Gov. Ben Ayade of Cross River on Friday inaugurated the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) Task force against human trafficking in the state. Inaugurating the task force, Ayade, represented by his deputy, Prof. Iyara Esu, tasked the members made up of representatives from security agencies, NGOs, NAPTIP and other relevant organisations to come up with modalities on how to check the scourge. Ayade said unemployment was a major cause of human trafficking which was why his administration was trying to tackle the problem from its root by solving the challenge of joblessness. “This is one of the main reasons why as a governor, I have so many appointees and also set up the Migration Control Services Agency, the essence was to put food on the table for as many people as possible and also curb illegal migration. “With the inauguration of the task force today, we hope to work with NAPTIP to curb human trafficking and its effects on the state,” he said. He charged the members of the task force to put in their best adding that whatever they required to make their work successful, they should reach out to the state government and also provide quarterly reports of their activities. In her remark, the Director-General NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli disclosed that between 2004 and 2007, NAPTIP established State Working Groups on Human Trafficking under the State Governments to share information. Okah-Donli said part of the group’s function was to carryout sensitisation programmes and forge strategies to combat trafficking within their domains but the gains of the initiative could not be harnessed due to its discontinuation by state governors who came into power in 2007. She said the problem of human trafficking and irregular migration had become a great national concern especially with the large number of Nigerians trapped in sexual and labour exploitation in various nations. “In December 2018, NAPTIP undertook a fact-finding mission to Mali and discovered more than 20,000 young Nigerian girls who are victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation in bush camps around Mali’s mine fields. “Almost all the states in Nigeria are affected by migration and human trafficking but Cross River is endemic for trafficking of children for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation in brothels. “From 2005 to July 2020, 579 indigenes of Cross River have been rescued and rehabilitated by NAPTIP, consisting of 382 females and 197 males; children below 18 were 269, while adults were 310, she said. She however requested for a property which would serve as an office and shelter for the Cross River Command of NAPTIP, operational vehicles and the inclusion of the Uyo Zonal Commander in the State Security Committee to enhance the fight against human trafficking Similarly, Miss Bertha Ngurulu, Project Officer, Counter Trafficking and Mixed Migration under the International Organisations for Migration (IOM) said addressing poverty and unemployment was key to fighting human trafficking. Ngurulu added that to curb trafficking in persons, better synergy and strategy was required hence the establishment of the task force, adding that IOM would provide technical support and the training of manpower to check the malaise.