National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other related Matters (NAPTIP) came into being on the 26th of August, 2003, with the appointment of its pioneer Executive Secretary/Chief Executive. The Agency which is the creation of Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 is the Federal Government of Nigeria’s response to addressing the scourge of trafficking in persons in Nigeria and its attendant human abuses in its entire ramification. It is also a fulfillment of her international obligation under the trafficking in persons protocol supplementing the Transnational Organized Crime Convention (TOC).
Nigeria became signatory to the Transnational Organized Crime Convention and its trafficking in Persons Protocol on the 13th December, 2000. Article 5 of the said trafficking protocol enjoins State parties to criminalize practices and conducts that subject human beings to all forms of exploitation which includes in the minimum sexual and labour exploitation.
The Bill to implement this protocol in our national penal legislation was sponsored as a private member bill by Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF), a non-governmental organization initiated and founded by Mrs. Titi Atiku Abubakar, the wife of the Vice-President of Nigeria.
The Bill was subsequently passed by the National Assembly on the 7th of July, 2003, and Presidential Assent given on the 14th of July 2003. From that day, the law took effect and became operational throughout the country.
The Law seeks to address trafficking in persons with its associated problems by creating a specific multi-disciplinary crime fighting agency to address them. To effectively tackle the problem associated with trafficking in persons, Section 4 of the law, inter alia, vests in NAPTIP the following functions:
a. To coordinate of all laws on trafficking in persons and related offences;
b. To adopt measures to increase the effectiveness of eradication of trafficking in persons;
c. To adopt witness protection measures;
d. To enhance effectiveness of law enforcement agents to suppress traffic in persons;
e. To establish proper communication channels, conduct research and work on improving international cooperation in the suppression of traffic in persons; by land, sea and air;
f. To reinforce and supplement measures in bilateral and multilateral treaties and conventions on traffic in persons;
g. To work in collaboration with other agencies or bodies that may ensure elimination and prevention of the root causes of the problem of traffic in any person;
h. To strengthen and enhance effective legal means for international cooperation in criminal matters for suppressing the international activities of traffic in person;
i. To strengthen cooperation between the Attorney-General of the Federation, Nigeria Police, Nigeria Immigration Services, Nigeria Customs Services, Nigeria Prison Services, Welfare Officials and all other agencies in the eradication of traffic in person;
j. To take charge, supervise, control and coordinate the rehabilitation of trafficked persons;
k. To investigate and prosecute traffickers.
By these functions, the agency became the country’s focal point in the fight against trafficking in persons and its associated social problems. Specialized operational departments are created by Section 8 of the law to implement the mandate of the agency. These departments are Investigation; Prosecution; Counselling & Rehabilitation and Public Enlightenment. Investigation and Prosecution are meant to enforce the law by detecting, investigating and prosecuting trafficking in persons offenders, while Counselling and Rehabilitation is charged with the responsibility of care giving, counseling rehabilitating and reintegrating the victims. The Public Enlightenment is to educate the public, vulnerable groups as well as people at risk of being trafficked.
There are about 21 penal provisions (Sections 11-29, 32 & 46) of the law prescribing different punishment ranging from twelve months (for an attempt to commit any of the offences) to life imprisonment for serious offences such as slavery, exportation or importation of girls under the age of 18 years for prostitution, etc. The definition of trafficking in persons by the law in its Section 64, as amended, is in tandem with the United Nations’ definition in Article 3 of the trafficking protocol. Exploitation is the key element of the offence, which is found in all the penal provision of the law.
The seriousness of the law is underscored by its Section 47, which provides for extra-territorial jurisdiction in the form of active personality jurisdiction. That is to say, any Nigerian or person granted permanent residence in Nigeria who commits any of the offences provided for in the law outside Nigeria is guilty of the offence and liable to be tried anywhere in Nigeria as if the offence was committed in Nigeria. The law also vests the power to arrest, search and seize on Police, Immigration, Customs and NAPTIP officials. Similarly, the Federal High Court, the High Court of a State and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory have concurrent jurisdiction to try any of the offences under the law.
Victim protection is also central to the law. By virtue of the law, a victim of trafficking in persons offences is to be identified and treated as a victim and not as a criminal and, where the circumstances so justify, should not be detained or imprisoned. The identify and personal history of an identified victims should be protected from the public by investigators counseling officers and any other person(s) authorized to work closely with him/her. A victim is entitled to a compensation and a restitution from his/her exploiter(s) by way of a civil action. The responsibilities of the agency towards the victim of trafficking in persons are well set out in section 50 of the law as amended. A fund known as Victim of Trafficking Trust Funds is also established wherein monies realized from the sale of confiscated and forfeited assets of a convicted trafficker would be paid into for the benefit of the victim.
The law is a step forward in addressing crime together with its associated problems and NAPTIP is poised to enforce the law to the hilt.