Human Trafficking: Nigerian Senate passes bill to amend existing law

FILE PHOTO of some women at night

The new law recommends stiffer penalty for traffickers.

Three months after a PREMIUM TIMES exclusive investigation on human trafficking in Nigeria, the Senate has decided to amend the country’s existing law to ensure stiffer penalties for offenders.

A PREMIUM TIMES reporter had gone undercover last year to expose the operations of a multi-billion naira trafficking ring that operates despite existing laws. The report has led to investigations by the main agency responsible for fighting human trafficking in Nigeria, NAPTIP.

The new Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Bill seeks to repeal and amend the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act of 2003. The new bill had been in the National Assembly but was passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

The new bill stipulates stiffer penalties for offenders than the existing law. It seeks to stop human trafficking in Nigeria and prescribes a minimum of seven years imprisonment or a minimum fine of N1 million for offenders.

It prescribes criminal punishment for any person found to have illegal custody of a child under the age of 18, sexually abuse, or causes any person to be exploited.

The passage of the bill followed a clause by clause consideration of the report of the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; and Women Affairs and Youth Development.

The repealed version of the bill had prescribed five years jail term or a fine of not less than N1 million.

The Senate also amended the bill by reducing the jail term for forced labour from seven years to five years and fine option of N2 million to N1 million.

“Any person who permits any place or premises to be used for the purpose of forced labour commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and to a fine of not less than N1million,” the new bill states.

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The Senate Joint committees said the recommendation for a reduction was necessary as “to make it consistent with punishments for similar offences under the bill.

The amended bill also prohibits the employment or procurement of children under the age of 12 as domestic servants.

It further protects children generally from being used for exploitative, injurious or hazardous work.

“Any person who employs, requires, recruits, transports, harbours, receives or hires out, a child under the age of 12 as a domestic worker, commits an offence.

“If convicted, such an offender is liable to imprisonment for a minimum term of six months and not exceeding seven years,” it states.

The new bill would only become law if it is also passed by the House of Representatives and then approved by President Goodluck Jonathan; or should the president not approve, vetoed by the two arms of the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Senate also passed the National Assembly Service Commission, NASC, amendment Bill which empowers the commission to play a key role in the appointment of the Clerk of the National Assembly.

The bill will empower the NASC to appoint, discipline and remove its staff under the six directorates created under the commission.

The six directorates are Legislative, Administrations, Engineering, Medical, Finance and Common Services.

Aloysius Etok, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service, said the bill would address the issue of stagnation of staff in the National Assembly.

According to Mr. Etok, the new NASC bill will build the capacity of staff and enhance professionalism as well as provide a clear career path for legislative and non-legislative staff.

He said the six directorates would each be headed by a Director, who would be equivalent to a Permanent Secretary in the Civil Service.

He said the National Assembly leadership would request for additional budgetary funding above its current fixed N150 billion allocation to cover the additional cost.

“The NASC bill is principally to enhance the capacity and professionalism of staff.

“If for the reason of achieving results prescribed by the amendment, the presiding officers would not fail to make a request for an increase in their annual budget.

“Nobody would shy away from incurring additional cost to enable him run an institution successfully,” he added.

(NAN)

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