The renewed efforts by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons to curtail incidence of human trafficking in the country has received a major boost as the United States of America has thrown its weight behind the activities of the Agency in order to improve its effectiveness as a model of specialized crime fighting Agency in Africa.
The US also commended the Agency for the number of conviction it has secured since its inception which was pegged at 331 as at September, 2017, adding that such feat was laudable bearing in mind the series of technicalities associated with prosecution of cases such as human trafficking.
The Acting Director of Trafficking in Persons Office, Washington, Kari JohnStone, gave the commendation during a visit to the Director-General of NAPTIP at the Agency’s Headquarters, Abuja.
It would be recalled that Nigeria has recently been downgraded in the Trafficking in Persons rating from Tier 2 to Tier 2 watch list due to the 2016 TIP Annual Report, which marked it down.
Addressing the Management of the Agency during an interactive section, Johnstone, who was visibly impressed with the achievements of the Agency in the areas of Policy formulation, Prevention, Partnership, Prosecution and Protection of victims of human trafficking, disclosed that the said TIP report was not an appraisal of activities of NAPTIP, rather an aggregate assessment of responses by other parties, including the government of Nigeria, on issues of human trafficking.
According to her, other variable that constituted the assessment include the controversial issues of child soldiers in the North as well as the situation in the Internally Displaced Persons camps in the some parts of the country.
The visiting US Official disclosed that the US Trafficking in Persons Report is not an indictment on NAPTIP rather to spur policy makers, government and non-governmental actors to accord NAPTIP the desired attention in the areas of policy implementation and improved budgetary allocation to the Agency in order to scale up its performance.
She expressed satisfaction with the provisions of the re-enacted 2015 Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Enforcement Act which made provision for compensation for victims of human trafficking as well as stringent punishment for convicted offenders.
While promising that the United States will consider possible assistance to the Agency in the areas of awareness creation, capacity development of Officers of the Agency as well as other operational needs, the US TIP director urged NAPTIP not to be discouraged by the TIP rating adding that she was in Nigeria to have first- hand information on issues of human trafficking part of which forms the said TIP reports.
In his response, the Representative of the Director-General, Arinze Orakwe, commended the US TIP Official for the visit and advocated that NAPTIP should be rated only on those issues concerning human trafficking rather than other areas which require attention of other arms or Agencies of government adding that the Agency has remained a unique model not only to the African region, but the entire world in the area of combating human trafficking.
Arinze called on the United States and other international partners to come out with policy that would ensure that other neighbouring countries increase surveillance in form of security checks along the controversial migrating routes especially within the North Africa countries so as to complement the efforts of Nigeria in combating human trafficking and reduce the associated tragedies.
The Director-General’s representative who is also the Director of Public Enlightenment of the Agency urged the US to consider intervention to the Agency in all areas of its operations with special attention on awareness creation and capacity development of operatives of the Agency.