From all indications, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) has been striving to strengthen its operational strategies since a drop in Nigeria's rating in the global anti-human trafficking campaign.
The 2012 annual trafficking report, which was released in the U.S., indicated that that Nigeria dropped to the tier two ranking. Nigeria had been maintaining a tier one status since 2007. According to the U.S. Department of State, the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is the U.S. Government's principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments in the global anti-human trafficking campaign. The report places each country into one of three tiers, based on the extent of their governments' efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, which are enshrined in Section 108 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).
Mrs Hilary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, in her statement during the release of the report, noted that as many as 27 million people around the world were victims of modern-day slavery, which "we sometimes call trafficking in persons.
"Those victims of modern slavery are women and men, girls and boys, and their stories remind us of the kind of inhumane treatment we are capable of perpetrating as human beings," she said. The drop in Nigeria rating in the U.S. report somewhat indicated that Nigeria had not fully complied with the minimum standards set out in the TVPA but was making significant efforts to comply with them.
The Executive Secretary of NAPTIP, Mrs Beatrice Jedy-Agba, however, underscored the commitment of the agency to checking the menace of human trafficking. "The U.S. government has adopted the 'whole of society' approach in this assessment, which automatically removes the outcome from the reins of the agency, as the indices used are not entirely within the control of NAPTIP.
"However, it is a clarion call on all tiers of government to close ranks and step up actions to rid the country of the scourge of human trafficking," she said.
Jedy-Agba said that the agency was developing a five-year strategic plan to ensure effective response to emerging trends in the human trade, while strengthening the agency's coordination capacity and functions. She said that the main thrust of the plan was to improve synergy between all the stakeholders and partners involved in the anti-human trafficking crusade.
"The traffickers usually make false promises of a better life abroad and earning money in dollars. "Eventually, these girls end up becoming prostitutes to pay their so-called 'sponsors' who took them there," she said.
The NAPTIP boss said many Nigerian girls were hoodwinked into partaking in the booming sex trade in Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso, adding that the agency would use its available resources to bring the hapless girls home for rehabilitation. Jedy-Agba said that unemployment and poverty were the major factors responsible for human trafficking, adding that if these factors were tackled decisively, people would no longer be deceived and ensnared in the human trafficking web.
"The three tiers of government must take a holistic and coordinated approach to address factors such as poverty, unemployment, collapse of family values and erosion of our cultural values," she said.
Mr Arinze Orakwue, the Head, Communications and Media, in NAPTIP, said that the agency would continue its advocacy with state governments on the need to fight human trafficking and implement the Child Rights Act.
"NAPTIP is fully committed to cooperating with the police, the immigration service and other law enforcement agencies in the fight against human trafficking," he said. Orakwue emphasised that a lot of public awareness was being created through radio jingles to sensitise the citizens to the evils of human trafficking. He also said that NAPTIP, in collaboration with the Wale Adenuga Productions, had started a television drama series, depicting issues of human trafficking, child abuse and other related concerns.
"The objective is to take the anti-trafficking campaign to the living rooms of Nigerians, and hopefully make them aware of this crime that shames us all," he added.
NAPTIP is also collaborating with the European Union Delegation, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in the anti-human trafficking crusade.
For instance, its "I Am Priceless" Campaign against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants was launched in Abuja on Oct.9, 2012. The nationwide campaign, funded by the European Union (EU), was designed to reduce irregular migration that " occurs through trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants." Two "National Goodwill Ambassadors" - Ms Joke Silva, a renowned actress, and a "hip-hop' musician, Mr Jude Abaga - were appointed to boost the public awareness campaign on human trafficking issues. Ms Angele Dikongue-Atangana, the Country Representative of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who appointed the two "ambassadors", said that they would use their artistic medium - music and film --to amplify the advocacy and public sensitisation efforts.
Besides, NAPTIP is aggressively pursuing the review of the law guiding its operation, so as to strengthen its capacity to tackle human trafficking. Mr Ezekiel Kaura, the Director (Investigations and Monitoring) of NAPTIP, said at a recent public lecture that once the laws were reviewed, the agency would have more powers to fully tackle the menace of human trafficking. He stressed that the review of the NAPTIP Act would capture emerging trends in the human trade, such as the sale of babies and the oath of secrecy administered on the victims of human trafficking. "The management is aggressively pursuing the review of the Act.
This has gone far now, it has passed through many stages," Kaura noted. All the same, stakeholders want NAPTIP to sustain its present tempo in efforts to regain the tier one status in the anti-human trafficking crusade, which Nigeria enjoyed prior to the 2012 ranking.