in Lebanon.

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This is a trafficking matter. Temitope and all these girls going to Lebanon legally somebody from Nigeria sell them to agents over there. So they got the proper visa. It’s not as if they went illegally they get the visa and then they signed they go to work in somebody’s home. So we need to look at the root cause of Trafficking who are the agents in Nigeria, who are the Nigerians that are sending Nigerian girls to agents in Lebanon.

“On the Lebanese side actually the visa comes from Lebanon not even from here because they applied properly. So the question is who are those Nigerians here. See you will go on television and radio announcing, Kwara, Oyo that you can come and work in Lebanon.

“Now what Lebanon has done is they’ve stopped work visas for all these domestic staffs, I think with the stoppage of those visas, the agents profiting from this business will lie low a bit.

“Secondly is that the Lebanese agents in Lebanon, Lebanon has now decided that all the agents, our Mission will have their addresses so that if Temitope is taking to Lebanon through agent Tordue, they will have his number and the root to connect him and you can code the agent.

“If you notice it used to be Saudi Arabia, not anymore. Saudi has stopped those domestic visas to go there now you need to be a professional as they know what you are going there to do.

“Omar is another destination for trafficking, we don’t have a mission there, I’ve talked to the DG NAPTIP the girls trafficked to Omar, of they have their details, we will bring them back. There are two flights coming from there so we will ring them back and them massive awareness. I know it’s tough but it doesn’t worth it at the end of the day,” Hon. Dabiri-Erewa observed while speaking at the sideline of the investigative hearing.

On her part, the Director, International Cooperation with Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs Anthoinete Ifeanyi Oche-Obe told the Committee that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation would have been informed about the ordeal of Temitope for his intervention saying “I am just hearing about this development.

“The AGF would have been briefed about this because he has ways of intervening in matters like this. This has been done before and we were able to secure the release of those Nigerians. We are just hearing that the IOM got a lawyer for her.”

The committee discovered that only 14 out of the 21 companies supplied to the company as those licensed, were registered with the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), an agency of Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

However, the Committee directed NAPTIP to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Justice and other relevant agencies to ensure that Temitope returned to Nigerian alive.

The Committee also directed the Ministry of Labour and Employment to furnish them with the details of all companies licensed as employment agents by the Ministry including their certificate of incorporation as well as the list of their directors.

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