CHIDIEBELE NWACHUKWU Worried by the wave of trafficking in persons in Nigeria, a government agency charged with the responsibility of combating trafficking in persons – National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), and a non-governmental organization – Next To None Support Initiative, have entered an agreement to engage the menace through the arts. The agreement, which was signed between the Director General NAPTIP, Julie Okah Donli and the Founder/Chairman, Board of Trustees, Next To None Support Initiative, Barrister Ndukwe Sam Obu, aimed at ensuring effective public enlightenment on the ills of human trafficking, using documentary, movies and sports as vehicles. With the MoU, the NGO has been empowered to shoot a documentary and movie on the degrading and inhuman nature of human trafficking and related crimes. While the documentary is expected to be packaged and premiere on or before 12 months from the date of the signing of agreement, the movie should be ready within 18 months. Beyond some African countries, the movie is to be shot in five other countries of the world, including the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, China and Switzerland. Following the signing of the agreement, Barrister Obu has commended the enthusiasm and commitment of NAPTIP boss for realizing the need to partner other bodies in the fight against the scourge. According to him, since she assumed office as NAPTIP D.G, Donli has succeeded in introducing new strategies and measures towards combating the crime. Also, going by the agreement, both NAPTIP and the Next to None Support Initiative would be collaborating towards getting sponsors for the project. Meanwhile, NAPTIP has undertaken to provide necessary assistance towards procuring travel documents for the movie crew. Aside the documentary and movie, there would also be a novelty match to be played by renowned celebrities in sports and the creative industry. According to Barrister Obu, the organization has over 100 celebrities across the globe as its ambassadors. “Notable football legends such as Roger Miller, George Opon Weah, J.J Okocha and Garba Lawal alongside renowned Nollywood stars, including Richard Mofe Damijo, Monalisa Chinda as well as Lexy Mojo Eyes of the fashion industry, have all worked with us in fighting this scourge. “Also partnering with us are Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), The Transcorp Hilton Hotel as well as the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports”, he stated. Speaking on behalf of the organization on the reasons for choosing entertainment as a medium for campaign, he stated that engaging top celebrities in the entertainment industry will draw greater attention of the youths. According to him, the entire idea was to use the games that youths mostly identify with to preach the gospel against human trafficking to them. “You know the way it is; if you have a Professor coming from the Oxford University to deliver a lecture on human trafficking in Nigeria, I can bet you that not even the bread seller in the street will know about it, but if popular musicians and footballers such as Shakira, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi are coming to play, they would be enthusiastic to listen or watch them perform.” He believed that creating opportunity for the youth to interface with successful players in the entertainment industry will bring them to the understanding of the evils of prostitution, and the fact that with hard work, they stand greater chance to succeed even in Nigeria. The lawyer and film producer – Obu, described as worrisome, revelations about modern day slavery as captured by some foreign media, and concluded that the most effective means of educating Nigerians on the issue is through the games they love most. “We strongly believe that there is no other way and manner we can effectively take this message to the global stage than through the medium of entertainment. “Human trafficking has become so serious that world media outfits now run documentary on it. Even world leaders condemn the trend. So, why would they not be interested in watching films or documentary on it coming for the first time from Africa? According to him, the organization, which has personalities such as Rear Admiral Peter Ebelemeh, Hajiya Laradan Shuibu, Professor Awa Kalu (SAN) General Lanre Apata, General Yakubu Usuman and Professor Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) as part of the governing council members, has structured the documentary to involve every social strata and institutions. “We intend to bring on board, representatives of the three arms of government as well as some state governors to lend their voice to the project. In the documentary shoots, we want to see diplomats condemn human trafficking.” And to reach the target audience, especially those within the country, Barrister Obu assured that effort would not only be concentrated at major cities. According to him, remote towns, especially those that are notorious for housing commercial sex workers, as well as various tertiary institutions and secondary schools across the country would be visited to sensitize them on the issue. Next to None Support Initiative was the recipient of NAPTIP Hero’s award 2017, about three months ago, for its campaign against trafficking in persons. In its 10 years of existence, the founder noted that it has received several other awards for its commitment to the course of combating trafficking in persons. To finance the project, a motivational speaker, Obu recalled the saying of Norman Vincent Pearl: “Anything you can conceive on your mind is possible. You can if you think you can”, he said. According to him, the organization had enjoyed the support of good-minded organizations and individuals in previous projects, and this, in view of its importance to human dignity and existence, will not be an exception. “One thing about charity work is that you must first of all, have passion for what you are doing. Secondly, when people see how serious you are in what you are doing, there is no other reason to fear how things will be done. “Following the MOU signed on October 3 with NAPTIP, over 15 people have indicated interest, not just for sponsorship through donations of equipments needed to shoot the films. “We also have volunteers who desire to be part of the project. Everybody, including my relations living abroad will contribute their quota to see that we achieve success, and by the time we start reaching out to people, we are optimistic we get more hands.” Adding: “Assistance can come through donation of vehicles for movements, microphone or any other thing that can add value to what we are doing. “As contained in the agreement earlier signed, NAPTIP, a very formidable agency, will also join hand with us. I am also sure that the international committee, knowing that what we are doing is first of its kind in Africa, will definitely support us. “Locally, we are going to reach out to churches, institutions and banks for support, but since it is an 18-month project with effect from this October, we don’t expect to gather finances before we start. “In the area of documentary, I don’t need to be sponsored to go to a nearby school to shoot a documentary. All we need do is let the principal or head of the institution know what we want to do with the school.” Obu stated that the proceeds from the documentary or movie would be channeled towards helping victims of human trafficking. He wondered why Africans should be championing trafficking of fellow Africans or connive with European counterparts to sell their sisters and brothers. These questions and several others, he said, would be highlighted in the movie.