Nigeria has been downgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List from its 2019 Tier 2 ranking on the United State’s Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking In Persons Report which was released on June 25, 2020. Should Nigeria remain on the Tier 2 Watch List for two or more consecutive years, it will automatically be downgraded to Tier 3, the State Department’s lowest ranking.
In our opinion, the 2020 Report does not sufficiently highlight NAPTIP’s ongoing efforts in the fight against human trafficking in Nigeria, particularly considering its limited resources, its overly broad mandate (including implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015) and the prioritization of other matters to Nigeria’s government (including the considerable import of last year’s presidential election). In addition, tremendous efforts are being made by local stakeholders in prevention and in the protection of victims and additional efforts are being made at joint collaboration between government and local stakeholders, as reflected by our Gap Analysis conducted in Benin City on June 10-11, 2019. However, not enough of these efforts are highlighted by the Report, subjecting it to scrutiny by some over its overall relevance in the African context. The Report also fails to highlight how foreign policies, globalization, the failure to sufficiently address demand by the West and the failure to consistently include Nigeria in designing interventions by international donors and governments all contribute to trafficking and/or fail to decrease anti-trafficking efforts within the country. The complete country narrative can be viewed here.
The Government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included continuing efforts to train government officials and raise public awareness, collaborating with international organizations and NGOs to establish anti-trafficking task forces in Borno and Ekiti states, using new technologies to enhance collection of victim testimony, prosecuting three government officials complicit in human trafficking, and drafting memoranda of understanding (MOUs) to improve coordination between government agencies. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Nigerian security forces recruited and used at least two children in support roles during the reporting period. In addition, there continued to be reports security officials sexually exploited, including through sex trafficking, IDPs in governmentrun camps in and around Maiduguri. The government did not hold criminally accountable any military officials for exploitation of IDPs in sex trafficking or recruitment and use of child soldiers. In addition, the government did not hold any Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) members criminally accountable for sex trafficking of IDPs or past recruitment and use of child soldiers. The Nigerian military did not always provide trafficking victim protections to female and child trafficking victims allegedly associated with insurgencies and the government convicted fewer traffickers. Therefore Nigeria was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.
The “Prioritized Recommendations” for Nigeria include:
- Cease Nigerian military recruitment and use of child soldiers, including in support roles, and refer all children to appropriate care.
- Hold complicit officials, including security officials and CJTF members, accountable for trafficking offenses, including for the sex trafficking of IDPs and unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.
- Improve access for humanitarian actors to provide assistance to trafficking victims, including in IDP camps and military facilities holding potential trafficking victims.
- Allow independent criminal investigations into alleged trafficking abuses among security officials and CJTF members in northeast Nigeria.
- Expand existing efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups such as IDPs, returning migrants, children in domestic service, and any North Korean workers in Nigeria; investigate cases; and implement preventative measures. • Finalize and implement the draft protocol to hand children identified in armed conflict over to civilian authorities, screen for trafficking among those detained, and provide appropriate care.
- Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers—including labor traffickers and those who force children to beg—and impose sufficiently stringent sentences involving imprisonment.
- Work with CJTF and the UN to implement fully the child soldier action plan, confirm all children have been removed from the CJTF’s ranks and, if they have not, cut provision of financial and in-kind support to CJTF.
- Facilitate training for judges on the 2015 law, specifically the provision prohibiting the issuance of fines in lieu of imprisonment in collaboration with international partners.
- Reevaluate the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons’ (NAPTIP) closed shelter policy and ensure authorities take a victim-centered approach to victim care.
- Increase the capacity of Nigerian embassies to identify and provide assistance to victims abroad, including by providing replacement travel or identity documents free of charge.
- Strengthen international law enforcement cooperation to prevent and investigate child sex tourism.
- A increase in NAPTIP investigations, the same number of prosecutions and yet a decrease in convictions during the Reporting period. (During the Reporting Period, NAPTIP received 943 cases for investigation, completed 210 investigations, prosecuted 64 suspects, and convicted 27 traffickers, compared with receiving 938 cases for investigation and completing 192 investigations, 64 prosecutions, and 43 convictions during the previous reporting period.) The Report concluded that “the decrease in convictions was likely a result of the seconding of many judges to electoral tribunals during the reporting period.”
- The Edo State Task Force Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT) investigated 38 cases and initiated prosecutions in 22 cases, compared to investigating 56 cases and prosecuting 20 cases in the previous reporting period. The Report also noted that the ETAHT has not yet convicted a trafficker since its establishment in 2018.
- As it did in the previous year, the Report noted the need for further training for law enforcement and the judiciary, as some judges are unfamiliar with the 2015 law and on at least one occasion, offered a convicted trafficker the option of a fine in lieu of imprisonment even though this possibility was eliminated by the 2015 amendment to the law. Prison sentences ranged from 2 to 10 years.
- The need for increased conviction of state actors complicit in trafficking. There were no convictions during the reporting period, although three prosecutions were initiated. The Report contends that widespread corruption continues to impede accountability.
- The need for increased funding for NAPTIP, noting that NAPTIP “did not have resources to carry out sufficient proactive anti-trafficking operations, and NAPTIP officers were often concentrated in state capitals, which hindered identification and investigation of trafficking in rural areas.”
- Decrease in the identification and protection of victims by NAPTIP and ETAHT. According to the Report, NAPTIP identified 181 forced labor victims and 636 potential victims, compared with 126 forced labor victims and 1,028 potential trafficking in the previous reporting period. NAPTIP referred 71 victims to NGO shelters and directly provided support in some form to 1,009 victims at NAPTIP shelters some of whom were identified during the previous reporting period. During the reporting period, ETAHT assisted 428 returning migrants, of which 195 were trafficking victims (compared with assisting 1,030 returning migrants, some of whom were trafficking victims, during the previous reporting period). Clearly, fewer migrants were repatriated to Edo during the reporting period.
- Continued arrest and in some cases, prolonged detention of Boko Haram victims for reported screening and intelligence gathering and the lack of consistent screening for trafficking.
- Increased efforts on codification and policies. NAPTIP continued implementing the 2019 anti-trafficking national action plan, and continued drafting a five-year national action plan in collaboration with international donors and NGOs. The foregoing efforts should support unified action by stakeholders throughout the country.
- Forms of trafficking remain consistent for men and women. According to the report, most women and girls continue to be trafficked for domestic servitude and sex trafficking, while boys are victims of forced and bonded labor in street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarrying, agriculture, textile manufacturing, and begging.
- Nigerian victims of trafficking continue to be identified overseas- in at least 36 countries in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East during the reporting period. The Report confirms our findings that Nigerian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within Nigeria and throughout Europe, including in France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Russia.
- The foregoing notwithstanding, the Report fails to highlight the fact that for the first time in the last several years, Nigerian nationals did not feature in the top ten countries of arriving migrants into Europe by sea (in 2019). (More specifically, Nigerians represented a meagre 2.1% of the total 11,000 land and sea arrivals in 2019 and numbers have continued to drop since 2017.) This fact substantiates the reality that the number of potential trafficking victims arriving into Europe by sea from Nigeria has been on the steady decline. Read more of our thoughts on this issue here.