NAPTIP Secures Conviction Against 316 Human Traffickers
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has announced that it has successfully secured the conviction of 316 human traffickers, who were charged to court for committing various related offences.
The disclosure was made last Tuesday, in Calabar by NAPTIP’s Chief Legal Officer, Ijeoma Amugo, while she was speaking at a one-day workshop organised by the Conference of Western Attorneys-General (CWAG) in conjunction NAPTIP.
Amugo said that the assets of the convicted people, based on court orders, have been forfeited and kept in the Victims Trust Fund, while about 145 human trafficking cases were still pending in courts across the country.
However, she stated that despite the successes recorded by NAPTIP, there were some challenges that the agency was still facing, such as the clandestine nature of the crime, interagency rivalry, porous borders, relationship ties, tender age of victims, insufficient funds, lack of training for investigators and prosecutors, unwillingness of victims to testify in court, oath taking in shrines and delay in the criminal justice system.
Chief Intelligence Assistant of NAPTIP, Mrs. Tolulola Odugbesan, while speaking on the relevance of the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund, said that the agency has provided about 9,453 victims of human trafficking with psychological counselling.
Odugbesan said the agency was able to empower 388 victims with skills in petty business, hairdressing, tailoring, hat making, knitting, catering, photography and education etc.
One of the facilitators of the workshop, Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN, who spoke on the sideline of event, said there was need for the Federal Government to reform the laws against human trafficking, in order to make it easier to secure convictions.
“Clearly we can do much more, not just in terms of prosecution, but awareness. From the cases reviewed in this workshop, you can see how it is difficult to pull a case and also the amount of resources needed. We would appreciate if more resources are dedicated to it. It also requires inter-agency cooperation in order to get the desired results. It is work in progress.
“Again, if you look at our law that was amended in 2015, it requires further amendment. Our law focuses too much on pure human trafficking offence, which is very difficult to prove. We need to amend the law to create lower level offences such as offences related to simple possession of travel documents of another person, without explanation. Like in Utah, United States, if you have someone else’s travel document and you cannot give a simple explanation of why it is with you, you have committed an offence. It is enough to
prove that the suspect was as at that time trying to traffic in person (s). We need to create those kinds of offences that are easier to prove. With those types of little ones you can actually take people out of the system. The problem with our prosecution system is that we always go for big offences. There is the need for such level of reform and I believe that we are making progress”, Idigbe said.
Board Member of CWAG, African Alliance Partnership, Mr. Markus Green, said: "The whole issue is about the victim. The justice system serves to protect the victim. Punishment is important, but the most important is to bring peace to the victim and protect the victim from harm".
The Cross River State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Joe Abang, said the endemic nature of the human trafficking menace in the State, was worrisome.
"It is reported that Calabar has become the transit haven for traffickers, who as a result of the clampdown on their activities in neighbouring states like Edo, have relocated to Calabar, taking advantage of the low crime rate to perpetrate their nefarious activities. They use the ports and various creeks in the area, to transport their victims to countries like Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, among others. But I have bad news for them. Cross River State has never been and will never be a hiding place for criminals. We will use every machinery of government at our new disposal, to ensure that the long arm of the law catches up with them", the Commissioner said.
The Commissioner commended NAPTIP for their efforts in checking human trafficking in the country.
L-R: Director of Justice Division, Utah Attorney-General’s Office, United States, Mr. Gregory Ferbrache, a workshop facilitator, Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN, and Chief of Special Investigations and Public Corruption Unit, Utah Attorney-General’s Office, Mr. Nate Mutter, during a oneday workshop on human trafficking prosecution and victims’ fund and protection, in Calabar last Tuesday