Press Release —Local May 16, 2019

Traditional and Religious Leaders Join Forces to Curb Irregular Migration

Abuja – On 7-8 May 2019, 29 traditional leaders, imams and priests from Edo and Delta States in southern Nigeria gathered in Abuja to exchange best practices on addressing irregular migration and combatting human trafficking.

Participants were introduced to the current trends of irregular migration in Nigeria. They also received tools to identify and report victims of trafficking and were trained on how to support the social and psychosocial reintegration of Nigerian returnees.

“As part of creating awareness and promoting sustainable reintegration, we believe that we must collectively join efforts to acknowledge and celebrate the positive role of the returned migrants here in Nigeria,” said Frantz Celestin, IOM Nigeria Chief of Mission during the opening ceremony.

The meeting enabled government, non-government and civil society actors to discuss how best to involve traditional and religious leaders in the fight against irregular migration and human trafficking.

After this meeting, traditional and religious leaders will establish networks in Edo and Delta states to cascade the awareness-raising messages to their respective communities. Terms of reference for these networks have been developed and submitted to the participants for validation during the event. The Edo State Network will be chaired by the Oba Ewuare II, the traditional ruler of Benin in Edo. The Dein of Agbor, also a traditional leader, will lead the Delta state network.

Often viewed as gatekeepers of societies, traditional and religious leaders play a vital role in the sustainable reintegration of returned migrants. Their privileged social position means that they can intervene and address negative attitudes towards returnees and showcase their contributions to their communities of origin.

Representing the Oba of Benin, Ifueko Aideyan, affirmed the Oba’s commitment to the wellbeing of Nigerian returned migrants. “The [Oba Ewuare II] Foundation is strongly behind any form of sensitization to make sure the ride to human trafficking is put to an end,” she said.

On 9 March 2018, the Oba of Benin revoked the voodoo curse used by traffickers to coerce their victims. The Oba also placed a curse on traffickers instead in a bid to empower victims to come forward and seek assistance.

Since April 2017, IOM has successfully facilitated the voluntary return of over 13,400 stranded Nigerians in the framework of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Nigeria, with over 1,700 in 2019 alone. The aim of the Joint Initiative is to strengthen mechanisms to protect and assist migrants along migration routes, ensuring that migrants rights are respected, and that the migration process is safe and better governed. This is done primarily through information and awareness raising campaigns aimed at providing migrants and potential migrants, including the community members with information on the returnees economic, social and psychosocial needs.

For more information, please contact: Jorge Galindo, IOM Nigeria, Tel: +234 815 5263 827, Email: