Speaking further, she disclosed that the repealed Actwas found to be inadequate to effectively combat the evolving crime of Trafficking in Persons (TIP), with several new trends which were not taken into consideration at the time of enactment in 2003.
The criminal justice system according to her was confronted with several offences, which were not criminalized even though they were stipulated in the Palermo Protocol. ‘’These included exploitation for the purpose of organ harvesting and others’’, she added.
The Director-General also disclosed that several provisions of the former Act were also found to be inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, (Palermo Convention), 2000. In addition, the penalties prescribed for offences stipulated under the Act were severely inadequate for the purpose of dissuasion and deterrence.
She however, gave some salient features of the new act to include:
- Criminalizing the removal of organs in line with the Palermo Protocol which has been ratified by Nigeria.
- Restructuring of the Governing Board of the Agency to include relevant government agencies such as the Federal Ministries of Justice, Women Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Immigration Service and National Intelligence Agency. It also made provision for the inclusion of civil societies organisations. This is to ensure a comprehensive and strategic policy response in the national anti-trafficking efforts.
- Change in the nomenclature of the Chief Executive of the Agency from Executive Secretary to Director General. This is to reflect the command and control structure of the Agency as a Law Enforcement Agency.
- Prohibition of the employment of a child below the age of 12 years as a domestic help, while the exploitation of a child under the age 18 years who is employed as a domestic help is also prohibited.
- Stiffer punishment for aggravated circumstances like defilement of a child.
‘’This is a landmark achievement as Nigeria now has one of the most advanced institutional and legal frameworks for combating TIP world-wide. Our anti trafficking legislation and policy promotes the protection of the rights of victims, adheres to the principle of non criminalization of victims and provides for their protection and assistance, irrespective of immigration status. The act recognizes the need for internal cohesion among critical stakeholders in the fight against TIP and strengthens operational and law enforcement response to TIP’’, she further stated.
She paid glowing tribute to President Jonathan and the National Assembly for the enactment of the Act. She said, ‘’The finalization of this process expresses the strong political commitment of Government to the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and ushers in a new dawn in the fight against trafficking in Persons in Nigeria. We would like to express our profound gratitude to His Excellency, Mr. President for this great feat. We are also extremely grateful to our legislators in the National Assembly for their support and for completing the work within the life of this seventh Assembly’’.
She also expressed appreciation to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, and the development partners for their useful contributions, support and technical assistance which contributed to the success of the new law. She however urged all partners of the Agency including judicial officers to support the operations of the Agency by adhering to the spirit and tenets of this new Act.
While appreciating the media for their collaborative role over the years, she urged them not to relent in aiding the Agency in its advocacy programmes, as they remain one of the Agency’s effective tools of spreading the message especially to the rural areas.