The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday announced that it was seeking a seven-year jail term for human traffickers, by approving a draft bill that would be sent to the National Assembly for consideration, deliberation and passage into law. The draft bill is titled "Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition, Enforcement and Administration) Bill, 2012".
The Minster of Information, Labaran Maku said, "Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 (as amended)", is fraught with deficiencies and grossly inadequate to effectively combat the scourge of human trafficking in the country."
When passed by the National Assembly, the minister said the new law would reposition the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) for effective delivery of its mandate and provide a more comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of human trafficking offences.
No doubt people would applaud this effort in checking the menace of human trafficking. For ages, human beings have been trafficked to other countries, particularly on the pretext of getting jobs in western countries, only upon arrival after a difficult journey, to find out that they are to become prostitutes, domestic servants or some other 'jobs' they have not been told about.
Over the years, NAPTIP has intercepted and arrested traffickers and rescued the victims. It even rehabilitates them to integrate them into the society.
But it seems the people are determined to continue and it therefore calls for a tougher measure for the criminals.
However, a lot of clarification is necessary in defining human trafficking. This is because in some places, the so-called victims actually know what it entails; that they would go to Italy for example, and do jobs as prostitutes. Yet if their facilitators are caught, they would be accused of criminal activity, while the 'victims' would be sympathised with, instead of them to be taken as criminals too.
Therefore, a thorough investigation is needed to find out how they were lured, deceived or forced to be trafficked.
Someone once told me that in his state that is notorious for human trafficking, a husband and his brothers can facilitate for his wife to go to Italy and become a prostitute there for some years. And this is with her consent.
According to their logic, since she has been married and has children for the husband, what more do they want? So it is better for her to go and do prostitution in Europe for few years to make money and send it to them to build houses. And she goes with the blessing of the husband!
Another angle of 'human trafficking' within the country is that many people don't see it as an offence to gather some children and take them somewhere to work as house helps, because it is with the consent of the children's parents.
This problem is everywhere, and people are quick to defend it and say it is not human trafficking. Last year in August a drama of sort unfolded in Kogi state when Director, Investigation and Monitoring of NAPTIP, Ezekiel S. Kura, and the Director of Intelligence and International Cooperation, Tsumba Terna went to Lokoja following the arrest 268 victims of human traffickers in Kogi state by the JTF operatives on Itobe-Ajaokuta-Okene Road.
When they arrived they found that the Kogi Police Command had released the victims and the human traffickers.
So this sort of thing where the local community would jump and 'bail' the victims and the traffickers to their parents and relatives would definitely encourage the 'human trafficking' and make it difficult to prosecute the offenders.
It will indeed require a lot to get the cooperation of the communities in curbing human trafficking.