Vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), has described human trafficking as a trans-national organised crime of extra-ordinary magnitude that must be tackled by all.
He asserted that the menace has continued to plague the nation with the attendant negative narrative.
He advocated for a deliberate collaboration among state and non state actors, including development partners to put a stop to the menace in Nigeria.
In a statement by Adekoye Vincent, Press and Public Relations unit of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the Vice President stated this while delivering a speech at the 25th National Stakeholders Consultative Forum on Human Trafficking and Presentation of National Action Plan on Human Trafficking and other Policy documents held at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja.
Represented by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice President, Mr. Ade Ipaye, Professor Osinbajo said: “As we all know by now, human trafficking is a challenge of extraordinary magnitude. Empirical evidence shows that it is a multi-billion dollars enterprise with criminals exploiting their victims over and over. For years, issues of human trafficking have plagued our country, smearing Nigeria as an origin, transit and destination country.
“Trafficking in persons and irregular migration is without doubt a national and international concern especially with the large number of Nigerians trapped in sexual and labour exploitation in various African and European countries, all striving for greener pasture.
“Most disturbing is that a 2021 Interpol report titled ‘Trafficking of Human Beings for the Purpose of Organ Removal in North and West Africa,’ has flagged Nigeria as a country of origin, transit and destination, for trafficking in persons for organ removal. This is driven largely by the global shortage of organs for ethical transplant. While organ trafficking exists in all regions of the world, it is of particular concern in North and West Africa, where impoverished communities and displaced populations are at greater risk of exploitation.”
The Vice President stated further: “President Muhammadu Buhari-led government recognises the fact that to prevent human trafficking we need to address poverty, underdevelopment and a lack of equal opportunity, which means investing in people, especially the young and disadvantaged.
“It is for this reason that, since 2015, this administration has consistently developed policies, programmes and initiatives targeted at addressing poverty, providing equal opportunities for women, supporting entrepreneurs and micro, small and medium businesses, creating jobs for young people and challenging those fundamental inequalities that leave women and children vulnerable to human trafficking.
“Consistent with this administration’s resolve to lift at least 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within a decade, we remain committed to scaling social investments programmes that would provide livelihood support to our teeming young men and women as a deliberate strategy to prevent them from falling easily to the antics of traffickers who are constantly on the watch for victims they can exploit”, the Vice President said.
In her speech, the Director General of NAPTIP, Dr. Fatima Waziri–Azi, reiterated the determination of her administration to continue to tackle human trafficking in the country through the strict implementation of her strategic thrusts and ensuring that traffickers are effectively prosecuted.
The Director General disclosed that as part of the efforts to address the scourge of human trafficking, the Agency has taken further steps in its partnership base with the collaboration with Facebook in order to expose, sensitize and swiftly tackle any emerging incidence of human trafficking online real time.
She stated that: “Now, due to the increase in state and interstate trafficking, buying and selling of children and cryptic pregnancies, NAPTIP has concluded partnership with Facebook and the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, in the United States, to set up Amber Alert Nigeria where by Facebook sends alerts to targeted Facebook community to help find missing children in Nigeria on time, real time.
“This initiative which is the second in Africa by Facebook will deliver AMBER Alerts to people’s News Feeds in targeted search areas after a child has been abducted and NAPTIP has issued an alert on such an abduction.
“These alerts, which include photographs and other details about the missing child, will be sent to people who use Facebook within approximately 160km radius of the search area where the child was last seen. Furthermore, people will be able to share the alert with friends and link directly to the NAPTIP Child poster, which always has the most up-to-date information about the case. AMBER ALERT Nigeria will be formally launched in June here in Abuja,” Dr. Waziri-Azi stated.
On the efforts to gather regional support to smoke out human traffickers within the West African corridors, the NAPTIP Director General disclosed that “Between October and December 2021, Nigeria signed Bilateral Agreements to prevent, suppress and punish, trafficking in persons, especially women and children, with the Republic of Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and a “Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Niger. We are scheduled to sign another Bilateral Agreement with The Gambia in June and we are finalizing with South Africa. These partnerships have proven valuable in supporting Nigeria’s efforts to succeed,” she said.
She told the participants that the Agency “has recorded 510 convictions (13 convictions and counting for the year 2022) and we currently have 261 ongoing cases in various courts across the country. We also have 11 ongoing Mutual Legal Assistance cases. Out of the 11, 2 cases are currently being prosecuted in court (Lagos and Benin).
“Till date, the Agency has been able to rescue 17,636 victims of human trafficking, (394 and counting for the year 2022). In February 2022, with the support of FIIAPP, we repatriated 15 women from Mali who had been trapped in forced prostitution for years. There are over 20,000 Nigerian women and girls in Mali trapped in forced prostitution, forced labour and all forms of slavery, who want to come back home. As is in many other African, Arab, Asian and European countries.”
Prestage Murima, the Head of Programmes, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), sponsor of the Forum, promised to continue to support programme and policy aimed at reducing human trafficking and Irregular migration as well as enhancing effective management of migration in the Country.
The Country Representative of the UNODC, Mr. Oliver Stolpe in a goodwill message, assured NAPTIP and other stakeholders of sustained support in the fight against human trafficking In Nigeria.
In the same vein, the Team Leader of A-TIPSOM/FIIAPP, Mr. Rafeal Rios Molina lauded the efforts of NAPTIP in the development of the three policies and pledged its support to the fight against human trafficking and irregular migration in the country.
Highpoint of the meeting was the unveiling and formal presentation of the three policies namely National Action Plan on Human Trafficking (2022- 2026). National Policy for Protection and Assistance to Victims of TIP and Protocol for Identification, Safe Return and Reintegration of Trafficked Persons, by the Vice President.
Dignitaries at the well attended forum, included Heads of other agencies of government, members of the diplomatic community, sister law enforcement agencies, commissioners and representatives of state governments of Jigawa, Kogi, Oyo, Delta, Nasarawa, Gombe, Akwa Ibom, Benue and others.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq was also represented at the Forum.