The Nigerian Senate has launched an investigation into circumstances surrounding the death of 26 Nigerian girls whose bodies were found on a Spanish warship.
Following a motion sponsored by Rose Oko, the Senate on Thursday mandated three committees to investigate the incident.
Bodies of the girls, mostly teenagers aged 14-18, and believed to have been sexually abused and murdered, were recovered at sea, BBC reported on Monday.
Their bodies were discovered in a Spanish warship, Cantabria, carrying 375 migrants.
Italian media reported that the bodies were being kept in a refrigerated section of the warship.
Most of the 375 survivors brought to Salerno, among which were 90 women, eight of them pregnant, 52 children, were sub-Saharan Africans from Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, The Gambia and Sudan.
Five migrants are being questioned in the southern port of Salerno following an investigation launched by Italian prosecutors on Monday.
Mrs. Oko said emergency measures must be used to address the situation.
“The Senate is worried that this mass exodus of our children from the relative safety and security of home to the often cold hands of death have arisen and are increasing as a result of the economic hardships at home including the unemployment situation in Nigeria,” she said.
“The Senate strongly believes that it is time to go beyond the mere feeling of horror to taking pro-active, urgent and emergency measures to address the root causes of the exodus, including massive enlightenment on the dangers that it portends.”
Shehu Sani, Kaduna-APC, said the incident was a “national tragedy” that must urgently be attended to.
“The death of 26 Nigerians in the Mediterranean Sea is a national tragedy. It is unfortunate that year in, year out, thousands of Africans, Nigerians perish in the Mediterranean on the way to Europe in search for what they call greener pasture,” he said.
“It is equally worrying that every month, hundreds of Nigerians are brought back to this country after failed attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea and there are factors to this irregular migration. The push factors have to do with the issue of poverty, economic instability and also the pull factor has to do with the unrealisable dreams and illusions and also components that has to do with drug trafficking, terrorism and sexual abuse.”
Sam Egwu, Ebonyi-PDP, called on the Federal and State governments to declare a state of emergency on unemployment to curb re-occurrence of the tragic incident.
“The issue of unemployment has been a recurrent decimal and has been a source of worry and the implication is a source of worry to all of us,” he said.
“Year in, year out, we turn out graduates that have no job to do after their NYSC and enabling environment is not even there to start their businesses. I think the Federal and State governments should declare state of emergency on unemployment and do something tangible.”
The Senate, in its resolution mandated its committees on Diaspora, Foreign Affairs and Special Duties, to investigate the incident and report back within four weeks and thereafter observed a minute silence for the repose of the souls of the girls.
The lawmakers however rejected four prayers moved by the sponsor of the bill.