Against the backdrop of modern day slavery as exemplified by forced migration, forced labour and human trafficking, the Director of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Nigeria, Mr Ronald Kayanja, has called on everyone to shun all forms of slavery as all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. “The right to liberty and security”, he said, “is a fundamental human right that must be respected and no one should hold anyone in slavery or servitude”.
He said this at the weekend in Calabar, Cross River State, South-East Nigeria, during the educational briefing of students as part of activities marking the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, organised by UNIC Lagos and the Cross River State Government.
Addressing over 200 students from 10 High Schools, Mr Kayanja who was represented by UNIC National Information Officer, Mr Oluseyi Soremekun, urged that “Those in position of power and influence at all levels including the family unit, should desist from exploiting and taking advantage of the vulnerable ones who are not in position to withhold consent to servitude.”
Explaining the theme for this year’s observance, “Remember Slavery: Recognising the Legacy and Contributions of People of African Descent”, the UNIC Director explained that it focused on the ways in which enslaved Africans and their descendants influenced and continued to shape societies around the world, including in the areas of technology and culture; as well as the persistent spirit and innovation of the people in communities affected by the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Declaring the International Day open, the Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade, represented by the Commissioner Ministry of International Development Cooperation (MIDC), Hon Francis Ettah, acknowledged that Calabar was eminently qualified to host the ‘Remember Slavery’ programme in Nigeria due to its strategic importance as a slave port during the period of Slave Trade and thanked the United Nations for making Cross River the destination when it decided to take the observance out of Lagos for the first time.
He disclosed that the same year the UN General Assembly established the ‘Remember Slavery’ Programme in 2007, the Cross River State Government also established the Calabar Slave Museum, an indication that the State government and the UN were thinking alike.
Hon Ettah therefore urged the students not to allow themselves to be lured into slavery under the pretext of greener pastures.
The educational briefing was preceded by a public awareness rally led by the Commissioner MIDC, Hon Ettah, Permanent Secretary of MIDC, Dr Gabriel Akpeke and UNIC National Information Officer Oluseyi Soremekun. The rally which was spiced up by music with intermittent messages of ‘Remember Slavery’, was started from the Government Secretariat and terminated at WAPI school, the venue of the briefing.
The students were treated to a film screening tiled, ‘Queen Nanny: The Legendary Maroon Chieftainess’; a Poster Exhibition as well as a rendition by the WAPI school choir after which 30 students who answered correctly, questions drawn from the film, were taken to the ‘Slave History Museum’ at Marina Resort, Calabar.
Sharing her experience, Magdalene Francis, a 17-year old student of WAPI School said, “I was touched. I felt bad and it was as if I was the victim.” “I learnt a lot today. I want to thank UNIC and Cross River State Government for the opportunity to learn about Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” said Christopher Edet, a 17-year old student of WAPI.
UN General Assembly, in December 2007, declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be observed annually.