The Resurgence of the old transatlantic illicit trade in humans

The primordial trade in humans was a key feature of the primitive African society. As a notable trade in pre-historic account of human beings; men were sold into slavery as a result of war, for debt bondage, and other exploitative reasons. This preceded the advent of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, in the second wave which later almost became accepted as an integral part of African societies. In that era, Africa supplied men, women and children, as slaves to the Arab world and other parts of the globe for centuries, before the arrival of the Europeans.

Unfortunately, less than two centuries after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, a new variant of the trade emerged in the form of human trafficking, which may be likened to the third wave of the illicit trade.

This neo slavery practices retained several key elements of the old trade; especially in the form of exploitation.

Nevertheless, the methodology changed with the deployment of deceitful recruitment; fraudulent coercion of unsuspecting victims and their poor families by perpetrators of modern slavery who pose as Messiah to poor families and thereby exploit their ignorance and socioeconomic vulnerabilities.

No thanks to the growing insecurity, poverty, greed, crime, corruption among others, which have become great tools for the manipulation of the vulnerable population.

The common denominator between the first, second and third waves of this unfortunate pandemic called trafficking is the human commodity. The most regrettable feature of this ugly trend is the fact that hundreds of lives are lost on daily basis on the Mediterranean and across the Sahara Desert. The excruciating pains of torture in the hands of the traffickers, the hostile extreme weather conditions, agonies of hunger, thirst and human deprivation, all form part of the gory stories by few survivors who manage to make it through the exploitative journey.

From the little proportion of survivors, it becomes clear that the estimated 41 million population in slavery globally may be slightly higher in the actual sense.
Trends and Patterns of Trafficking in Nigeria
The most popular trend was rural to urban trafficking, but currently, urban to urban, semi-urban to urban and even rural to rural trafficking are becoming prevalent. Human trafficking is dynamic as new dimensions of the crime emerge at every point in time.

Formerly, trafficking slavery, labour exploitation and domestic servitude were prevalent trends but with time, various other forms such as abduction, organ harvesting, baby sales, orphanage trafficking, etc began to emerge. From NAPTIP’s record, trafficking for sexual exploitation is most prevalent in terms of external trafficking while labour exploitation is rampant in domestic trafficking. The Agency’s data between 2016 and 2020 shows that trafficking for sexual exploitation is the highest of the cases with 29.7% prevalence, followed by Child labour/Abuse with 18.8%. Buying and selling of human beings for the purpose of exploitation predominantly including babies also occurs with 7.2% prevalence while others cumulatively sum up to 44.3%.

Nigeria’s Response
On 13th December 2000, the Nigerian government became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) 2000 and its Trafficking in Persons Protocol to Suppress, Prevent and Punish Trafficking in Persons. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) was established by an Act of parliament and came into being on 8th August, 2003 through a national legislation – Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPPEA), 2015 as re-enacted. Hence NAPTIP is Nigeria government’s institutional response to the scourge of Trafficking in Persons in Nigeria. It is also a fulfilment of Nigeria’s international obligation under the Protocol.

Since the creation of NAPTIP, the fight against Trafficking in Persons in Nigeria transposed into a new phase. Nigeria from inception has maintained its leading position in the comity of nations when it comes to combating Trafficking in Persons. Presently, the Agency NAPTIP has six (6) Regional Directorates across the 6 Geopolitical zones in the country and nine (9) Zonal Commands in Lagos, Benin, Sokoto, Uyo, Enugu, Kano, Maiduguri, Makurdi and Osogbo in addition to the Headquarters in Abuja. The Agency has equally established four (4) State Commands in Anambra, Imo, Cross-River and Bayelsa as well as 14 Liaison offices in Plateau, Rivers, Nasarawa, Gombe, Ekiti, Katsina, Kaduna, Yobe, Oyo, Abia, Adamawa, Yobe, Ebonyi and Ondo States.

NAPTIP has been delivering on good practices which serves as a model for other countries, especially with the Agency’s five-pronged approach to combating human trafficking summarized as 5Ps – Policy, Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership. This has driven the Agency’s success stories in each of the Priority areas delineated by the 5 Ps also known as NAPTIP’s Model.

Policy Formulation and Vigorous Implementation

The foremost and cardinal approach to the fight against TIP deployed by the Agency is the development of strategic Policies towards the elimination of the crime. Several Policies have been developed which guide various interventions in various thematic areas of the Agency’s operations. These include: NAPTIP Communication Strategy, Guidelines on National Referral Mechanism for Trafficked Persons, Standard Operating Procedure for Investigation and Prosecution of Human Trafficking Cases, and the National Policy on Protection and Assistance to Trafficked Persons in Nigeria approved by the Federal Executive Council in 2008. Others include Guidelines for the Protection of Children in Formal Care, NAPTIP Training Policy, and Standard Operating Procedure for the Coordination of Law Enforcement Response to Human Trafficking as well as the Protocol for Identification, Safe Return and Rehabilitation of Trafficked Persons.

In addition to these Policies, NAPTIP also drives the coordination and implementation of Federal Government’s Policies on relevant subjects such as Strengthening and coordinating the implementation of Regional and International treaties on TIP such as mutual legal agreements between Nigeria and EU Member States; Nigeria and UN Agencies, Nigeria and ECOWAS/ECCAS, etc. Some of the treaties include; United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC 2000) and its supplementing Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, Cotonou Accord, ECOWAS/ECCAS Agreement, Ouagadougou Plan of Action, etc.

The Agency also keyed into the Federal Government’s Policy which set up the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Trafficking, for more effective coordination of the fight against human trafficking in Nigeria. NAPTIP established the Nigeria-Benin Joint Technical Committee on Human Trafficking to ease the arrest of traffickers and rescue of victims in Nigeria and Benin Republic.

Prevention of Human Trafficking
Nigeria’s primary obligation under the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children (2000) is to prevent the crime of human trafficking from occurring. This philosophy propels NAPTIP’s Prevention Approach which refers to all strategies deployed by the Agency to discourage the crime of Trafficking in Persons. The Agency’s activities in this direction include awareness creation in the form of grassroots sensitization, capacity building of NAPTIP Officers and other Law Enforcement Agencies, press briefing, radio/TV Programmes/jingles, road walk awareness rallies, public lectures, enlightenment campaigns in markets, schools, churches and motor parks. Others unique preventive efforts include researching into the cause of the crime with a view to proffering lasting solutions, training of NAPTIP and other anti-trafficking Agencies on strategies to combat the crime, etc some specific preventive interventions by the Agency so far include; 16 episode TV drama series aired on national television channels (ITOHAN), NAPTIP on the Move – 30 minute television awareness programme on NTA International every Wednesday 8:30pm, Sustained public enlightenment activities in schools, motor parks, borders, and other endemic areas; Several Community dialogues and engagements with various groups at the grassroots.

The Agency also established of a Training Resource Centre (TRC) equipped with the support of the German Government; and an E-library with support from UNODC. NAPTIP has established Anti-trafficking Vanguards and NAPTIP Focal Groups with Youth Corps members – Orientation Camps, WOTCLEF/NYSC CD, Schools and Colleges. Another preventive move of the Agency was the undertaking of a full scale Research on the root causes of human trafficking and illegal migration through Ejigbo – a border town in Osun State, Nigeria in 2011 and a nationwide research culminating in the publication of the Nigeria Country Report on Human trafficking in 2019.

The Agency also carries out Media Campaign against TIP on its Social Media Platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Instagram, with a large number of followership. In order to create a better imagery of human trafficking to the public, NAPTIP established the NAPTIP Drama Club to intensify awareness through drama and short films.

Protection of Victims of the Crime
Protection comprises all actions and activities deployed towards the rescue, counselling, rehabilitation and re-integration of victims of human trafficking into the society. This approach is used by NAPTIP in combating trafficking, child labour and violence against persons. Within the period, the Agency rescued/received and rehabilitated over 17,000 victims of trafficking and empowered a good number of them with formal education programmes and vocational trades for meaningful living. A specific good practice from NAPTIP is that, out of the numerous numbers enrolled in formal education by NAPTIP, 13 of such have successfully graduated from various Universities in Nigeria, under the Agency’s sponsorship; three have been employed by the Agency.

NAPTIP currently operates 10 Shelters across the country with the cumulative capacity of three hundred bed spaces and is also in partnership with many Non-Governmental Organizations offering sheltering services to victims of human trafficking in the country. The Agency constantly remodels and improves the Agency’s Shelters to ensure continuous compliance with global human rights standard requirements for such home and to provide quality services and comfort to victims of trafficking. Furthermore, NAPTIP constantly trains and retrains the psychologists, counsellors and social workers manning its shelters and have even provide Certification to them in order to professionalize social work in the Agency and improve the quality of Protection services delivered by the Agency.

Prosecution is the fourth pillar of the Agency’s operational strategies. This entails the entire cycle of activities involving investigation of cases, arrest of the suspects, gathering of evidence, and prosecution of suspects. The Agency has always strengthened its establishing law to accommodate new trends and patterns of human trafficking per time. The first Act that established the Agency came into force in 2003; amended in 2005 and in 2015, the Act was repealed and re-enacted to further boost NAPTIP’s prosecutorial impetus. The Agency has so far received more than 8,000 cases since inception, prosecuting hundreds leading to the conviction of 487 suspects from inception while others are at various stages of trial in courts or referred to relevant Agencies for further investigations and eventual prosecutions.

The Trafficking in Persons (Control of Activities of Organisations and Centres) Regulations, (2019) which was part of a comprehensive National Response to human trafficking empowered NAPTIP to regulate the activities of certain organisations and centres; and to issue clearance certificates for the purposes of Educational Excursions; Recruitment for Labour; Sporting Activities; Cultural, music excursions or competitions among others.

As a way of stepping up prosecution efforts, NAPTIP trains and retrains its Investigators and prosecutors on anti-human trafficking investigation and prosecution techniques; including the new dimensions in human trafficking and violence against persons.

The 5th and the last ‘P’ – Partnership is anchored on the Act establishing the Agency which empowers it to collaborate with relevant stakeholders towards the suppression of the crime of human trafficking. Partnership enables the Agency to cooperate with relevant local and international Organizations, civil society, faith-based organizations, government Agencies, traditional institutions, etc.

NAPTIP maintains a cordial and functional relationship with all relevant actors and these partnerships have yielded the following successes:
a. Effective collaboration led to Nigeria’s existing MOUs with the following countries; Netherlands (which led to Operation Coolvis and Counter-Intelligence Exchange Programme), Mali (which led to Operation Timbuktu), Italy, Benin Republic, Finland, Spain, etc.

b. Mainstreaming of human trafficking into the National Curricula of schools which is a product of NAPTIP’s collaboration with National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC);
c. Strengthening of technical and operational cooperation with many countries on mutual legal assistance, joint investigations and joint prosecutions, particularly the UK.

d. Collaboration with neighbouring countries; Cameroun, Benin Republic, Chad and Niger Republic to strengthen mutual cooperation to stem trans-border trafficking;
e. Bilateral relations with the British Government resulting in the establishment of a Joint Border Task Force for enhanced intelligence-led detection and mitigation of human trafficking at major international airports in Nigeria and the UK as well as land entry points.

f. Collaboration with IOM towards the evacuation/reception of thousands of stranded Nigerians (including trafficked persons) in different countries including Mali and Libya, Saudi Arabia, etc. in different batches.

g. Establishment of the National Stakeholders Consultative Forum on Trafficking in Persons which has been convened 24 times since inception to periodically assess the level and effectiveness of Human Trafficking intervention efforts in the Country for future programming.

h. Establishment of State Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforces in 21 states across Nigeria, Kaduna been the most recent (December 2, 2021). The taskforce is a composition of members drawn from various relevant State and Non-state actors
i. Membership and active participation in local and international collaborative efforts aimed at ensuring human dignity, including the Protection Sector Working Group (PSWG), Technical Working Group on Migration; Child’s Rights Implementation Committee (CRIC) among others
j. The Blue Bus Campaign Initiative, a sensitization strategy to enhance the dissemination of anti-human trafficking messages in public places in collaboration with IOM.

Sexual exploitation is one of the most dehumanizing experiences faced by victims of human trafficking, rape, indecent assault, incest and other forms of sex-crimes. Sexual exploitation, particular the exploitation of the prostitution of others is the first among other forms of exploitations identified by Article 3A of Palermo Protocol.

In many cases reported, madams and the owners of the brothels take a large portion or all of the earnings of the prostitution of the residents. There is also street prostitution whereby female prostitutes solicit for clients on the streets. Child prostitution is a major manifestation of sexual exploitation and is also considered as human trafficking since a child does not have the capacity to make a decision to engage in commercial sexual activity.

The Most Vulnerable Groups
Women are not the only victims of SGBV. UNICEF reported in 2015 that 1 in every 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. Underage marriage still occurs in some parts of the country, victims are mostly subjected to rape by their much older partners. Although rape within marriage (forced or coerced sexual intercourse between wife and husband) is not recognize as a crime by any Nigerian law, it constitutes a significant proportion of domestic violence cases.

Several factors are responsible for sexual exploitation and these include: Ignorance, Poor socio-economic background, Collapse of family values, Poor societal value, Demand for casual sex, Booming business with commercial sex industry, Greed of the exploitation etc.

SGBV is a gross violation of human rights and its effects on the victims range from dehumanization, loss of property rights, deprivation, personal health risks as well as death in extreme cases. SGBV also portends some strategic risks to the society and these include; spread of HIV AIDS and other diseases, depletion of human capital development potential and promotes promotes prostitution which negatively affects the reputation of a country.

The government of Nigeria had since demonstrated commitment to stamp out violence against persons through promulgation of the Child’s Rights Act (2003) and Child’s Rights Laws of the various states; Penal Code (of the Northern States); Criminal Code (of the Southern States). Also Nigeria is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966; International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights 1966; Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1979; the International Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the Nigeria’s Constitution, 1999.

The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, (VAPPA) was passed in 2015 to prohibit all forms of violence against persons including sexual violence and exploitation. In addition to this laws; the following legislations also have implications for SGBV. 28 State Houses of Assembly have passed the legislations prohibiting sexual and gender based violence while the Laws have received executive accent 17 states and FCT.

One of NAPTIP’s cardinal core value is gender equality and equity; hence the Agency created Reforms Unit which ensures gender inclusivity in all its programming. The Agency also recently created a Violence Against Persons Department charged specifically with the responsibility of coordinating VAPP Activities. In addition, a Rapid Response Squad was created in the Agency’s Headquarters to ensure prompt response to distress calls on SGBV issues.

Section 44 of the Act vests in NAPTIP the powers to administer the Act. In administering the Act, NAPTIP is required to coordinate all activities and programmes geared towards the realization of the letter and spirit of the Act. The Agency created a National Sex Offenders Database on 25th November 2019, to name and shame perpetrators of this horrendous act, pursuant to Section 1(4) of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015. So far, 78 offenders’ details have been uploaded in the Register.

Poised to deliver on the expectations of the government and the entire Nigerians towards the reduction of sexual and gender, NAPTIP has sustained public enlightenment to provide information to the general public on the ills of sexual and genderbased through campaigns, jingles, films, research, training and other programmes. The Agency also adopts protective measures for victims of sexual and gender based violence through the provision of adequate counseling, and rehabilitation procedures. NAPTIP develops, implements and periodically reviews laws, policies and programmes towards the suppression of SGBV while vigorously pursuing the prosecution of offenders of SGBV offenders. Furthermore, NAPTIP continues to deepen Partnership with relevant stakeholders towards the elimination of the crime.

Sexual and Gender Based Violence is a terrible phenomenon and should be discouraged by all. The adoption the above preventive and remedial imperatives may result in the reduction of the crime.

Going Forward
NAPTIP has over the years demonstrated operational efficiency and the current Management is determined to building on the legacies of the previous years in order to ensure that Nigeria maintain the lead in this regard. The current slogan of the Agency – ensuring a human trafficking and violence-free Nation – remains the focus of the Agency in this current era. NAPTIP is therefore truly desirous that all Nigerians support the Agency in the effort to rid the country of these criminal elements who derive pleasure in exploiting the vulnerability of others.

NAPTIP Research and Programme Development Department
November, 2021


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