For one of Africa’s most relentless advocates of women emancipation and fight against human trafficking, Chief Mrs. Amina Titi Atiku Abubakar, first wife of Nigeria’s former Vice President since 1969, laying down her life for the eradication of global human trafficking, especially in Africa, is a sacrifice she is prepared to make. With recent global exposure of the human trafficking and slave trade market of sub-Saharan Africans in Libya, her 18-year battle against this evil is more than justified and quite appreciated.
Her cover picture on her Facebook thread reads “ I have a personal beef with HUMAN TRAFFICKING… I will fight till my last day on earth and to see to the promotion and protection of HUMAN DIGNITY”
This is a clear indication of her vociferous battle against this scourge for more than 2 decades.
Her eye opener to the evils of human trafficking was in 1986, when she went to Rome Italy for a course in Hotel Management. She undertook a specialist course in Hotel Management at the Scuola International de Science Turistiche Roma, Italy under the auspices of the World Tourism Organization and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to her, in an interview with Africa Informer in 2012, “ It was on my way from the airport into Rome that I saw so many African girls who were almost naked standing at street corners. I was shocked, so I asked my host what they were doing there. I was told that they are prostitutes who were lured from Nigeria by human traffickers with the hope for jobs in Italy only to be forced into prostitution. I was shocked. There and then, I made a vow to God that if I ever get to a position of influence that the war against human trafficking was going to be my major focus”
As providence will have it, her husband Atiku Abubakar, became Nigeria’s first Vice President of the 4th republic in 1999. That year she officially started her move against human trafficking by setting up a non-governmental organization – The Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation, with the acronym – WOTCLEF, and she has not stopped her global advocacy for the past 18 years.
Her passion for her mission is evident in the fact that, unlike numerous other pet projects of wives of political office holders which become extinct when their husbands leave office, she has kept WOTCLEF alive through her personal funds and assistance from some global advocacy partners and embassies in Nigeria. WOTCLEF is dedicated to the eradication of trafficking in persons, child labour and violent abuses of the rights of women and society, as well as HIV/AIDS.
WOTCLEF’s awareness activities have not been restricted to Nigeria, but also led awareness campaigns to a number of European countries known to be recipients of young women and children trafficked from Nigeria. Similar campaigns have been organized in the United States, Italy, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands. All this international collaboration led to the expansion of WOTCLEF in 2005 across borders to open an office in Florida, WOTCLEF, USA, Inc., a non-profit 501(3) in Tallahassee, Florida. The collective mission of both organizations is the same.
Having the goal to eventually reintegrate the victims into society by ensuring that they are economically self-sufficient and psychologically well adjusted, WOTCLEF offers assistance to young women, boys and girls who are victims of trafficking and child labour. Psychosocial counselling is provided for repatriated victims. They also receive medical treatment, clothing, legal assistance and shelter. Whenever possible, victims are reunited with their families and offered vocational training.
A significant landmark in the activities of WOTCLEF was the enactment of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act in 2003 and the subsequent establishment of the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) by the Federal Government of Nigeria. This was a result of WOTCLEF’s direct legislative advocacy. In July 2003, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted WOTCLEF a Special Consultative Status. This distinguished status gives WOTCLEF the rare opportunity to maintain regular presence at the United Nations’ meetings and conferences that are relevant to WOTCLEF’s programs and activities.
WOTCLEF continues to be in the fore front in the battle against human trafficking and slavery of Africans, which is still shockingly on a high with the terrible evidence of slavery in Libya, where Arabs of African continent are selling off fellow Africans as slaves.
Her efforts have been recognized globally by such organizations as the United Nations, USAID and several governments in Europe and the Americas. She has been presented with hundreds of International Awards recognizing her remarkable mission to end global human trafficking.
In 2003, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appointed her as a partner in the crusade against child illiteracy. Other honours include: Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary International; Merit Award from the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and the Woman of Excellence Award 2003 from Dublin, the Republic of Ireland. In the year 2002, she was honoured with the Nigerian Woman of the year awarded by Dame International. She was also crowned Queen of the Nigerian Youths in 2004 by the Patriotic Youths of Nigeria, a group of young Nigerian Professionals.
She was awarded the First Lifetime Award 2010 by a German based organisation, the Great Africa Network for Women, in recognition of her work in promoting the dignity of trafficked women and children. The All African Students Union has also recognised her with the 2010 Kwame Nkrumah Leadership Award. In appreciation of her pioneering efforts in the fight against human trafficking in Nigeria, especially in the sponsorship of the bill that established NAPTIP, Chief Mrs Amina Titi Atiku Abubakar was honoured with an award by NAPTIP in 2009.
Speaking in a recent interview, Mrs. Atiku Abubakar averred that
“With over 320 convictions of offenders, several millions of lives touched through NAPTIP and several anti-trafficking organizations established, I feel fulfilled that God used me to start the fight by establishing WOTCLEF 18 years ago. We started the first ever shelter for Rescued trafficked persons. They said it was political… but we moved on.”
Continuing, “WOTCLEF has counseled over 6,000 boys and girls. I gave some of them micro finance. Many became self-employed. Every one of them was settled accordingly. It will interest you to know that the Aso Rock Villa was the first place I camped these returnees because I had no shelter for them. I did my best to nurture them. A kind-hearted Nigerian gave us a place at Wuse Zone 2. It was an uncompleted property. So, we sourced for funds and made the place comfortable for the girls.
We travelled far and near to get our boys and girls rescued from labour and trafficking. We went as far as Gabon to open an office. Once they were rescued, we put them in schools – primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. In 2000, the Nigerian government went to Palermo and the United Nations heard of WOTCLEF and wrote, inviting me to speak. I went with Alhaji Sule Lamido, former Jigawa state governor, to present a paper. When I returned, I knew the fight against trafficking must be faced squarely. So, I called some stakeholders and tabled everything. There was a need to put a law against trafficking in place.”
“After 18 years of establishing WOTCLEF and massive achievements of WOTCLEF… we still fight on at all levels. This has made skeptics conclude that the vision is REAL.” Reads one of the posts on her Facebook threads.
Indeed, WOTCLEF has contributed tremendously to the gargantuan fight against human trafficking in Africa, as it has been one of the most consistent and vociferous crusade in the history of Africa in modern times.
Las Vegas, Nevada-USA