The Nigerian Ambassador to Mali, Mr. Iliya Nuhu, has decried the high rate of trafficking of Nigerian girls through the West African country.

Nuhu told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Bamako that the problem had grown in “magnitude and sophistication” to the extent that a substantial number of Nigerians in Mali seemed to be thriving on it.

He said the practice was a “kind of modern day slavery” with Nigerians going to their villages or towns to bring in young girls between the ages of 10 and 15.

He said the traffickers were taking advantage of Nigeria’s economic problems to lure their victims with promises of setting them up in “very lucrative businesses abroad.”

“These people (traffickers) tell them about businesses which are not there and these girls, with very loose parental upbringing, fall for their tricks.

“They go to Nigeria to source for these girls and sell them off to their cronies not only in Mali but in other countries; but we are able to work in cooperation with these countries to map out the routes the traffickers follow.

“Since August, we have assisted not less than 30 of these girls to return to the country and this is a daily routine that the embassy and the staff go through.

“From what I gathered from the Nigerian community in Mali, an average of 20 to 30 girls are being trafficked into this country every day and those we get are those who raise alarm,” he said.

Nuhu said the embassy was working with the police in Mali on how to identify the traffickers, adding that he had written a memo to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja, to work out a strategy to solve the problem.

“We, however, call on the Federal Government to work with NAPTIP or take appraisal of what they are doing and see if there are gaps to be filled so that they can have the capacity to do this job.

“NAPTIP also should be able to have the necessary information through their own network to able to follow up these routes and study the mode of operation of the traffickers and beat them to it,” he added

NAN spoke to two of four girls who had been rescued from the traffickers.

Joy Monday, a hairdresser, said a woman came to her hometown, Auchi, Edo, to lure her to Mali.

“The woman told me that I can make between N5,000 and N7,000 fixing one person’s hair in Mali only to discover on reaching here that I am to be a prostitute and I was rescued by a man who brought me to the embassy,” Monday said.

Another victim, Chidinma Ubah, said a man called Sunny brought her to Mali, promising her that he was taking her to Europe.

She said she sought refuge in a police station when she discovered that she was to be a prostitute.

Nuhu said arrangements were being made to return the girls to Nigeria.