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Cablegate: Edo State Makes Progress Against Tip, but The

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DE RUEHOS #0213/01 0801127
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211127Z MAR 07
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8657
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 8483
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 0034
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1210
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0001
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0227
RUEHCD/AMCONSUL CIUDAD JUAREZ 0207
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 0208
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 0215

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 LAGOS 000213

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/W
STATE FOR INR/AA
WARSAW FOR LISA PIASCIK
CIUDAD JUAREZ FOR DONNA BLAIR
ISTANBUL FOR TASHAWNA SMITH
SAO PAOLO FOR ANDREW WITHERSPOON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KWMN ELAB KCRM SOCI SMIG NI
SUBJECT: EDO STATE MAKES PROGRESS AGAINST TIP, BUT THE
FUTURE IS UNCERTAIN

REF: 06 LAGOS 1220

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1. (SBU) Summary: A visit by Poloff with Global Trafficking
in Persons Program Officer Amy LeMar to Edo State showed
progress in combating trafficking in persons (TIP). Local
organizations have been led by Idia Renaissance, founded by
Edo State First Lady Eki Igbinedion. Igbinedion's anti-TIP
campaign was initially unpopular but observers credit her
with making significant headway against TIP. However, with
the departure of the Igbinedions from the Governor's mansion
future anti-TIP activities are uncertain. The National
Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP)
and private organizations, which have so far been adjuncts to
Idia, will need to take the lead. End summary.

-----------------------
TIP from Benin to Italy
-----------------------

2. (U) Although not the State with the largest number of
trafficking in persons (TIP) victims in Nigeria, Edo State is
probably the most infamous because of the involvement of many
of its inhabitants in trafficking of young girls to Europe,
often to Italy, for the purpose of prostitution. The
Italian-bound trafficking is focused on Turin. NAPTIP
estimated that 80 percent of internationally trafficked
Nigerian victims are from Edo State. Olaide Gbadamosi, from
the Network for Justice and Democracy in Benin City, told
Poloff the majority of TIP victims come from Edo South
District, from the Bini peoples, economic migrants who
traveled to Italy to find a living.

3. (U) Jennifer Ero of Idia Renaissance told Poloff
trafficking to Italy began in the 1990's when women started
traveling to Italy for prostitution. Prostitution followed
previous patterns established travel by businesspeople and by
Nigerians. Soon however, the demand for prostitution started
to move to younger women and girls.

4. (U) Villagers back in Nigeria saw these girls as
successful, and chose not to ask how the girls earned the
money. According to Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi of the Women's
Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON), parents often did not ask the
traffickers about prostitution, but instead asked the
trafficker to take their daughter to Italy so that the family
could have mony. (Note: Under Nigerian law, child labor is
legal if it is not for illicit purposes or heavy labor, and
the work has the consent of the child and his/her parents.
End note) Additionally, traffickers have used traditional
religion magic to put a hold on the victims, who, regardless
of their faith, believe in the efficacy of the magic. Many
of the first women who went to Italy gained notoriety because
some of them purchased large homes in Edo when they came back
to Nigeria. Michael Otunba of the Nigerian Union of
Journalists told Poloff that in Edo, the traditional festival
of Igwe is the local "Christmas" when all Beninese come back,
often with flashy cars.

5. (U) However, for most women prostitution does not result
in financial stability or wealth. Olagbegi told Poloff while
some girls became wealthy, some later fell ill and died of
STDs or AIDS. These women travel back to Edo and die
quietly, Olagbegi said.

6. (SBU) Speaking at a USG-sponsored media workshop in
Lagos, trafficking victim Gloria told an assembled group
about her harrowing experience. Unable to travel by plane,
Gloria traveled overland with 25 girls, transiting through
Niger and Algeria before reaching Morocco, where the group
spent a year. In accordance with the agreement, through
prostitution Gloria paid the madam $25,000 in eight months
plus incidentals, all of which went directly to the madam.
After that, the local authorities found the girls and
deported them.

-----------------------------------------

LAGOS 00000213 002.2 OF 003


Edo State First Lady Tackles the Issue...
-----------------------------------------

7. (U) Edo State First Lady Eki Igbinedion was among the
first to tackle TIP issues. According to Otunba, before
Igbinedion started TIP was not publicized and was ignored as
an issue. Many Nigerian First Ladies have created private
foundations, ostensibly to carry out charitable work. While
often the work is charitable, some of the foundations have
been sources of controversy as opponents have criticized
these foundations as mere conduits to gain financial
assistance for purposes other than for which the assistance
was granted. However, critics and supporters have praised
the work of the Edo State First Lady. Gbadamosi credited the
publicity of Idia with increasing awareness of the issue,
which has forced traffickers to move to more remote regions
of the State.

8. (U) Eki Igbinedion founded Idia Renaissance as her
foundation to work on women's and youth issues. Idia became
deeply involved in anti-TIP activities. In her first two
years, Igbinedion encountered a lot of local resistance, said
Otunba. Traffickers had a lot of powerful patrons and it was
difficult to convince these patrons that trafficking was a
problem in Edo. However, in the past six years Idia has
managed to gain more headway in publicizing TIP and assisting
victims, Otunba said.

9. (U) Idia has taken the lead on many trafficking-related
issues, serving as almost an extension of the Edo State
government. Idia has a close relationship with NAPTIP, and
the agency has often referred its victims to Idia for
protection services. On Poloff's visit to Benin, Poloff
viewed the Idia Youth Center, funded by a $300,000 grant from
UNICEF with equipment assistance from USAID. At the youth
center, students gained training in tailoring, computers, and
cooking. The students also receive HIV/AIDS instruction.
Ero told Poloff that thirty of the students at the Center
were TIP victims, although their identities were kept secret.


--------------------------------------------
...But Her Effort May Not Continue Past 2007
--------------------------------------------

10. (SBU) In a meeting with Global Trafficking in Person
(G/TIP) Program Officer Amy LeMar and Poloff in December
2006, Eki Igbinedion said there was still much left to do in
Edo against trafficking. Eight years ago, Igbinedion said,
locals did not discuss TIP issues; she credits her own
efforts through Idia to changing that. However, when Poloff
asked about Idia's future activities Igbinedion was vague,
commenting, "We shall see what happens in 2007," referring to
the upcoming gubernatorial election that will name a new
governor to succeed her husband.

-------------------------------------
NGOs Poised to Lead Fight Against TIP
-------------------------------------

11. (U) Poloff visited the NAPTIP shelter in Benin City. The
shelter has a capacity of 25, and is intended for temporary
use only. The International Organization of Migration (IOM)
managed the Benin City shelter before transferring control to
NAPTIP. Bridget Nwaka, shelter manager, told Poloff while
Edo State donated the building and paid for the rent, the
agreement expires in May. The future of the shelter,
according to Nwaka, will depend on the next government.

12. (U) Poloff also met Sister Florence Nwaomima, who is
planning to construct a second shelter with funding from an
Italian Catholic group. Nwaomima admitted she had never
visited the NAPTIP shelter, which does similar work.
However, Nwaomima said her shelter will provide a faith-based
alternative to the NAPTIP one.


LAGOS 00000213 003.2 OF 003


13. (U) One promising initiative spans several states in the
region. Girls Power Initiative (GPI), located in Edo,
Cross-River, Delta and Akwa Ibom states, is a non-profit
organization that trains young women between 13 and 18 years
of age as part of a three-year program. GPI was created in
1994 by Bene Maduaragu in Cross-River and Grace Osakwe in
Edo. The founders realized young women needed to know about
the issues that affect their lives, and designed the GPI
program. The young women attend Saturday sessions with
facilitators who teach empowerment, image, shared
experiences, abstinence, and skills training. GPI hosts an
annual seminar on trafficking, which includes members as peer
educators.

14. (U) Poloff spoke in Benin City with Ehita Ikohoghode,
Delta State coordinator for GPI. Poloff also talked with
several young women who were articulate spokespersons for
GPI. GPI largely recruits through word-of-mouth. Graduates
of GPI have formed the GPI Alumnae Association (GAA). GPI
alumnae are valuable mentors to girls under pressure to go
abroad. The total number of GPI graduates is small, but GPI
also runs a one-year program for 20 outreach schools.

-----------------------------------------
NGOs Report Prosecution Poor in Edo State
-----------------------------------------

15. (SBU) Olaide Gbadaimosi, Director of the Network of
Justice and Democracy, said Edo State prosecuted three
traffickers and secured one single conviction. Gbadamosi
said criminals go free because of the poor drafting of
charges and the refusal of the TIP victims to testify.
Corruption often causes cases on trafficking to end
inconclusively, Gbadamosi commented.

-------
Comment
-------

16. (SBU) Edo State's anti-trafficking campaign has made
progress. While trafficking remains a serious problem in the
State, Idia and others deserve credit for raising awareness.
With the Igbinedions soon to depart the governor's house,
Idia may likely assume a lower profile. It will be up to the
next Governor to see that Edo State takes its trafficking
problem seriously. NAPTIP, which has been underfunded and
neglected in Edo, will need to become assertive and work with
the NGO community to keep anti-trafficking an important issue
in the State. End comment.
BROWNE

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