Children Most Trafficked in West Africa, Says UNODC Report

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By Bennett Oghifo

Children represent more than 75 per cent of trafficking victims detected in West Africa, says the UNODC Fifth Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, presented at a virtual event, yesterday.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) jointly with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) presented the key findings of UNODC Fifth Global Report on Trafficking in Persons to stakeholders from the federal government, civil society organisations and international partners.

The report covers 148 countries and more than 95 per cent of the world’s population, using primarily official statistics on trafficking cases between 2016 and 2019.

“Countries in West Africa tend to detect more victims than other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly children and for the purpose of forced labour. Out of 4,799 victims detected in 26 Sub-Saharan Africa countries, 3,336 were in West Africa including 2,553 children,” the report said.

UNODC data suggests that close to 80 per cent of victims in West Africa were trafficked for forced labour, which remains the major form of exploitation in the region.

“Trafficking in persons is one of the most lucrative criminal markets globally. Nigeria is an origin, transit and destination country and is affected by both domestic and cross-border trafficking. A collaborative approach is crucial in tackling this crime and NAPTIP has made efforts to ensure trafficking cases are being investigated in close collaboration with other law enforcement agencies,” said Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, NAPTIP Director-General.

On behalf of Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Chief of Staff Edima Otuokon welcomed the report as it “will provide valuable insight to all stakeholders and actors as we continue to face unprecedented challenges as a result of trafficking in persons.” She added that “the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development will continue to place emphasis on successes of ongoing programmes and partnerships to ensure the fight against trafficking in persons is sustainable.”

The majority of victims in West Africa are trafficked within their own countries or across the border from neighbouring countries. In spite of an increasing number of Sub-Saharan Africa countries introducing a specific offense against trafficking in persons in line with the United Nations definition (38 in 2020 compared to 2 in 2003), the conviction rate in the region remains lower than in other parts of the world.

The report, for the first time, provides an in-depth analysis on the level of involvement of organised criminal groups in trafficking of persons, adding that with their participation, “many more victims are trafficked, often for longer periods, across wider distances and with more violence.”