An anti-trafficking short film directed by Nollywood filmmaker Judith Audu premiered in Abuja on February 2, 2023, in a stakeholder event facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in collaboration with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). The short film, titled Dangerous Hope, explores deceitful ways that human traffickers use to entice and entangle community members to human trafficking, including displaced populations.
The film premiere is part of UNHCR’s enhanced efforts to constructively engage with the public on the problem of human trafficking through increased sensitisation and awareness campaigns. Speaking at the event’s opening, the UNHCR’s Representative, Ms Chansa Kapaya, highlighted that “forcibly displaced persons, such as IDPs, refugees and asylum-seekers, are easy targets for traffickers who take advantage of their precarious situation to exploit them.” She mentioned further that the anti-trafficking film was borne from an information campaign (supported by the European Union) dubbed, Telling the Real Story which has been implemented in Edo State since 2018. This project enabled the UNHCR and its partners to mainstream anti-trafficking messaging in its refugee programme.
Addressing the event as a special guest, Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was represented by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr Ipaye, remarked on the importance of sensitisation in curbing trafficking in persons. “While prosecution and punishment can serve as a useful deterrent of the crime, prevention is even more important – to stop the outcome before the process begins,” he stated.
As co-hosts of the premiere, the Director of the NAPTIP, Dr Fatima Waziri stated that “the internet has made it possible for traffickers to have a wider pool of potential victims as the world wide web has no geographical boundary” and lauded the NAPTIP’s partnership with UNHCR in mitigating migratory risks of people forced to flee. Speaking shortly after, the UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator (a.i), Mathias Schmale, remarked that while crisis and conflict increased the risk of trafficking, sensitisation campaigns were equally critical as Nigeria pursues its SDG 16 objectives.
In a goodwill address from the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, it was emphasized that there was a need to learn from the regrettable experiences of trafficked victims at a time when trafficking was expanding at worrying scale in Nigeria, and that sensitisation programmes like these [through films] cannot be over-emphasised. Similarly, the Minister for Women’s Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, called on well-meaning Nigerians to condemn the deadly issue of human trafficking. “There is an urgent need to intensify advocacy against the crime and to educate our communities,” she noted.
As a curtain raiser to the screening of the short film, the filmmaker narrated her experience working for the first time visiting the Adagom refugee settlement in Ogoja as part of her work with UNHCR. Her personal contact with Cameroonian refugees in the settlement formed the live realities of forced migration captured in the film.
The post-screening panel discussion featured individuals from different agencies such as Network Against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labour (NACTAL), Great Esan Returnees Association (GERA), Caritas Nigeria, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and IDPs (NCFRMI) and a voluntary returnee who was a victim of trafficking, Mr Desmond Osarodion Liberty.
The latter shared the harrowing story of his journey to the coast of Libya to access Europe. “I believe that telling my story may help others learn from the terrible suffering and indignities people encounter in the hands of traffickers in an attempt to migrate to Europe via irregular means”, he counselled. Other viewpoints exchanged by the panelist include the respective awareness measures put in place to sensitise communities, thus cumulatively enhancing the protection environment for the vulnerable groups in the community.