NIGERIA REMAINS ON TIER 2 ON U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT’S 2024 TIP REPORT

June 24, 2024- WASHINGTON, D.C. The United State Department of State has released its 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report which ranks countries based on their respective government’s response to human trafficking in the preceding year. Nigeria remains a Tier 2 Country (Tier 2 are countries and territories whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to comply with those standards.)

Brief Summary:

According to the Report’s Executive Summary on Nigeria: “The Government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period; therefore, Nigeria remained on Tier 2. These efforts included convicting two complicit officials for the first time in four years; increasing collaboration with foreign counterparts on anti-trafficking law enforcement activities; and implementing the handover protocol to refer children associated with armed groups, including trafficking victims, to care. In an effort to improve the quality of victim services and ensure uniformity in standards of care, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) finalized and launched minimum standards and guidelines for service providers assisting trafficking victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Corruption involving trafficking crimes, including among NAPTIP officials and the judiciary, remained significant concerns and contributed to impunity for traffickers. The government investigated and prosecuted fewer cases compared with the previous reporting period. Efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, especially IDPs, women and children allegedly associated with armed groups, and children exploited in begging in religious schools, were insufficient.”

Detailed Summary:

The Report’s prioritized recommendations for Nigeria include:

  • Hold complicit officials as well as individuals affiliated with the government – including Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) members – criminally accountable for trafficking crimes, including for the sex trafficking of IDPs, and for past recruitment or use of child soldiers.
  • Increase efforts to implement and train front-line officials on the national referral mechanism (NRM) and SOPs to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as IDPs, women and children allegedly associated with armed groups, children in religious schools, labor migrants, returning migrants, women in commercial sex, and children in domestic service, and refer all trafficking victims to services.
  • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes – especially labor trafficking– and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Increase trainings for local, state, and federal judges on the 2015 anti-trafficking law, specifically the provision prohibiting the issuance of fines in lieu of imprisonment, and procedures for transferring trafficking cases to the High Courts.
  • In coordination with international organizations, continue implementing the handover protocol on children associated with armed groups and train security forces and other front-line officials on handover procedures.
  • Enhance protection measures to ensure victims, including women and children allegedly associated with armed groups, are not inappropriately penalized solely for offenses committed as a direct result of being trafficked and prioritize their reintegration.
  • Allow victims residing in NAPTIP shelters freedom of movement and ensure authorities take a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to victim care.
  • Increase efforts to prevent exploitation of Nigerian victims abroad by investigating and prosecuting fraudulent labor recruiters, prohibiting worker-paid recruitment fees, and raising public awareness of fraudulent recruitment.
  • Strengthen NAPTIP’s ability to fully execute its mandate, including by increasing its dedicated funding, personnel, and resources, and expanding coordination with the state task forces.
  • Increase public awareness campaigns on all forms of trafficking, especially among rural communities, in collaboration with civil society.
  • Fund and implement the victims’ trust fund, as called for in the 2015 anti-trafficking law, to increase victims’ access to financial and reintegration support.
  • Improve nationwide data collection, including data on convictions and sentencing.

According to the report, Nigeria has maintained law enforcement efforts in connection with prosecution. However, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes were described as “significant concerns” which potentially served to inhibit law enforcement during the reporting year.

  • More specifically, during the Reporting Period, the Nigerian government ‘reported initiating investigations of 698 cases, including 333 sex trafficking cases, 172 labor trafficking cases, and 193 cases of unspecified forms of trafficking. This was a significant decrease compared with initiating investigations of 1,242 cases during the previous reporting period. The government initiated prosecutions of 48 alleged traffickers, including 45 for sex trafficking and three for labor trafficking, and convicted 24 sex traffickers. This compared with initiating prosecutions of 67 alleged traffickers and convicting 97 traffickers in the previous reporting period. A majority of the convicted traffickers were convicted under the 2015 TIPLEAA, and at least three traffickers were convicted under violence against persons laws. These cases included one National Immigration Service (NIS) official convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for human trafficking and one CJTF member convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking; these were the first reported trafficking convictions of complicit officials in four years. Prosecutions of one CJTF member and one Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps member for alleged sex trafficking remained pending. In Nigeria’s first mutual legal assistance case with a foreign government, the government worked with Belgian authorities to investigate and prosecute a sex trafficker recruiting and exploiting Nigerian victims in Belgium; the court sentenced the trafficker to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government did not report sentencing data for the rest of the convictions. Some officials estimated the average sentence was five years’ imprisonment and a fine, while other observers estimated 50 percent of convicted traffickers received sentences below the minimum penalties prescribed by the 2015 TIPLEAA’.

It is noteworthy that the government, in partnership with international donors and civil society organizations, provided training for law enforcement officials, security forces, and prosecutors on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting human trafficking cases. However, the government failed to organize any anti-trafficking training programs for judges, which observers noted hindered prosecutions due to a lack of judicial awareness and understanding of the anti-trafficking legislation. Nevertheless, the Judicial Research Center of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in Abuja offered resources to NAPTIP officers to enhance trafficking cases and support prosecution efforts.

  • With regard to protection, the report indicates that Nigeria maintained mixed efforts.

More specifically, “the government identified and referred to services 1,194 trafficking victims, including 654 sex trafficking victims and 540 labor trafficking victims; this compared with identifying and referring to services 1,384 sex and labor trafficking victims the previous reporting period. Of the 1,194 victims, 856 were women, 176 were girls, 119 were men, and 39 were boys. The government also reported identifying 184 potential victims. The government and partner NGOs provided services to all identified victims”.

NAPTIP operated 14 shelters across its 10 zonal commands, providing a safe haven for 1,587 victims of human trafficking. The government provided critical support services to these victims, including legal, medical, psycho-social, family reunification, and vocational services. The government also offered victim-witness assistance, enabling 40 victims to participate in criminal proceedings. To protect victims’ privacy and safety, courts allowed testimony in private chambers or via video.

Notably, the government’s new handover protocol facilitated the transfer of at least 53 children associated with armed groups to protection actors, a significant improvement in collaboration with international organizations. noted the military was more expeditiously transferring children following the protocol’s adoption.

  • Regarding prevention, the report notes that government modestly increased efforts to prevent human trafficking.

More specifically, it recognizes NAPTIP’s efforts in combatting trafficking; ‘conducting national and state-level awareness raising campaigns, including radio and social media campaigns. NAPTIP continued a monthly social media program to discuss trafficking topics with targeted audiences, produced an anti-trafficking television program, and held awareness raising activities in coordination with NGOs. Awareness campaigns were conducted in all three major Nigerian languages and used print, electronic, and social media. Some policy documents were available in braille. The government had all campaign materials reviewed by trafficking experts, including survivors, and campaign content was community-dependent. Stakeholders noted a need for additional awareness-raising in rural areas most commonly targeted by traffickers. The government provided anti-trafficking training to foreign diplomats in Nigeria on trafficking issues. NAPTIP Sokoto state zonal command conducted awareness activities on child forced begging and protection of Almajiri children. The government did not regulate Quranic schools to prevent child forced begging or abuse.’

  • The report indicates that Nigerian trafficking victims who are most often exploited by Nigerian traffickers were identified in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

To read the full report on Nigeria, visit:  https://www.state.gov/reports/2024-trafficking-in-persons-report/nigeria/