Tackling Trends, New Tricks in Human Trafficking 

On the go, thousands of Nigerians continuously fall into the hands of human traffickers who exploit and violate their human rights, while subjecting them to inhuman treatments and untold hardship, within and outside the shores of Nigeria. To build on the successes recorded so far in tackling this menace, Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, in collaboration with European Union, FIIAPP under A-TIPSOM, recently held a capacity development orientation on requisite knowledge of current tricks and trends used by human traffickers to lure their victims

Over the years, human traffickers employ tricks to lure their victims. Often times, these tricks come in the form deceit,

Oath taking before departure, threat, position of power/influence, false job advertisements,

debt bondage, forced marriage, seduction and romance, lies about educational or travel opportunities, abduction, trafficking for sex work, forced marriage, forced labour, rituals, debt bondage, organ transplant and baby sale etc

But nowadays, emerging trends and tricks are the new order.  These emerging trends and tricks by  traffickers involve integrated technology at every stage of the process- from recruiting to exploiting victims.

With these new threats, the traffickers commit violation of the right to life, security,  dignity of the human person, access to justice, healthcare, denial of right to return to community and rights of family life.

Human Trafficking

Globally, human trafficking is the fastest growing organised crime. It is a multibillion dollar industry and second among transnational organised crime that exacts high human cost which leaves many trapped in exploitative situations worldwide.

Essentially, the process of trafficking begins with the abduction or recruitment of a person and continues with the transportation. In case of transnational trafficking, the process continues with the entry of the individual into another country.

The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of cohesion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a position of vulnerability or of giving or receiving payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

According to reports, United Nations ranked human trafficking as the second largest crime network against humanity valued at $150 billion while the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated that 40.3 million victims are currently trapped in different forms of human trafficking across the globe with Nigeria having a large pool out of this.

The Nigerian Situation

In Nigeria, human trafficking is the third rated criminal act. This is according to the 2021 Trafficking report of the US Department of State, which placed the country on the Tier 2 Watch List.

Every year, dozens of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers who exploit them, violate their human rights and subject them to inhuman treatments and untold hardship, within and outside the shores of Nigeria. 

According to the report by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crimes (UNODC) and the supplementing Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, Nigeria was rated one of the leading African countries in the illicit trade, with interior, cross-border and cross-country trafficking. 

The report also showed that several Nigerian women have been subjected to forced labour and prostitution in other countries.

Recently,  the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP)

Director General, Dr. Fatima Waziri-Azi, disclosed that 20,000 young Nigerian women were trapped in Mali and living in shanties in mining areas where they were being sexually exploited.

Represented by NAPTIP Director of Public Enlightenment, Mr Josiah Emerole, at a recent media training, the DG said Nigeria continues to experience high and external migration due to huge population, economic climate, poverty and porous borders, adding that “many victims are still stranded in a number of West Africa countries as they cannot move further to Europe and are living in dangerous conditions.

“Most of this trafficked persons engage in prostitution for a fee equivalent to N150 which would be collected by those who trafficked them there”.

The trafficking routes and destination countries include Nigeria (Kano) to Saudi Arabia (Middle East) for prostitution and begging); from Nigeria to Niger Republic to Libya to Europe (for prostitution); from 

Nigeria to Burkina Faso to Mali to Morocco to Europe (for prostitution); from 

Nigeria to Morocco to Middle East (for prostitution); Nigeria to  Cote d’Ivoire to Burkina Faso to Mali (graduated from Transit to Destination; from Nigeria to Cameroun to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea  (domestic and agricultural labour).

Evolution of NAPTIP

As the agency charged to tackle this menace, their brief is tasking. Over the years, NAPTIP, presently led by its Director General, Dr. Fatima Waziri-Azi, 

has continued to intensify measures aimed at creating more awareness, as well as rescuing victims.

Created on July 14, 2003 by the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2003, the agency is the Federal Government of Nigeria’s response to addressing the scourge of trafficking in persons. It was in fulfillment of the country’s international obligation under the Trafficking in Persons Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Transnational Organised Crime Convention (UNTOC) of which Nigeria became a signatory to the UNTOC   and its Trafficking in Persons Protocol on December 13, 2000. 

Although the Bill was passed by the National Assembly on July 7, 2003 and Presidential Assent given on July 14, 2003, the law which is operational throughout the country created NAPTIP as a specific multi-disciplinary crime-fighting agency and the nation’s focal institution to fight the scourge of trafficking in persons in the country using the four pronged approach of Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership.

The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 went through an amendment in 2005 in a bid to further strengthen the agency. However, in 2015, as a result of the new trends in the crime of trafficking in persons and the need to further strengthen the institutional framework, the Act was repealed and the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015 was enacted. The new Act received Presidential assent on March 26, 2015.

Roles of NAPTIP 

Accordingly, the roles of the agency include to enforce and administer the provisions of this Act; 

  1. co-ordinate and enforce all other laws on Trafficking in persons and related offences; adopt effective measures for the prevention and eradication of trafficking in persons and related offences; and establish co-ordinated preventive, regulatory and investigatory machinery geared towards the eradication of trafficking in persons. 
    1. The agency is also to investigate all cases of trafficking in persons including forced labour, child labour, forced prostitution, exploitative labour and other forms of exploitation, slavery and slavery – like activities, bonded labour, removal of organs, illegal smuggling of migrants, sale and purchase of persons; encourage and facilitate the availability and participation of persons who voluntarily, consent to assist in investigations or proceedings relating to trafficking in persons and related offences; while enhancing the effectiveness of law enforcement agents and other partners in the suppression of trafficking in persons.

It also seems to c

reate public enlightenment and awareness through seminars, workshops, publications, radio and television programmes and other means aimed at educating the public on the dangers of trafficking in persons; establish and maintain communications to facilitate rapid exchange of information concerning offences under this Act; conduct research and strengthen effective legal means of international co-operation in suppressing trafficking in persons; and implement all bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions on trafficking in persons adopted by Nigeria. 

They are also do strengthen co-operation and conduct joint operations with relevant law enforcement and security agencies, international authorities and other relevant partners in the eradication of trafficking in persons; co-ordinate, supervise and control the protection, assistance and rehabilitation of trafficked persons and all functions and activities relating to investigation and prosecution of all offences connected with or relating to trafficking in persons; and adopt measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds, property, funds or other assets derived from trafficking in persons or related offences. 

Not left out are its roles to conduct research on factors responsible for internal and external trafficking in persons and initiate programmes and strategies aimed at the prevention and elimination of the problem; facilitate rapid exchange of scientific and technical information concerning or relating to trafficking in persons; and collaborate with government bodies both within and outside Nigeria whose functions are similar to those of the agency in the area of the: movement of proceeds or properties derived from trafficking in persons and other related offences; identities, location and activities of persons suspected of being involved in trafficking in persons and other related offences; and

    • exchange of personnel and other experts.
    • Essentially, they are to establish and maintain a system for monitoring trans-border activities relating to trafficking in persons in order to identify suspicious movements and persons involved; deal with matters connected with the extradition and deportation of persons involved in trafficking in persons and other mutual legal assistance between Nigeria and any other country in trafficking in persons, subject to the supervision of the minister; and initiate, develop and improve special training programmes for personnel of the agency and relevant law enforcement agents charged with the responsibility of detecting offences created under this Act.


Unarguably, NAPTIP has built on its existing operational platform to ensure the achievement of its constitutional mandate both nationally and internationally.

Essentially, they have given a new lease of life to survivors by rehabilitating and sponsoring their education and skills acquisition.

In terms of successes recorded so far,  NAPTIP has rehabilitated and reintegrated more than 17,000 trafficked victims between 2003 and 2021.

Already, 13 of the rescued victims were sponsored to the university and have graduated, while three of them are currently working with the agency.

On the other hand, it has also effected the arrest of scores of suspected human traffickers and secured the conviction of 516 of them since its formation.

But despite the successes achieved so far, there is always room for more given the sensitive nature of their job which involves lives. 

Boost to the Fight against Human Trafficking 

Therefore, the fight against human trafficking recently received a boost as NAPTIP, in collaboration with European Union, International and Ibero- American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) under the Action Against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (A-TIPSOM) project organised a three -day training in Asaba to equip journalists with the knowledge of human trafficking and the emerging tricks and trend of trafficking in persons in Nigeria and the world.

The Capacity Development Orientation on Standard Reporting Template for members of the Trafficking in Media Corps and officers of Press and Public Relations unit saw NAPTIP and the media hold deliberations on the way forward. 

Process, Causative Factors and Dangers of Human Trafficking 

In the first paper, which was an overview of Human Trafficking, the Director Public Enlightenment, Mr. Josiah Emerole, said the process of trafficking begins with the abduction or recruitment of a person and continues with the transportation, is followed by the exploitation phase during which the victim is forced into sexual work, forced servitude or personnel for other criminal purposes, while a further phase occurs that does not involve the victim but the offender.

He said: ” Depending on the size and sophistication of the trafficking operation, the criminal (organisation) may find it necessary to launder the criminal proceeds. There may be further links to other criminal offences such as the smuggling of migrants, weapons or drugs.”

He listed crime associated with human trafficking as forgery, sale of babies, criminal force/assault, domestic servitude, criminal intimidation, fraud, money laundering, kidnapping, smuggling of migrants, abduction, murder, corruption, rape, organ harvesting, forced abortions, rituals and 


He further went on to cite causative factors like poverty, lack of economic and educational opportunities, peer pressure, ignorance, conflicts and wars, clandestine nature of the crime, 

general unemployment, especially amongst young graduates; collapse of social safety nets, including the abuse of the traditional fostering by family members, and globalisation, as some of the underlying reasons why people indulge in human trafficking.

He also added the strength of the foreign currencies compared with the local ones

Demand for cheap labour; increasing global demand for illicit sex, wide-spread illiteracy that facilitates deception by traffickers, breakdown and erosion of cultural and moral values, greed on the part of parental figures who easily fall prey to promises of monetary rewards, 

The lucrative nature  of the crime which makes it attractive to traffickers, the activities of juju priests who put psychological pressure on victims through oaths, lack of adequate resources to combat the crime and 

porous borders.

On the inherent dangers he classified them between physical, emotional and psychological. While the physical dangers include malnutrition, torture, exposure to unwanted pregnancies, forced and frequent abortions, infections and infectious diseases, STI’s, STD’s, HIV/AIDS, other crimes, stunted growth, and even death; emotional dangers posed include depression, hopelessness, guilt, shame, flashbacks, loss of confidence, anxiety and low self esteem

The psychological include Post trauma stress disorder, depression, panic disorder, suicidal feelings, Stockholm syndrome, substance abuse, amongst others.

Emerging Trends and Tricks 

Admitting that preventing Trafficking in Persons (TIP) is a complex issue as the crime is clandestine in nature, Emerole said it has enslaved a lot of youths in Nigeria. 

On the emerging trends and tricks, he said: “Traffickers have integrated technology into their business model at every stage of the process, from recruiting to exploiting victims. Many children are approached or lured by traffickers on social media. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Youtube and Twitter are amongst the most popular destinations on the web. 

“There’s no doubt that these sites have contributed negatively to the high level of cases involving human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. Human traffickers use the social media as a tool in luring their victims through fake and enticing offers that are always too good to be true.

“Two new social media trends traffickers use in getting their victims are Hunting and Fishing. “HUNTING” involving a trafficker actively pursuing a victim, typically on social media, “FISHING”, is when perpetrators post job advertisements and wait for potential victims to respond. 

“Technology can be misused by traffickers to launder or transfer illicit profits. Evidence of negative outcomes from these technologies such as sexual exploitation and modern day slave like activities organized via Facebook or jobs found through similar sites are well-known.

“Note that Technology can also have a positive use in helping to combat the crime, such as aiding investigations, enhancing prosecutions, raising awareness, and providing services to victims.”

He cited some of the new trends as

Commercial Surrogacy where a woman carries a child on behalf of a couple through a well defined arrangement to hand over the child to the commissioning couple (parents) at birth.

He said: “The surrogacy trafficking trade use the same network that are used for domestic work and sex trade from poor regions into urban areas. Unmarried girls are impregnated with embryos without their consent. Others are confined in homes and when some girls try to run away, they are caught, brought back and beaten.”

On football trafficking he said this is the exploitation of young footballers in developing countries, particularly trafficking from South America and Africa into Europe and Asia. 

 “Traffickers, representing themselves as “agents” of foreign football leagues, prey on families desperate for a better life for their children, convincing the families to pay the traffickers “fees” to create the opportunity for the players to try out for European football teams, then absconding with the money and often leaving the young footballers stranded in Europe and other parts of the world.

“It is estimated that more than 15,000 children are trafficked into Europe every year with false hopes of making it as professional footballers.

Irrespective of the trend used in luring their victims, the goal of the traffickers is to exploit the victims.”

On orphanage trafficking (Orphanages recruiting children to attract donations), he said others are used to steal, bait and commit all sorts of crimes.

Summarily, he said the fight against Human Trafficking requires a cohesive and coordinated approach supported by strong ICT security system, adding that ” today the battle against crime continues, and law enforcement agents have more tools at their disposal than ever before”. 

Implications to National Development

 According to Emerole, the implications of human trafficking to national development cannot be wished away as it tarnishes reputation, fuels corruption among public officers, leads to other crimes that portends danger to national security and provides wealth to criminal enterprise, fuels irregular migration.

Challenges in Dealing with Dangers of Human Trafficking

Over the course of carrying out the work at NAPTIP, some of the challenges faced include the fact that some family members are involved making it difficult for victims to speak out.

He also pointed out that  jurisdiction is a challenge to prosecutors, due to the transnational nature of TIP/SOM as acts and human rights violations may have occurred over a period and across different jurisdictions with some key culprits or victims/witnesses spread across various jurisdictions.

Also, “local legislations are limiting in nature as not allowing for admission of certain electronic evidence and depositions of witnesses /victims in other countries during trial.

Inadequate or almost non existing robust witness protection programmes makes it difficult to assure and secure cooperation of victims/witnesses. 

“This means that inadequate Local Legislation and capacity to conduct financial investigations that may expose other culprits and lead to forfeiture of proceeds of crime that would serve as a deterrent and provide funds which may be used to finance operations.

“Lack of Judicial and prosecutorial cooperation between states, because sometimes a suspect may be arrested in a state where investigations will link him to just a minor crime, whereas a substantial and grievous offence must have been committed in another state;

Weak and almost non existing  Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition;

“Some local laws and jurisdictions allow for non-custodial sentencing and reduced sentencing at the discretion of the judge, despite the express punishment provided for in the statute.”

Another challenge is ignorance on the part of the victims and lack of funds for  NAPTIP to carry out robust grassroots awareness across the 774 LGAs of the nation.

Also, with the inability of NAPTIP to get more and  bigger shelters, this has hampered the chances of reintegrating more survivors, thus the bureaucratic bottleneck involving MDAs tends to affect the fight against human trafficking, endangering more lives of victims.

Role of Media

In his paper on NAPTIP and the Media, the agency’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Vincent Adekoye, emphasised the need for the media to intensify reportage on human trafficking in order for accurate dissemination of the subject to every Nigerian, with a view to preventing more youths from falling victims to human traffickers. 

While clamouring for increased mutual working relationship between the media and NAPTIP, he opined that with the media being better informed about the emerging tricks, routes and trends in human trafficking, the victims will be more protected, their voices count and traffickers exposed.

Corroborating in his presentation on the Role of the Media in combating trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in Nigeria, President, Journalist International Forum for Migration, Dr. Ajibola Abayomi, said both the media and NAPTIP need to strengthen their partnership, build trust for impactful reportage of Traffic-in- Persons related issues.

Essentially, Emerole said the media must see the fight as a responsibility and must do human interest reports on the issue to raise the consciousness of people while setting agenda for government on how to reduce vulnerability.

Reporting Correctly 

Afterwards, participants were inundated with new and correct terminologies in migration reporting aimed at preventing misinformation, disinformation, as well as stigmatisation of victims by NAPTIP Lagos Command PRO, Mrs. Hajara Tunde-Osho.

Commendation for NAPTIP 

In all, depsite burgeoning challenges faced by the agency, it was unanimously agreed that NAPTIP deserves commendations on the way they have built on the existing operational platforms to ensure the achievement of its mandate, both locally and internationally.

Also, it was pointed out that the agency has helped to reduce activities of baby factory syndicates, as well as arrested dozens of suspected human traffickers, while rescuing the victims-cum-survivors of such human trafficking.

But beyond receiving these returnee migrants from trafficked countries, NAPTIP has continuously assisted them to acquire some vocational skills and other educational qualifications.

Most importantly, through the advocacy work they do, they have intensified the fight against Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) across the country while cooperating with relevant agencies in the fight against human trafficking and child labour.


Essentially, at the end of the robust brainstorming, participants called for strong synergy between NAPTIP and other law enforcement agencies in tackling the menace of human trafficking (NAPTIP and sister agencies should share more data for enhanced reportage on Human Trafficking); and involvement of religious leaders in the sensitisation and campaign against human trafficking.

They also tasked that media practitioners (to which they belong to) should volunteer and support anti-trafficking efforts in their communities, while NAPTIP should encourage the use of social media platforms to raise awareness on human trafficking using workable hashtags.

Also, the media was charged to protect victims of human trafficking by concealing their names, pictures and home addresses in their reportage, while the federal government on the other hand must improve funding of NAPTIP given the sensitive work they carry out.

Unanimously, the participants agreed that journalists should be regularly supported through adequate capacity building and financing to facilitate  investigation of human trafficking stories and justice for victims while state government and private sectors should get more involved in anti trafficking initiatives through funding and provision of socio-economic empowerment programs.

But getting to the root of the matter, it was agreed that since most of these activities are fueled by lack of social capital, government at all levels must live up to expectation by creating job opportunities for the teeming youths and provide security for all.

Given the legal hurdles often encountered, it was agreed that 

Chief Judges of Federal, State and FCT High Courts, should as a matter of urgency designate more judges for accelerated hearing of human trafficking cases while government on the other hand should support the   building of more shelters and skills acquisition centres for victims to hasten their psycho-social rehabilitation.

Another important factor that was raised was the need for the federal government to create a space at the entry and exit points of the country for NAPTIP officials to  identify and rescue  potential victims and arrest suspected human traffickers.

 There is need for more collaboration between NAPTIP and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment for adequate monitoring of activities of job recruiting agencies within and outside Nigeria.

The communique also advocated for robust collaboration between NAPTIP and traditional institutions for enhanced information on activities of Human traffickers, while charging the media  to do more on human trafficking reportage and it should be done from victim’s perspective to avoid stigmatisation and re-traumatisation of victims. 

Government was charged to hand over abandoned shelters to NAPTIP while the agency should standardise its data collection process.

In raising awareness on the dangers of trafficking in persons especially in rural communities in festive seasons, which is usually the recruitment period, the community members should be trained as agents of change and protection for women and children while naming and shaming perpetrators.

Summarily, given the agenda setting role of the media, it has become imperative that they keep the issue of  human trafficking on the front burner whilst giving it a human face. In all, while NAPTIP should improve on media advocacy and campaigns, there is a clarion call for all Nigerians to come onboard and tackle this menace.


Every year, dozens of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers who exploit them, violate their human rights and subject them to inhuman treatments and untold hardship, within and outside the shores of Nigeria

Traffickers have integrated technology into their business model at every stage of the process, from recruiting to exploiting victims. Many children are approached or lured by traffickers on social media

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