UN appoints NAPTIP’s DG into UNODC board of trustees

—Says out of 8,005 arrests, only 511 convictions secured
–Laments victims’ refusal to cooperate with NAPTIP

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

THE Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, Dr. Fatima Waziri-Azi, yesterday said the agency has, since its inception in 2003, rescued, sheltered and rehabilitated at least 17,727 victims of human trafficking.

Dr. Fatima Waziri-Azi, stated this when she featured at the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

She further disclosed that females constitute an overwhelming majority of the victims accounting for about 13,026.

The NAPTIP boss lamented that out of 8,005 arrests in the past year’s, the agency has so far only secured 511 convictions, adding that the low conviction rate, was due to the refusal of victims to cooperate during investigations.

Giving key updates in her agency’s efforts to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking, domestic violence and other related offences, she said there are 261 ongoing cases in various courts nationwide.

According to her, “The agency has so far rescued, sheltwred and rehabilitated over 17,727 victims of human trafficking. 4,272 are males while 13,026 are females. Children also form the bulk of that number; amounting to 8,935.

“NAPTIP has also rescued 15,992 and 1,805 non-Nigerians in the past years. They hail from China, Lebanon, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Central African Republic, Ghana, Benin Republic, Guinea Conakry, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroun Chad, Ivory Coast and Mali.

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“The 394 victims who have gone through our shelters between January 2022 to date received medical support, psycho-social support and legal assistance. NAPTIP has also sponsored 16 VoTs to universities across the country. Three of such graduates are now officers of NAPTIP.”

Asked why NAPTIP has secured less than a thousand convictions despite arresting over 8000 human traffickers in the past years, Waziri-Azi noted that most of the victims were not cooperating sufficiently with the agency.

She blamed their reticence on threats on themselves or their families, making difficult to gather intelligence required to convict traffickers.

She said, “One of the challenges we have is victims not wanting to cooperate with us, because the traffickers are most times, family members. You hear stories of sisters trafficking sisters, brothers trafficking brothers, uncles trafficking nieces and nephews; even husbands trafficking their wives and children.

“International law stipulates that you don’t force victims to cooperate with the system. What you do is encourage them, and for us in NAPTIP, when we come, we debrief them, ‘Okay, tell me the name of your trafficker.’ And they say ‘Oh, I don’t remember.’

“The simple fact is that these people are being threatened. Most of them are threatened personally. Some of them, their families have been threatened. And like I said in my presentations, sometimes your trafficker might not force you to take oaths in Nigeria, because they don’t want you to suspect anything. But when you get to the destination country, they make you swear oaths there.

“So they have their own foreign shrine, where they’ll make you swear oaths. And for those that don’t operate in the oath realm, they now video you nude and keep threatening you that, ‘if you report, we’ll expose you.”

The NAPTIP DG explained that lack of cooperation from source or vulnerable communities also stems from beliefs that the traffickers are helpers and should, therefore, be protected from NAPT.

She said the low conviction rate was also due to the “unavailability of lawyers to take up civil cases on behalf of victims on Pro Bono basis; making it difficult for victims to get compensation from their traffickers.”

Waziri-Azi noted that the best the agency could do is sensitize the public and encourage trafficked victims to report to its operatives and bases closest to them.

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