By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
Going by the inadequacies of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person (NAPTIP) Enforcement and Administration Act 2003 and the 2015 amendment to the Act, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has called for a stiffer penalty for human traffickers through the enactment of Trafficking in Persons Prohibition, Enforcement and Administration Amendment Bill 2018.
Dogara, while addressing a two-day consultative meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Inter-Parliamentary Relations with a delegation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, United Kingdom branch (CPA-UK) and other stakeholders, lamented that despite the dangers of modern-day slavery, previous legislations have not effectively curbed the menace.
Describing the growing spate of human trafficking as “one of the worst cases of inhuman treatment and wickedness of man to fellow human beings,” and attributing the high incidence of poverty, social distress and growing rate of crime to the trend, Dogara said Nigeria is worst hit by human trafficking because it occupies a central position in West Africa.
According to him, “The establishment of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) through the NAPTIP Enforcement and Administration Act 2003, was one of the first decisive steps taken by the Nigerian government to curb the illicit human trafficking enterprise. In 2005, the parliament passed an Act to amend the law, which increased the penalties for trafficking offences to a minimum of five years imprisonment, among others. However, in spite of the various improvements in the law, the envisaged effective apprehension and conviction of offenders have not been achieved.”
Canvassing the need for the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition, Enforcement and Administration (Amendment) Bill 2018, the Speaker noted: “The Bill, which seeks to amend the 2015 Act, will establish Special Trafficking Court, expand the composition of the Governing Board of NAPTIP by including members from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), increase penalties and criminalise certain offences,” stressing that: “This Bill, when passed into law, will help to tame the hydra-headed monster of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and related offences.”
Also addressing the stakeholders gathered at the event, which held at the National Assembly premises, the Director General, NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli, said out of the 6,000 cases of human trafficking reported to the agency, 3,600 cases have been addressed, adding that victims are being rehabilitated.
She said: “The agency has 10 shelters across Nigeria and through our protection programmes, we have rescued and rehabilitated 13,345 victims of trafficking in persons from inception. A good number of them have been empowered with formal education and vocational skills for meaningful living.”
Noting that NAPTIP has won 304 cases against some persons involved in human trafficking with the conviction of 368 traffickers, Okah-Donli said the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, has greatly assisted her agency to reduce the activities of traffickers in Edo State by the invocation of curses on the human traffickers.
She agreed with Dogara on the need for a more proactive and concerted effort towards stopping the illegal trade and argued that since girls from every part of the country are involved in prostitution in some countries where it is legalised around the world, all the 36 state governors should be involved in combating human trafficking in the country.
Noting that the Nigerian leadership has shown more than a passing interest in stopping the illicit trade, the Country Representative of the Department for International Development (DFID), Mrs. Debbie Palmer, assured the country that the United Kingdom remains committed to helping it to stop the trend.
She noted that the United Kingdom had donated over £3 million in combating modern day slavery in Nigeria, adding that the country has helped in facilitating the return of trafficked persons.
On her part, the representative of the National Child Human Rights Commission, Mrs Fatima Ahmed, said there is the urgent need to have a legal framework to preserve the inalienable human rights of the child in our human right laws.