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In line with Inter-Agency liaison and cooperation, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) and the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora are to cooperate to ensure better protection for victims of human trafficking in Nigeria.

This was the crux of the visit to the Lagos Zonal Command of NAPTIP on Tuesday by the Honourable Federal Commissioner of NCFRMI; Mrs. Sadiya Umar Farouq and the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. They pledged to collaborate with the Agency to further the protection and care of victims of human trafficking who are under the care of the agency.

The visit was necessitated by the recent rescue and deportation of Nigerian citizens from Libya, Mali, Italy and Russia, some of whom were profiled and identified as victims of human trafficking and are presently in the care of the Agency’s Lagos Zonal Command. They also wanted to assess the situation on ground with the aim of ensuring that the rescued/returned victims were being cared for by the Agency.

Speaking during the visit, the Federal Commissioner emphasised the need for synergy amongst relevant organizations and decried the lack of adequate information sharing which she pointed out hinders effective collaboration.

She however, disclosed that her commission plays a coordinating role in facilitating effective service delivery for Nigerian nationals in the areas of migration, refugees and internally displaced persons. Mrs. Farouq explained that the commission was working on instituting what she described as 'doable solutions' in the areas of re-integration and re-uniting victims and returnees through the provision of psychosocial services and skills acquisition programmes.

Also speaking, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, called for a stakeholders meeting which she proposed should be held in April 2017, in order to intimate relevant stakeholders and organizations on the plight of victims of human trafficking and the need to collaborate in eradicating the dehumanizing and exploitative crime. She pointed out that the activities of human traffickers in the country negate the former impression that it was a crime that involved indigenes of Edo state only. Hon. Abike Dabiri -Erewa also urged the mass media to be more involved in ensuring that the public are educated on the true plight of trafficked victims.

Receiving the visitors, the Commander, NAPTIP Lagos zone, Mr. Joseph Alani Famakin emphasized the importance of empathy in caring for victims of human trafficking stressing that ‘’it is empathy and not sympathy that encourages people to get involved in the healing process for survivors’’.

He stated that the visit of the Federal Commissioner and the Senior Special Assistant to the President to the command has shown their commitment towards addressing the plight of the vulnerable and distressed, especially women and children.

He however, intimated them of the activities of the Agency explaining its four pronged strategy of Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership. Mr. Famakin stated that the Agency looks forward to a close working relationship with NCFRMI.

The duo also visited the NAPTIP shelter where they interacted with the returnees and other victims of human trafficking.

Hajara Tunde-Osho

For: Head, Press and Public Relations

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has commenced investigation into the trafficking into Mali of the 37 female Nigerians who were on Monday deported to Nigeria by the Malian Authorities. Four female suspects were also deported with the victims. While the victims are being counseled by NAPTIP Counselors, the suspects are in NAPTIP custody and making useful statements.

The Malian Police had on Thursday 16th February, 2017, rescued the Nigerian girls, aged 15 to 32 years, being used as sex slaves in Koflatie – an area in Northern Mali reportedly notorious for prostitution. Five female suspects- four Nigerians and a Ghanaian; were also arrested in the course of the raid.

Investigations into the matter commenced before the deportation as investigators from the Agency who are also members of the Joint Border Task Force (JBTF) had as soon as the Malian Authorities reached the Agency through the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom gone to Mali to profile, debrief and interview the victims and suspects preparatory to their return.

The invitation of the NAPTIP-JBTF team was necessitated by the need to bring to bear the Nigerian experience on handling human trafficking cases; in identifying and to substantiate points to prove acts of human trafficking in the Malian case.

The repatriation of the Nigerians was greatly assisted by the Defence Headquarters which tasked the Nigerian Air Force to help in bringing back the girls who were already posing a security risk to Mali. Reports indicate that over 5000 Nigerians are presently in different parts of Mali being forced into prostitution by their traffickers who had lured them to Mali with the promise of helping them to Europe.

The girls who arrived the Air Force Base of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos in a Nigerian Air force Plane on Monday evening were received by a joint operations team comprising officials of NAPTIP, the Military, Police, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

Speaking to the top management of the Agency on the Malian case, the Acting Director-General Mr Abdulrazak Dangiri directed that investigation on the trafficking of the 37 girls must be thorough adding that sloppiness would not be tolerated. While thanking all those who played one role or the other in achieving a successful return of the women, he thanked the Federal Government for the quick intervention through the Defence Headquarters. He however, stated that the Agency was putting in place measures that would be presented to government to ensure that all other victims stranded in Mali and other parts of Africa are rescued and brought back to Nigeria.

It may be recalled that this will not be the first time that the Nigerian Government would help in evacuating Nigerian victims of human trafficking from Mali. In 2012, NAPTIP with support from the Office of the National Security Adviser to the President evacuated 104 persons from Mali in an operation tagged ‘’Operation Timbuktu’’.

Josiah Emerole

Head, Press and Public Relations (NAPTIP)