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That Her Excellency Chief Dr. Mrs Amina Titi Atiku Abubakar, founder of the vibrant Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation, WOTCLEF, who is being honoured today by Champion Newspapers has more than anyone else, made extraordinary contributions to the campaign against exploitation of women and children in Nigeria is clearly not in doubt going by the number of trafficked victims so far rescued from the inhuman and criminal activity.
We are totally in support of the noble vision and mission of this non-governmental organization, NGO, which since its establishment in 1999, has been in the forefront of sensitizing Nigerians on the detrimental effects of human trafficking not only on its victims, the society at large but on the image and security of the country.
Through WOTCLEF, according to the records, till date, no fewer than 14,000 trafficked women and children as well as others in situations of abuse and exploitation had been successfully rescued, rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities, a gesture we consider very commendable and justified the unanimous decision of the Board of Editors to bestow the newspaper’s highest recognition, the Leadership Heart of Gold Award on the first female recipient ever.
Similarly, the foundation has in past several decades within its limited resources, provided succour through educational sponsorship to many vulnerable and disadvantaged indigent children in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, who ordinarily would have been denied basic education on account of their background. This massive support has revealed that our awardee is not only a woman of vision but passionate in supporting the less privileged.
We are therefore not surprised that unlike similar pet projects established by former First Ladies such as Better Life for Rural Women of Mrs Maryam Babangida of blessed memory; Late Stella Obasanjo’s Child Care Trust and Mrs. Turai Yar’Adua, who ran the Women and Youth Empowerment, WOTCLEF has continued to wax stronger and enjoying tremendous goodwill from many Nigerians and survived successive administrations due largely to the purposeful and transparent leadership of Chief Mrs. Atiku Abubakar.
In other words our recipient has kept her vision and passion for the less privileged members of society alive by dint of hard work, made WOTCLEF very functional and continues to offer assistance to disadvantaged women, children and others at risk of being trafficked, abused and exploited as well as moving a step further to establish rehabilitation centre for trafficked and vulnerable women and children which has remained an enduring legacy as against similar pet projects of wives of past public office holders which fizzled out when their husbands leave office,
It is particularly note worthy that our awardee, who holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration and a Masters Degree in Business Administration both from the University of Abuja got inspiration to establish her foundation when 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.
As a matter of fact, it was while in far away Italy that she observed that some women, especially Nigerian women, in their prime were abusing their bodies through prostitution notwithstanding the very high risk involved. Though at first, she thought that these were some wayward ladies giving our father land a negative image, upon investigation realized that majority of the affected women were deceived and brought to Europe by some unscrupulous men and women back home and later forced into prostitution.
While agonizing over the plight of these women, according to the records, God gave this virtuous woman a vision that one day she would be in a position of authority to help such abused women and others at risk. But rather than allow the dream to die, she nurtured it dearly until an opportunity presented itself in 1999 when her husband, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar became the Vice President of Nigeria under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Consequently and not surprisingly, this principled advocate and champion of dignity for womenfolk and wellbeing of children, promptly remembered her vision years back and sought to quickly make it a reality through the birth of WOTCLEF which has turned out to be the most potent and focused platform for enlightening Nigerians on the damaging repercussions of women trafficking and forced child labour.
Again, we not with satisfaction that the impactful strides of WOTCLEF within a few years of inception led to the enactment of the first ever Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act 2003 by the National Assembly and the subsequent establishment of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) by the Federal Government which has been acclaimed as a model anti-trafficking agency across Africa thereby standing Mrs. Abubakar out as a foremost role model for women and leaving a indelible legacy for generations unborn.
Even before today’s well deserved accolades, Her Excellency had distinguished herself as a woman of humanity high integrity who not only believes in the dignity of labour, honesty and hard work but cherish the fact that an impeccable character is better than riches or gold which must have responsible for the numerous awards and titles bestowed on her. Amongst them is an appointment by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for her to partner in the crusade against child illiteracy, Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary International and the Merit Award from the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA).
The long list of recognitions also include the the Woman of Excellence Award 2003 from Dublin, the Republic of Ireland and the 2002,Nigerian Woman of the Year awarded by Dame International, an award by NAPTIP in 2009, the First Lifetime Award 2010 by a German based organization, the Great Africa Network for Women in recognition of her work in promoting the dignity of trafficked women and children as well as the 2010 Kwame Nkrumah Leadership Award bestowed on Chief Mrs Amina Atiku Abubakar by the All African Students Union.
More importantly, we welcome the current robust and mutually beneficial cooperation between WOTCLEF and other organizations such as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration(IOM) and other stakeholders in the sustained global coalition against trafficking in persons and the annual commemoration of World Day against Trafficking in Persons on the 30th of July, meant to create awareness on human trafficking, promote and protect the rights of trafficked victims, which include persons with disabilities amongst other laudable objectives.
We strongly demand that government at all levels should leave no stone unturned in intensifying support for the foundation in order to fully deliver on its vision “to achieve a free and safe society for all” as well as the mission of working “towards the elimination of trafficking in persons, child labour, abuse of the rights of women, youths and children” amongst others in the country. Let WOTCLEF be for the continued benefit of humanity especially less privileged Nigerian women and children.
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