Nigeria Upgraded to Tier 2 on U.S. Department of State’s 2019 TIP Report

Nigeria has been upgraded from Tier 2 Watch to Tier 2 on the United State’s Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking In Persons Report which was released on June 20, 2019.

According to the country narrative Executive Summary:
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 to the previous reporting period; therefore Nigeria was upgraded to Tier 2. These efforts included supporting implementation of a 2017 action plan between Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a government-supported nongovernmental armed group, and an international organization to end its recruitment and use of child soldiers. There were no verified cases of any Nigerian government-supported entity recruiting or using child soldiers during the reporting period. The government convicted significantly more traffickers than the previous reporting period and initiated prosecutions against seven government officials allegedly complicit in trafficking. At the state level, the Edo State Government passed a new anti-trafficking law and provided additional resources to combat trafficking, while Delta and Ondo states established anti-trafficking task forces. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. For the fifth consecutive year, the government did not convict any complicit government officials despite consistent reports of government officials committing a variety of trafficking offenses each year. The government did not investigate, prosecute, or hold accountable any military or CJTF members for exploiting IDPs in sex trafficking or past recruitment and use of child soldiers. The Nigerian military did not provide female and child trafficking victims allegedly associated with insurgencies trafficking victim protections. The government identified fewer trafficking victims and did not fully disburse the budget allocated to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

The “Prioritised Recommendations” for Nigeria include: 
  • Hold complicit officials, including security officials, and CJTF members accountable for trafficking offenses, including in particular sexual exploitation of IDPs and child soldiering offenses.
  • 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.
  • Improve coordination among law enforcement actors, including NAPTIP, the Nigerian Immigration Service, police, and others.
  • Continue to ensure the Nigerian military has ceased unlawful use of children, including in collaboration with CJTF.
  • Work with CJTF and the UN to implement fully the child soldier action plan and 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.
  • Continue to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers—including labor traffickers and those who force children to beg—and impose sufficiently stringent sentences involving imprisonment.
  • Expand existing efforts to identify trafficking victims among IDPs, investigate cases, and implement preventative measures.
  • Disburse the full promised budget for NAPTIP, particularly to provide adequate victim care.
  • 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.
  • Continue to implement programs for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of child ex-combatants that take into account their specific needs, and work with the Nigerian military and CJTF to implement these plans.
  • Increase training for judges on the 2015 law, specifically the provision prohibiting the issuance of fines in lieu of imprisonment.
  • As security and safety permits, allow trafficking victims to obtain employment and move freely in and out of NAPTIP shelters.
  • 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.

Other highlights from the Report include:

  • An increase in NAPTIP investigations, prosecutions and convictions.  (During the Reporting Period, NAPTIP received 938 cases for investigation, completed 192 investigations, prosecuted at least 64 suspects in 64 cases, and convicted 43 traffickers, compared with receiving 662 cases for investigation, completing 116 investigations, 43 prosecutions, and 26 convictions the previous reporting period. In addition, NAPTIP convicted three perpetrators for baby-selling for the purpose of exploitation.)
  • The codification of the Edo State Task Force by its anti-trafficking law to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases in Edo state (total of 56 investigations and 20 pending prosecutions in the reporting period).
  • The need for further training for law enforcement and the judiciary, as some judges are unfamiliar with the 2015 law and still offering convicted traffickers the option of a fine in lieu of imprisonment even though this possibility was eliminated by the 2015 amendment to the law. Others failed to include restitution for victims, notwithstanding NAPTIP prosecutors including a prayer for said relief.
  • The need for increased conviction of state actors complicit in trafficking.  There were no convictions during the reporting period, although seven prosecutions were initiated.  The Report contends that widespread corruption is undermining accountability.
  • The need for increased funding for NAPTIP and the Edo State Task Force.  (NAPTIP only received 2.6 billion Naira ($7.2m) of the 2018 budgeted 4.3 billion Naira ($11.91m) in the reporting period, insufficient funding considering its widespread mandate and the scale of the problem (thus neglecting rural areas).  The Edo state government allocated 242 million naira ($670,360) to the ESTF in 2018.
  • Decrease in the identification and protection of victims by NAPTIP.  According to the Report, NAPTIP identified 126 forced labor victims and 1,028 potential victims (compared to 188 forced labor victims and 1,121 potential trafficking victims identified in the previous reporting period). This was likely due to funding restrictions.
  • Continued 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.  A Protocol for Identification, Safe Return, and Rehabilitation of Trafficked Persons, which will being championed by an inter-ministerial committee on trafficking to develop national policies on trafficking, is currently pending cabinet approval.  In addition, a 2019 anti-trafficking National Action Plan was approved by NAPTIP in March 2018, while it 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 continue to be identified overseas.  The Report contends that Nigerian victims, often exploited by Nigerian traffickers, were identified in at least 34 countries in four regions during the reporting period.  Nigerian women and girls continued to be trafficked from Nigeria into the European sex industry, particularly Italy, Spain, Austria, and Russia. The foregoing notwithstanding, the Report fails to highlight the fact that for the first time in the last five years, Nigerian nationals do not feature in the top five countries of irregularly arriving migrants into Europe by sea. This would suggest that the number of potential trafficking victims arriving into Europe by sea from Nigeria may also be on the decline.
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 Point 8 above and our recent Gap Analysis in Benin City on June 10-11, 2019.  However, not enough of these efforts were highlighted by the Report.  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: