Monday, 21 May 2018

TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS IN NIGERIA

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In the news and all over social media, there has been a lot of uproar on human trafficking activities, forced prostitution in Europe and other established trafficking routes, degrading human treatment  and especially slavery and sale of human organs and parts in refugee camps or asylum detention.

The #ENDSLAVERY trended for weeks on end on social media and this eventually led to the repatriation of some Nigerian migrants back to the country. The tales of these returnees upon their return to the country have shed some light into the horrendous happenings to migrants who choose to go through the tortuous journey through the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea in order to get to Europe where they believe a fabled better life awaits them. Some of the returnees have given insights as to how fellow Nigerians have been the ones in charge of their ordeals in foreign lands while trying to get across to Europe.

In all of this one has to wonder about the existence or otherwise of laws to checkmate trafficking and related crimes in Nigeria and punish offenders. The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition and Enforcement) Administration Act 2015 established the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) which is the government body in charge of enforcing the provisions of the Act alongside other law enforcement agencies.

The Act provides for the following as offences under it and stipulates varying punishments from imprisonment to fines to seizure of property etc for such offences:
  • Importation of persons into Nigeria or exportation of persons from Nigeria to foreign countries for purposes of forced prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation with or by a person or animal such as pornography;
  • Recruitment of persons through force, deceit, exploitation of vulnerability or giving of benefits to induce such persons in order to harvest their organs or to sell such organs for any such purpose;
  • Buying or selling of human beings;
  • Forced labour;
  • Employment or hiring of a a child less than 12 years as a domestic worker or employment of any child to do any work that is exploitative, injurious or hazardous to the physical social or psychological development of such child;
  • Procurement, sale, transports, recruitment of a person as a slave;
  • Procurement or recruitment of person for use in armed conflicts;
  • Threat of witnesses or victims and tampering with evidence;
  • Promotion, facilitation or organization of foreign travels that promote prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation.
Obstruction of the agency from performing its duties and conspiracy to commit any of the above listed crimes are also offences under the Act.
It is interesting to note that any person attempting to commit any of the above acts would be liable to conviction for half the punishment of the offence he/she attempted to commit.

A person convicted of an offence under this Act would automatically have his Nigerian Passport forfeited to the Nigerian Immigration Service. Also, a convicted person under the Act shall forfeit to the Victims of Trafficking Fund, all assets and property derived from criminal acts committed under this Act.

Informants, victims as well as witnesses who provide information on suspected traffickers and other offenders under the Act will be kept in safe houses and protected for the duration of the criminal proceedings.

As much as NAPTIP does in reducing trafficking, it is important to note that such criminal acts would not thrive without the willing participation of individuals desperate enough to brave already known harsh conditions. Because, law lives in the hearts and minds of people, there needs to be a constant re-sensitization of people on the dangers of illegal immigration and human trafficking. TV Programs like the Old Nigerian Soap Opera “IZOZO” which showed the dangers of these ills should become widespread again. This would help to reduce the rampant occurrences of human trafficking in Nigeria.

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