The Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, has warned civil society organizations not registered with the agency but operate shelters for human trafficking victims to shut down or face prosecution.
Julie Okah-Donli, while addressing journalists in Lagos, Wednesday, said the agency has discovered that everyone is now interested in the setting up of an organization to fight human trafficking.
“Many of such organizations were at a time found to be questionable, hence the agency encouraged all civil society organizations fighting human trafficking to come under an umbrella for proper checks,” said Mrs. Okah-Donli.
“The result was the formation of the Network of CSOs against Trafficking in Persons, Child Labour and Abuse (NACTAL) which registers members and regulates their activities.
“Despite this, we have just received intelligence that a number of organizations unknown to us and NACTAL are keeping shelters for rescued human trafficking victims, and missing persons and also using them to seek funds at home and abroad.
“The problem is that we do not know how genuine these organizations are; we do not know their intentions and therefore, cannot allow them to keep operating in Nigeria.
“I have directed an investigation of this intelligence and where we find them to be true such illegal shelters will be shut down and the owners prosecuted.”
Mrs. Okah-Donli, a lawyer, was appointed head of NAPTIP last month, and in her inaugural press briefing with journalists in Abuja two weeks ago, she said the agency would introduce a ‘name and shame’ as well as a whistleblowing policy to improve the agency’s work.
Speaking to journalists in Lagos, she said they are still fine-tuning the policies and would roll out a final position in one month.
The NAPTIP boss also said the agency would, as part of its strategy, begin to assign its high-profile cases to law firms as well as organize trainings for lawyers and judges.
“We have made modest achievements since inception in 2003: We have received a total of 4,755 cases, rescued and supported no fewer than 10,685 victims and secured 323 convictions,” said Mrs. Okah-Donli.
“However, the trend of deportation of Nigerians from different parts of the world especially in Africa in recent times is frightening and we must change this trend by providing an environment attractive to keep our people gainfully at home.”
According to Mrs. Okah-Donli, between February and April this year, at least 1,134 Nigerians have been deported from various parts of the world back to Nigeria for offences including human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, non-possession of valid travel documents.
Out of that number, 905 were deported from Libya in five batches; 115 from Italy in four batches; 41 from Mali; 26 from Burkina Faso; 14 from Ghana; 22 from Dubai; one from Cameron; eight from Cote d’Ivoire; and two from Togo.
“As if that was not enough, on Thursday this week, we are expecting another batch of 250 persons from Libya and another 250 from the same Libya next week,” Mrs. Okah-Donli said.
“This number does not include the over 5,000, mainly victims of human trafficking in Mali awaiting evacuation back home. This is not good for us as a people and we seek the cooperation of all including government at all levels to halt this.”