James Emejo in Abuja
Inadequate government funding and lack of political will have been identified as critical factors currently hindering the fight against Trafficking in Persons (TIP) in the country as well as in other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member countries, according to a recent report.
Specifically, the ECOWAS Annual Synthesis Report on Trafficking in Persons in West Africa (April 2017 Version), stated that in Nigeria, funding constituted the single biggest challenge in combating trafficking both at policy and operational levels and expressed concern over rising internal trafficking.
It added that the biggest challenge in investigation, prosecution and trial of trafficking cases was the lack of cooperation from victims.
The document, obtained by THISDAY showed that out of the total of 570 cases reported in the country during the review period, 203 cases were investigated with 147 prosecutions and 23 convictions.
It put the number of repatriated foreign nationals from the country at 37 comprising 32 Beninoise, three Ivorians, and two Togolese while on the other hand, 181 Nigerians were repatriated from other member countries. In total, within all the member States, 1,432 cases were reported; 765 investigated with 470 prosecutions and 123 convictions.
According to the report, which was put together by the ECOWAS Commission Anti Trafficking Unit in collaboration with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), in securing trafficking convictions, member states faced obstacles, particularly interference by family members, authorities or other influential personalities, and corruption.
The report further identified Nigeria as one of the trafficking networks alongside China, Lebanon, Liberia and Guinea among others.
Research Officer, Anti Trafficking Programme, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), Claire Healy also said the ECOWAS plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons in West Africa, 2017 â€“ 2022, the fifth regional trafficking plan of action had been finalised and was awaiting adoption.
Nevertheless, she added that a lot was being done by countries particularly Nigeria, which has anti trafficking agencies like NAPTIP and was currently working hard to have the right legislations and policies to combat trafficking.
Nigeria was particularly commended for adopting a National Plan of Action on trafficking in persons in 2015 as well as National Policy on Protection and Assistance to trafficked persons, which was adopted in 2008.
She said there were still gaps in terms of forms of trafficking that were newly being identified in the country.
Claire told THISDAY: â€œThere is a real focus on West Africans being trafficked to the Middle East and the gulf states and North Africa and are being exploited there either as house helps and also being exploited in prostitution – And I think it’s something that a lot of ECOWAS states want to respond to… â€œ
She said most people were currently being trafficked within the country compared to the hitherto practice of trafficking across the borders. She added that emphasis was also on child trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The report identified Benue, Akwa-Ibom, and Delta States as the main origins for internal trafficking while Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Sokoto and Oyo states were described as popular destinations of the trafficked persons.
The report had been collated over the years and it brings together all data and information on human trafficking in all the 15-member ECOWAS states.