By Sunday Oyinloye
These are not the best of times for human traffickers in Nigeria as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has continued to track and arrest them and also rescue their victims in different locations of the country, the latest being the interception of 10 victims of human trafficking at Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos, weekend. This is coming barely a week after an Edo State High Court sentenced Ehigie Richard to seven years imprisonment for human trafficking to Russia.
The trafficker was arraigned on a four- count charge of recruitment of a person by means of abuse, position of vulnerability and facilitation and exportation of persons for prostitution, contrary to various provisions of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
Those intercepted on Saturday night in Lagos were said to be trying to board a Turkish Airline flight using the 2018 World Cup as an opportunity for travelling to Russia. According to NAPTIP officials, the rescued victims comprised of nine young girls and one boy.
What is even more disturbing is the fact that a Police officer and a Quarantine officer were caught coordinating the movement of the victims. The suspected traffickers were not lucky either as they were also arrested. The arrest of the human traffickers and rescue of the victims however did not come overnight, NAPTIP operatives have been tracking them, therefore when the traffickers thought they have succeeded in their trade, NAPTIP gave them a big shock.
In fact, the hard working Director-General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli recently gave an hint that some criminally minded individuals were trying to use the World Cup in Russia to traffic in persons based on the information gotten by the Agency.
‘’These traffickers have continued to mount pressure on some youths and their parents forcing them to part with huge sums of money in exchange for a Russian visa’’, Julie earlier revealed.
The latest effort by the Agency has once again opened a discussion on whether it is desirable or not to have NAPTIP operatives at Nigerian boarders, airports and sea ports. Some critics of this idea might want to argue that this will amount to duplication of duties by the various security operatives at the boarders, but this may not be right because each agency or outfit perform different duties.
I am of the view that NAPTIP operatives should be stationed in all our boarders, sea ports and airports. Each of the security agencies clearly has its own roles to play in securing the country therefore, the question of duplication of duties shouldn’t arise, what is more important is the security and dignity of our citizens. Thousands of unsuspecting Nigerians have been taken out of the country by human traffickers who use different methods to achieve their illegal aims. Many have drowned on the high sea while crossing to Europe after they made their ways to Libya through human traffickers. This has had a damaging effect on the image of Nigeria.
It is therefore not surprising that the Director- General of NAPTIP, Dame Julie Okah-Donli has consistently made case for her operatives to be at the various borders in the country.
Her words: ‘’We don’t have our operatives at the boarders, if we are at the boarders, trust me, I don’t think it will be this bad, that is the truth. I can only speak for what NAPTIP can do. If we are at the boarders, and airports, trust me, human trafficking will be reduced drastically. You can imagine, we are not at the boarders and the airports, but each time we get information, we rush there and rescue the girls and arrest the criminals who often call themselves travel agents.
“I have been advocating and will continue to do that. The crime of human trafficking is a big problem. It is an economic problem and also a security problem, so I don’t see why we are not at the boarders, sea ports and airports”.
With the way NAPTIP has been operating diligently and the heat on human traffickers getting hotter; I want to advise the Federal Government to begin the process of posting NAPTIP operatives to the boarders. Nigeria has had enough embarrassment occasioned by human trafficking. As the government is working on the economy, it should also be working on those things that can improve the image of the country and also enhance the nation’s security. I will say, the time to act is now.