The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) is a law enforcement agency of the federal government founded in 2003 to combat human trafficking and other similar human rights violations. However, with baby factories discovered in different parts of the country and the spike in child trafficking cases, PAUL OKAH wonders if the agency is delivering on its mandate.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) was established under a federal bill on July 14, 2003, by the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act (2003) through the advocacy of Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF).
Upon its establishment by the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administartion, NAPTIP was vested with the authority to combat human trafficking, gender-based violence and other human rights violations against Nigerians, with nine zonal commands in Lagos, Benin, Enugu, Uyo, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Oshogbo, and Makurdi.
Furthermore, to discharge its duty smoothly in combating human trafficking, apart from important units, the agency has departments such as investigation and monitoring, legal and prosecution, counseling and rehabilitation, public enlightenment, research and programmes development, training and manpower development, administration, finance and accounts.
However, almost on a daily basis, cases of child abuse, child trafficking, rape and other issues are recorded in homes, states across the federation.
Also, apart from baby factories discovered in Ondo, Ogun, Imo, Akwa Ibom Abia, Enugu, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Anambra and other states, usually under the guise of orphanages, cases abound of children being maltreated in homes, working as domestic helps or even sold to ritual killers in the guise of seeking greener pastures outside or within the country.
On December 3, this year, a statement by the public relations officer of the Ogun state Police Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, indicated that the Command discovered another baby factory home on Lagos Street, Adesan, in Mowe town of Obafemi-Owode local government area of the state.
The DPO Mowe division, Marvis Jayeola, led his men to the area where a man, who was suspected to be working for the operator of the home, was arrested with four women and four children. He said one of the women was heavily pregnant while another was said to have just been delivered of a baby, which had been sold.
He also added that preliminary investigation revealed that the home was linked to a woman, Florence Ogbonna, who had earlier been arrested for a similar offence; with her case pending in court.
Why the spike?
Usually those arrested said they were lured with money, thereby suggesting that poverty may be playing a great role in encouraging the menace.
In a chat with Blueprint Weekend, a public affairs analyst based in Abuja, Dr. Peter Adebayo, said some orphanages serve as points of sale of babies without attracting attention.
He said: “I must commend NAPTIP for the achievements it recorded in busting baby factories and tackling child trafficking, domestic violence and all forms of violence, especially under the immediate past director-general, Dame Julie Okah-Donli.
“It is common knowledge that many orphanages engage in selling of babies to couples. This is a result of the poverty of some families. There are cases of teenage girls being impregnated by jobless boys and allowed to bear the brunt. Not having the means to take care of their babies, many of these girls are paid off by criminals to handover their babies for sale.
“Imagine a situation whereby a lady who couldn’t afford N5, 000 for herself is given N100, 000 or more just to sell a baby. Of course, she will see it as money spinner and then lend herself to men for the production of more babies. That’s the long and short of how baby factories are springing up in states across the country. However, I urge the FG to intensify efforts in tackling the menace. Let arrested culprits be prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others.”
While addressing newsmen last week after being arrested by the police during a raid in a baby factory in Mowe in the Obafemi-Owode local government area of Ogun state, a 17-year-old girl Rivers state girl, Favour Christopher, who sold her few days old baby for N100, 000, said she was lured into the act after being impregnated by her boyfriend, who failed to take responsibility for it.
“My baby girl was delivered last Tuesday. I did not see the baby, I was only told. I don’t know the place where I gave birth to the baby. I was taken there at night and I was blindfolded. I left the place the same day my baby was delivered.
“When I asked for my baby, they said I should not worry about it. They said the woman that brought me there was waiting for me at a junction but when I got to the junction, I did not see her, I saw someone else. The person took me to the place where the woman was staying.
“They did not tell me that they had sold my baby; they only told me to send my account details. But since I didn’t have any bank account, I begged a lady there (one of the pregnant teenagers) to let me use her bank account and the money was sent to her account. She showed me proof when the N100, 000 was paid into her account,” she said.
When this reporter visited NAPTIP’s office in the FCT for comments on its achievements and challenges before filing in this report on Wednesday, officials of the agency, who pleaded anonymity, said the newly appointed director-general, Mrs. Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, was still trying to acclimatise with the mandate of the office and should be given time to address the press.
However, on September 23, during an advocacy visit to the palace of Igwe Julius Nnaji, the traditional ruler of Nike in Enugu East local government area of the state, the immediate past NAPTIP boss, Mrs. Okah-Donli, said human trafficking “is currently rated as the second largest and most lucrative criminal enterprise globally, after trafficking in small arms.”
According to her, though all the states of the federation are affected by migration and human trafficking, Enugu state remains endemic for baby factory, child abuse, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.
She said the agency rescued no fewer than 444 indigenes, comprising 339 females and 105 males from the vice between 2004 and July 2020, regretting that, in spite of efforts to contain human trafficking and its associated ills, the menace continued to rise.
“These victims were subjected to child abuse, sale as babies, domestic servitude, foreign travels and sexual exploitation. Trafficking generates $150bn per annum, according to the International Labour Organisation.
“From NAPTIP records, about 95 per cent of victims of human trafficking are young people below 35 years and mostly women and children. Traffickers recruit victims from vulnerable rural communities, taking them through hazardous terrains with promises of greener pastures abroad.
“It has become necessary to mobilise indigenes to be vigilant against the trafficking of young women to West African countries for exploitation,” she said.