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U.S. Says Nigerians Travel to Togo for Child Sex

U.S. Says Nigerians Travel to Togo for Child Sex

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For the second consecutive year, Nigeria has been placed on Tier-2 Watchlist by the United States government for failing to meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The latest report accused the Nigerian government of turning a blind eye to allegations of trafficking levelled against senior government officials and soldiers as revealed in the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report.

The newest human trafficking report obtained by THISDAY on Saturday from the US Department of State also accused Nigerian judges of corruption and not being conversant with the 2015 amended anti-trafficking act.

For the fourth consecutive year, the document showed that Nigeria did not report any prosecutions or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offences, despite consistent reports of officials committing trafficking offences each year.

It added that Nigeria’s ports and waterways around Calabar were transit points for West African children subjected to forced labour in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon, pointing out that Nigerians travel to Togo for child sex.

However, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in his reaction stated that the federal government was not condoning human trafficking, instead was doing a lot to stem the tide in terms of advocacy and seeking international cooperation to fight the vast and complex criminal trade.

According to the report, “Despite persistent and egregious reports of government employees complicit in human trafficking offences, the government made negligible efforts to address the allegations, and the military generally denied such allegations without investigation.

“The Nigerian military continued to inappropriately detain, arrest, and interrogate female and child trafficking victims for alleged association with the insurgencies and did not provide trafficking victim protections. Therefore, Nigeria remained on Tier 2 Watchlist for the second consecutive year.”

The document alleged that a foreign government informed National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) of a Nigerian diplomat who attempted to secure a visa for their domestic employee by posing as a family member (an indication of trafficking), but neither NAPTIP nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported conducting an investigation or taking disciplinary action against the suspect.

The US human trafficking report stated, “Widespread and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces and undermined accountability for trafficking offences. For example, one NGO reported a suspected trafficking case to police, but the police refused to investigate the case because the NGO did not pay a bribe. In more than 14 IDP camps, reports documented government officials, service providers, and security forces, including the Nigerian military and CJTF, who forced IDPs to have sex in exchange for food and freedom of movement in and outside of the camps.”

In addition, the report accused the government of failing to provide evidence that use of children in support roles in detention in the Giwa Barracks had ceased, saying, “The government has never reported an investigation, prosecution, or conviction–including of any government official–for child soldiering offences. Sexual exploitation of women and girls displaced by Boko Haram and the Islamic State-West Africa (ISIS-WA) remained widespread, including by state security, military personnel, and CJTF, some of whom forced women and girls to provide commercial sex acts in exchange for food and freedom of movement inside IDP camps and others who fraudulently recruited female IDPs for jobs outside of IDP camps but transported them to military barracks for sexual exploitation by Nigerian military personnel.”

On the allegations against the judges, the report stated, “Despite a 2015 amendment that removed judges’ ability to sentence traffickers with fines in lieu of imprisonment, Nigerian courts penalised seven traffickers with the option of a fine or imprisonment. This is an increase from the previous reporting period, when judges only penalised one trafficker with the option of a fine. Judges issued fines reportedly due to a lack of familiarity with the 2015 anti-trafficking law and at times due to corruption.”

Lai Mohammed: We are doing a lot to stem the tide of human trafficking

The minister of information however stated that the federal government was not condoning human trafficking as it is currently doing a lot through NAPTIP to stem the tide through advocacy and equally trying to get international co-operation to help fight this scourge. “I am aware of the effort the DG is making through advocacy to hot spots. She is wooing stakeholders and sensitizing communities, she has won the buy-in of traditional rulers and the message is being relayed to the grassroots. As you know human trafficking is a vast and complex criminal trade and we are seeking international help to fight it. We are already doing a lot on this score. The Oba of Benin has been vocal about it. So we are not condoning it, instead we are ramping action to tackle it.”

Efforts to reach the director general of NAPTIP was unsuccessful, however a source at the agency who spoke with THISDAY on condition of anonymity said NAPTIP has seen the report and is currently taken a critical look in order to respond appropriately.

The source, however noted that the report did not indict NAPTIP in the area of trafficking. “NAPTIP has not been downgraded”, he said, adding that the issues of child soldier and child labour mentioned are general issues. He disclosed that the DG has already expressed concern about the development and will accordingly put machinery in place to ensure the agency improved on its mandate of tackling the menace of trafficking in the country.

He also called on Nigerians to support NAPTIP in its efforts at eradicating trafficking by reporting suspected persons and cases of trafficking.

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