ANALYSIS: Despite successes, NAPTIP investigates, prosecutes only few reported trafficking cases

NAPTIP Office [Photo: Nigerian Pilot]
NAPTIP Office [Photo: Nigerian Pilot]

Olujimi Mayokun, Peace Eze, and Adaugo Okafor are three kidnap suspects who recently bore the wrath of the law. The three were on November 13, 2018, arraigned by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on a six-count charge of child abduction and sale of person.

Ms Eze and Ms Okafor were alleged to have kidnapped their neighbour’s son, a two-year-old male child from Awka, Anambra State, and taken him to Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

According to NAPTIP, after demanding ransom from his parents, they took the child to Port Harcourt where they met with Mr Mayokun who connived with them to sell the child. The boy was taken to Omega Power Ministry, a church in the city, and sold to an unknown person.

In July, the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt found the three suspects guilty of all six counts and consequently sentenced the first defendant, Mr Mayokun, to three years imprisonment and a fine of N250,000 on the first count, and seven years imprisonment and a fine of N3 million on count two.

Ms Eze and Ms Okafor were sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of N250,000 each, on the third and fourth counts, and five years’ imprisonment with a fine of N5 million on the fifth and sixth count.

The conviction of Messrs Mayokun, Eze and Okafor is one of the success stories of NAPTIP. However, less than 20 per cent of cases reported to the agency in 2018 were investigated with even fewer leading to prosecution.

Data behind Nigeria’ trafficking suspects prosecution

In 2018, NAPTIP received 1,076 human trafficking and other related cases, out of which 206 were investigated. This represents 19.1 per cent of the total cases reported.

From the reported cases, 823 suspects were apprehended out of which 450 are male and 373 female.

The legal and prosecuting department of the agency handled 227 cases from the department of investigation and monitoring. Out of these cases, 75 were charged to court including some outstanding cases from 2017.

These data, which suggest investigation and prosecution of only a few cases, were obtained from NAPTIP’s 4th quarter report for 2018.

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Inibehe Effiong, a lawyer, explained the various reasons for the low prosecution.

“There are many factors that determine whether a case should proceed to the court or not. These include available evidence, nominal complainant to proceed, the capacity of NAPTIP in terms of funds, manpower and also corruption.

“There are always cases of clear trafficking but some NAPTIP officials compromise cases or may not have acted in accordance with the law, thereby frustrating prosecution.

“It is a multi-dimensional issue, not a one-way thing. There are issues of the willingness of the victim to prosecute. Many times, they opt for monetary compensation than to proceed to court.

“Also, there is an issue of capacity. To my knowledge, NAPTIP does not have the capacity to prosecute as they should. They have low manpower, low prosecutors. From my experience with them, they have limited prosecutors. So, there is no way this will not affect how they fulfil their statutory mandate.

“They don’t have the needed facilities to carry out a proper investigation, there is a need to look at their tool for investigations.

“Also, the police have taken over cases that NAPTIP should handle, and I have seen this in many cases that my office has handled, where matters that should have been taken to NAPTIP is handled by the police. In some cases, the police get involved to compromise it, they would have taken steps or actions injurious to what NAPTIP would take.

“Beyond synergy, I think the police do not understand that NAPTIP is the body in-charge of trafficking and other related offences.

“The police can arrest people for trafficking but, usually, what should be done is to transfer the cases to NAPTIP for proper investigations,” the lawyer said.

Pervasive issue

In the 2018 edition of the global human trafficking index by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the organisation reported that “four countries, two in West Africa and two in East Africa, have reported age and sex-disaggregated data on victims by forms of trafficking.

“These countries reported large shares of victims of trafficking for the purpose of forced labour. Most of these victims were females, especially girls. Nigeria reported a particularly large number of girl victims, whereas Kenya reported many victims who were men.

“The second-largest group of victims was trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, predominantly women. West African victims of traffickers, mostly in Nigeria, account for almost ten per cent of women who are forced into sex trade in Western Europe”.

According to the Human trafficking factsheet by pathfinder Justice Initiative, the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain is a $150 billion global industry.

The report indicates that two-thirds of the amount, $99 billion, is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while $51 billion results from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities. Also, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said the average woman trafficked for forced sexual servitude generates roughly $100,000 in annual profits. According to the United Nations, the smuggling route from East, North and West Africa to Europe is said to generate $150 million in annual profits and $35 billion globally.’’

Experts speak on law enforcement

Nigeria’s Trafficking in Persons Law Enforcement and Administration Act, as amended in 2015, criminalises labour and sex trafficking and prescribes a minimum penalty of five years imprisonment and one million naira for both sex and labour trafficking.

The minimum penalty for sex trafficking will be seven years imprisonment if the case involved a child.

However, despite this, only a few of the reported cases were successfully prosecuted by NAPTIP and a further few were sentenced.

Read also: SPECIAL REPORT: Case congestion in Lagos courts hinder access to justice

A former chairperson of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), a non-governmental organisation of women lawyers, Chineze Obianyo, exonerated NAPTIP over the low delivery. 

“NAPTIP is active. There is a challenge of not having them (offices) in all states. Victims in Anambra need to be taken to Enugu’s NAPTIP office to report (cases).”

She added that NAPTIP has many reported cases but the victim many at-times opted out. This, she said, explains, why NAPTIP “has many cases with little number of prosecuted cases”.

“Another factor affecting the activity of NAPTIP is the government structure,” she said.

She added that there is no synergy between NAPTIP and the police “such that if any case has been reported to NAPTIP police most times don’t come in easily.”

NAPTIP speaks

In a reaction via email, Adekoye Vincent, the press officer of NAPTIP, said the agency has convicted 403 traffickers since the inception of the agency. He added that the agency has many cases pending at various levels in various courts in the country.

“The agency relies on the final verdict from their judicial counterparts. Many cases have been in the court for two years or more due to investigations which form the larger part of evidence for judgement.

“In order to deal with long cases awaiting verdicts in the court of law, the agency pays advocacy visits to the judges and maintains a good partnership with the judiciary.”

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