The Supreme Court of Nigeria has upheld the conviction of a human trafficker, Serah Ekundayo Ezekiel, who had earlier been sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for trafficking in persons. The judgment brings to an end the legal battle which started in 2011 in Ikeja, Lagos.
In a unanimous decision on Friday, the five Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who sat on the matter upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division. In his lead Judgment, Justice C.C Nwaeze found no merit in the appeal and therefore, dismissed it.
Serah Ezekiel was dragged to the Federal High Court, Ikeja, Lagos on November 18, 2011 by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on behalf of the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation on an 18 Counts charge, all bothering on offences of trafficking in persons contrary to various sections of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003 (as amended)
Ezekiel, who was 29 year old as at the time of committing the offence in July 2011 procured four females, aged 17, 19, 20 and 21 years from various parts of Lagos State and took them to Mali where they were used as prostitutes.
On arraignment, she pleaded guilty to all the counts and was subsequently found guilty, convicted on all the 18 counts and sentenced.
Aggrieved by her conviction and sentence, Serah Ezekiel approached the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division which affirmed the trial Court’s verdict. Still not satisfied, she approached the Apex Court which has dismissed the appeal for lack of merit.
Reacting to the Supreme Court judgment, Acting Director-General of NAPTIP, Mr. Abdulrazak Dangiri expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the appeal.
For: Head, Press and Public Relations
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.
For: Head, Press and Public Relations