Osinbajo: Punishment Of Offenders Not Enough To Stop Human Trafficking

By Bukar Bolori

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has said punishment is not enough to curb cases of human trafficking in the country, insisting that all hands must be on deck to end the menace.

Speaking on Thursday night at the premiere of the viewing of ‘Dangerous Hope’–a film sponsored by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which explores human trafficking in the context of irregular migration and forced displacement, the VP who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr. Ade Ipaye said: “To win the fight against human trafficking, we must understand how to prevent such a crime from thriving.

“While prosecution and punishments can serve as useful deterrents of the crime, prevention is even more important — to stop the outcome before the process begins. In addition to this, the root causes of human trafficking and the systems of domination that underpin them must be disrupted.”

The Vice President added that: “This explains government’s commitment to tackle these problems by initiating several social safety nets, for the poorest and most vulnerable groups, primarily made up of women and children. Female victims that have been trafficked are subjected to violence at a rate three times higher than males, while children, at a rate that is almost two times higher than adult.”

He noted that: “The Buhari administration has continued to demonstrate support and commitment to strengthening institutional frameworks to combat the menace of human trafficking. This administration’s social investment programme, which is the largest in Africa with a budgetary provision of over N500 billion, is further directed at reducing the susceptibility of these vulnerable groups to the antics of human traffickers.
Today, the National Social Register contains 46 million persons in over 11 million poor and vulnerable households from across the Federation.”

He further revealed that: “One other outstanding milestone in the fight against trafficking is the development and approval of three key national policy documents by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) geared towards coordinating counter-trafficking activities in Nigeria: the National Action Plan on Human Trafficking in Nigeria (2022 – 2026); Protocol for Identification, Safe Return and Rehabilitation of Trafficked Persons and National Policy for Protection and Assistance to Trafficked Persons in Nigeria.”

He however said: “But beyond having policy documents, it is important to coordinate the implementation of these policies very closely. NAPTIP, under the able leadership of Prof. Fatima Waziri- Azi, is further amending its 2015 Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, to enhance its operational efficiency and keep up with emergent trends and the constantly metamorphosing modus operandi by criminals.”

He added that “However, a phenomenon like trafficking is too big of a problem to be faced by governments alone. It is important for everyone at all levels to be involved. Within many communities, there are networks, coalitions, and groups that can share information, create new partnerships, and provide localised resources that can promote a whole of government and whole of society’s response to human trafficking. I cannot overemphasize the importance of awareness and advocacy on these issues, which is why such collaboration as we are witnessing here today is commendable.”

The UNHCR Representative in Nigeria, Ms. Chansa Kapaya also speaking at the event lamented that forcibly displaced persons, such as IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers, are easy targets for traffickers, who take advantage of their precarious situation to exploit them, adding that: “Being away from their familiar surroundings, these people often lose their community support networks and become socially and culturally isolated.”

Kapaya said: “By October 2022, UNHCR and CARITAS had conducted anti-human trafficking awareness and sensitization activities in 90 schools, 18 community town hall meetings, two markets, two mobile parks, and other public places, reaching over 35,000 people in Cross River and Edo states.

“Moreover, ten cases of suspected trafficking were identified and referred to NAPTIP for investigation and prosecution. We fully support the DG NAPTIP’s 5-point strategic priorities: Prosecution, Protection, Prevention, Partnership and Policy.”

On her part, the DG of NAPTIP, Prof. Fatima Waziri- Azi, disclosed that in
2022, the agency received across its 29 offices and the FCT 1,867 internal trafficking in persons Reports and 255 external trafficking in persons Reports

She added that: “Number of victims received by NAPTIP in 2022 was 2,539 (455 Male, 2,084 Female). Mostly victims of sexual exploitation, followed by victims of forced labour and thirdly procurement for foreign travel that promotes prostitution. Our Katsina office received the highest number of victims of human trafficking in 2022- 995 (705 Female 290 Male).

She also disclosed that in terms of convictions, “we secured:80 convictions in 2022, the highest in a single year since the inception of NAPTIP. We already have 10 convictions for the year 2023. We have 262 ongoing cases in various courts across the country. Cumulatively we have recorded 585 convictions since the inception of NAPTIP. For the first the agency is appealing a judgment by a High Court in Sokoto and we hope to have the judgment overturned for a stiffer penalty.”

Waziri-Azi added that: “The reality of what is happening to Nigerians and consequently to our country, is disturbing. This must change or all will be lost. Lives, freedom, values. Survivors need our solidary! And we need to make the decision that tells us who we are as a people and as a society because we are all implicated in this problem. For NAPTIP we shall continue to scale our efforts and expand our reach through the agency’s 5 prong approaches of prevention, protection, prosecution, partnership and policy.”

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