For the fifth consecutive year, the Nigerian government did not convict any complicit government officials despite consistent reports of government officials committing a variety of trafficking offences each year, says the latest report by the United States government on trafficking in persons.
The report accused the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and some state governors of not investigating, prosecuting, or holding accountable any military or CJTF members for exploiting IDPs in sex trafficking or past recruitment and use of child soldiers.
The report added: “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).
“While the government made modest, concrete steps to address complicity in some cases, widespread and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government, including the security forces, and undermined accountability for trafficking offenses. The government did not take adequate steps to investigate or prosecute military personnel or CJTF members complicit in trafficking in the Northeast, in particular, sexual exploitation of IDPs and female detainees.”
The report cited an example of an NGO alleging 10 male soldiers in Giwa Barracks, including five who worked in the health clinic, coerced at least 15 female detainees into sex in exchange for food, soap, basic necessities, and the promise of freedom.
Several international organizations and media reported that the sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, of IDPs in camps, settlements, and host communities around Maiduguri remained a pervasive problem. In more than 14 IDP camps, reports documented soldiers, CJTF, and police forced or coerced IDPs to have sex in exchange for food and freedom of movement in and outside of the camps.
At the state level, the American government noted that 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,” it said, “the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.”
The American government, therefore, urged Nigeria to: “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 labour traffickers and those who force children to beg—and impose sufficiently stringent sentences involving imprisonment.”
Further facts in the report indicated that 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. In addition, the Edo State Task Force (ESTF) was codified in the Edo state by its anti-trafficking law to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases in Edo state, and investigated 56 cases and initiated prosecutions in 20 cases; all 20 prosecutions were ongoing at the end of the reporting period. NAPTIP did not report how many investigations remained pending, led to prosecutions for other offenses, or had been dismissed at the end of the reporting period.
Judges convicted all traffickers under the 2015 anti-trafficking law compared to the previous reporting period when some judges convicted traffickers under the 2003 anti-trafficking law, which allowed the option of fines in lieu of imprisonment.