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UN commission decries NAPTIP’s use of ‘closed shelters’ for trafficked victims

By Evelyn Okakwu

September 10, 2018

The United Nation’s High Commission for Human Rights on Monday called on the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to operate open shelters for the rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking.

Addressing journalists in Abuja at the end of a one-week assessment of Nigeria’s anti-trafficking efforts across the country, the UNHCHR’s special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Maria Giammarinaro, tasked the Nigerian government to provide adequate resources to specialised agencies and programs dedicated to the fight against human trafficking in the country.

“While visiting NAPTIP shelters, I noticed with concern that they are ‘closed shelters,’ infringing the freedom of movement of survivors and perpetuating the false assumption that victims of trafficking have to be locked up for their security, even though they have not committed any crime.

“I would like to stress that shelters managed by civil society organisations are open and are in fact used by NAPTIP itself to refer its victims after the six-week period of stay in NAPTIP shelters has expired. This shows that operating open shelters for victims of trafficking is possible and does not imply major security problems,” said Ms Giammarinaro.

She also noted that the six weeks provided for victims’ recovery ”is too small”.

She acknowledged the growing partnership between NAPTIP and civic organisations and called for funding of such organisations, as well as NAPTIP.

Mrs Giammarinaro also noted the various legislations and programmes aimed at combating the menace.

“Nigeria has a solid legal foundation to combat trafficking, starting from the Constitution which prohibits slavery or servitude, and forced or compulsory labour (Article 34.1).

“The most comprehensive framework is provided by the anti-trafficking Act adopted in 2003 and amended in 2005 and 2015, which provides for a definition of trafficking in accordance with the Palermo Protocol, ratified by Nigeria in 2001.

“Yet even the most innovative legislation remains a dead letter if it is not seriously and strongly enforced.

“The first indicator of political commitment lies in allocating adequate resources to specialised agencies and programs dedicated to the fight against trafficking, which, at present, appear significantly underfunded by the Government and highly relying on other actors, and particularly civil society organisations. Revived political will and better coordination across relevant federal inter-governmental departments, as well as between NAPTIP and State’s initiatives are also needed to put in place dedicated actions and holistic anti-trafficking responses,” Ms Giammarinaro said.

She acknowledged the efforts of NAPTIP in ensuring the prosecution of 362 individuals since 2004. She said a lot of work is still required to prevent Nigerians from falling victims of trafficking.

Ms Giammarinaro lamented the absence of data for trafficked persons as well as socio-political and cultural factors contributing to an increase in the cases of trafficking affecting the country.

According to the deputy head of the European Union, Richard Young, about 60, 000 Nigerians are trapped in Libya, while over 1000 were evacuated by the Nigerian government; following various accounts of human trafficking.

“I think roughly, 80,000 people from Nigeria in the last two years have been affected, while 10,000 have died in efforts crossing the Meditarranean sea and today there are 60,000 (left) in camps in Libya,” Mr Young had said in July.

Highlighting the causes of growing attempts by Nigerians, to go abroad, despite reported efforts, Ms Giammarinaro said government needs to focus more on developing the people to cultivate trust and confidence in their country.

“According to United Nations Sustainable Development Partnership Framework (2018-2022), Nigeria has one of the fastest growing economy in Africa with a GDP per capita of 1,645 USD. Nigeria is also Africa’s largest oil producer and ranks sixth in the world, with 2.5 million of oil produced every day.

“Yet, as per the National Bureau of statistics, 64 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line and trafficking in persons continues unabated. With the wealth and political leverage it has been generating, the Government of Nigeria cannot be seen to leave its people behind.

”Finally, Nigeria also remains a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons from neighbouring countries, especially with the purpose of labour exploitation,” Ms Giammarinaro said.

She called on the government to ensure that foreign investors also respect the dignity of labour as this discourages attempts by many to go outside the country.