The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has said it has so far secured 316 convictions against human traffickers in Nigeria.
The agency also said that the assets of some of the convicted traffickers have been forfeited to the Victims’ Trust Fund. Chief Legal Officer of NAPTIP, Mrs. Ijeoma Amugo, said this during a one-day workshop in Calabar, Cross River State on human trafficking prosecution and victims’ fund and protection organised by the Conference of Western Attorneys-General in conjunction with NAPTIP and other agencies.
The workshop had in attendance representatives from the Utah Attorney General’s Office in the United States, security agencies, legal practitioners, attorney generals, judges, prosecutors and investigators, among other stakeholders.
Amugo, who said NAPTIP have about 145 pending cases, listed some of the challenges faced by the agency. The challenges, according to her, include insufficient funds, clandestine nature of the crime, inter-agency rivalry, porous borders, relationship ties, tender age of victims, lack of training for investigators and prosecutors, unwillingness of victims to testify in court, oath taking in shrines and delay in the criminal justice system.
She said: “From our prosecution scorecard, NAPTIP has a current record of 316 convictions. The assets of some of the convicted traffickers have been forfeited to the Victims’ Trust Fund, while there are about 145 pending cases.”
Amugo, who did not mention the amount in the trust fund, however, said that the fund was already used in rehabilitating victims as well as investigations.
One of the facilitators of the workshop, Chief Anthony Idigbe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said that there was the need to further amend the law on Human Trafficking to include offences that will help secure justice.
He said: “If you look at our law that was amended in 2015, it requires further amendment. Our law focuses too much on pure human trafficking offence which is very difficult to prove. We need to amend the law to create lower level offences such as offences related to simple possession of travel documents of another person without explanation.
“Like in Utah, United States, if you have someone else’s travel document and you cannot give simple explanation on why it is with you, you have committed an offence. It is enough to prove that the suspect was as at that time trying to traffic in person(s). We need to create those kinds of offences that are easier to prove.
“With those types of little ones, you can actually take people out of the system. The problem with our prosecution system is that we always go for big offences. There is the need for such level of reform and I believe that we are making progress.
In his address, the Cross River State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Joe Abang said the endemic nature of the menace in the state was of great concern.
“It is reported that Calabar has become the transit haven for traffickers, who as a result of clampdown on their activities in neighbouring states like Edo have relocated to Calabar, taking advantage of the low crime rate to perpetrate their nefarious activities.
“They use the ports and various creeks in the area to transport their victims to countries like Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon among others. But I have bad news for them. Cross River State has never been and will never be a hiding place for criminals,” he said.
Speaking on the relevance of the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund, Chief Intelligence Assistance of NAPTIP, Mrs. Odugbesan Tolulola, said
they have so far received a total of 9, 453 victims who were provided with psychological counselling and the agency was able to empower 388 victims in various skills.