17,727 victims of trafficking rescued, rehabilitated in 19 years — NAPTIP boss

The National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) said Thursday that 17,727 victims of human trafficking have been rescued, sheltered and rehabilitated in the last 19 years of the existence of the agency.

Director-General of NAPTIP, Mrs Fatima Waziri-Azi, said this at the 37th Session of the State House Media Briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. 

She said poor funding hampers operations of the agency, and called on the federal government to increase and regularise funding for the agency.She said out of the 17,727 victims, 13,026 are females, 4,727 are males with 8,935 being children and 8,818 adults.

She said out of the 8,005 arrests made by the agency, only 511 convictions were secured, stressing that the low conviction rate was as a result of refusal by victims to cooperate during investigations. 

She said the agency currently has 261 ongoing cases in various courts nationwide. 

“The agency has so far rescued, sheltered 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.

“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.

“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,’” she said. 

Waziri-Azi noted that the lack of cooperation from source or vulnerable communities also stems from beliefs that the traffickers are helpers and should, therefore, be protected from NAPTIP,” she said.

According to her, the low conviction rate is 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.” 

Speaking on funding and how it affects the agency, the NAPTIP boss explained that the agency has been finding it difficult to repartriate those that have been trafficked outside the country due to inadequate funding.

She said the current insecurity has also a hampered the agency’s work in terms of operations, sensitisation, rescue and assistance.

On the emerging trends of organ trafficking, the NAPTIP boss said the agency has already embarked on research to determine the value chain in the country.