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’’.
Head, Press and Public Relations (NAPTIP)
The Supreme Court of Nigeria has upheld the conviction of a human trafficker, Martina Opara, and subsequently sentenced her to 14 years imprisonment for trafficking in persons. The decision of the apex court brings to an end the prolonged legal battle which started in 2008.
The convict, Opara, who was arrested in 2008 was charged to Court on a 9 counts charge including: procurement and movement from place to place of 3 girls; using and offering girls for prostitution in Nigeria; deceitful inducement of girls to go from Calabar to Sagamu and confined and detaining girls for prostitution. All the offences are contrary to sections 15(a) and section 19(a,b, and c) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act 2003 (as amended in 2005).
On 19th April, 2012, a Federal High Court sitting in Abeokuta and presided over by Hon. Justice R.N Ofili Ajumogobia found her guilty of the charges and sentenced her to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour. Not satisfied with the judgment, Opara approached the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division which in 2014 in a unanimous decision dismissed the appeal for lacking merit.
Still not satisfied with the Appeal Court judgment, she went further to the Supreme Court. But in a unanimous decision delivered by Hon. Justice Mary Odili on Friday February 24, 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decisions of the lower Courts.
Reacting to the Supreme Court judgment, Acting Director-General of NAPTIP, Mr. Abdulrazak Dangiri expressed delight that the matter has finally come to an end. He expressed the hope that the judgment would serve as a deterrent to human traffickers as the Agency was determined to follow all cases to a logical conclusion.
For: Head, Press and Public Relations